A PRACTICE OF HABITATION
Le Paysage Ménagé is a long-term research project of Ciel Grommen and Maximiliaan Royakkers, developed in collaboration with CIAP and FLACC – workplace for visual artists, inviting us to imagine new ways of being in the landscape and making connections with and within it. Taking the complex, post-industrial landscape of Winterslag as a starting point, the project envisages a series of spatial interventions, or ‘furniture’, which can function as both physical and figurative platforms for dialogue.

To ‘furnish’ a landscape means to create something provisional and flexible, to take a stance without planting a flag or claiming the territory. The first piece to furnish the C-mine site is a temporary brick platform – a unique meeting place where during the day meals and stories are shared and at nights animals and plants take over. Inspired by the Chinese ‘kang’ bed and the Russian ‘pechka’ stove, the platform can be heated up from the inside, emanating warmth and aura of hospitality.

The material used to construct this platform takes its roots in the local history; as the only mining site in Genk, Winterslag operated a brickyard, where the residue of the mining process was transformed into building material for the rapidly expanding residential districts. Still today, the characteristic black-charred bricks, known as Winterslagse Duivels (‘the devils of Winterslag’), clad the facades all over the neighbourhood.

With the support of passionate experts and amateurs, Grommen and Royakkers have developed a parallel brick-making technique, using the so-called ‘minestone’ – a mixture of sand, clay, and water, present in the ground and officially considered ‘waste material’. Those bricks are hand-formed, air-dried, and fired on-site, in a temporary field oven. With every baking cycle, this low-tech oven is assembled and disassembled again.

Every step in this slow production process takes place in the public space. The baking cycles become an opportunity to experiment, to exchange knowledge, and to engage in conversations about the local landscape with the visitors, neighbours, fellow artists, and
passers-by.

(text: Alicja Melzaka)

© 2021
cielgrommen@hotmail.com