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Impressive constructions by contemporary artists and architects will appear in the historic city centre from 5 May to 16 September 2018. They are answers to the consequences of today's liquid society.

This world is changing rapidly. Established ways of thinking and forms of life are under pressure. What does the future hold?

The Bruges Triennial invited international artists and architects to think about these questions. Many of them sought inspiration for their work in the role of liquidity in the city that is literally criss-crossed and surrounded by water. The waterways that once earned Bruges its international renown, become a metaphor for Liquid City. Fifteen works of art, installations and meeting places have been put up in the city centre. They form a hospitable route that brings people together in unexpected spots. That is indeed one of the objectives of the Bruges Triennial 2018: generating encounters, challenging people not only to view the artworks but also to experience them and to become part of the creative process.

"THE MODERN ERA WAS A JOURNEY TOWARDS PERFECTION. FOR THE SAME REASONS, THE MODERN ERA WAS ALSO AN ERA OF DESTRUCTION." ZYGMUNT BAUMAN

The concept

triennial bruges 2018 | liquid city

Bruges Triennial 2018: Liquid City | Vloeibare Stad reaches back to the theme of 2015, which was a reflection on the city as a megapolis. This time, however, it takes a step further: how flexible, liquid and resilient can a historic city like Bruges be in an age when nothing seems to be certain any longer?

Curators Till-Holger Borchert and Michel Dewilde

Imagining the Liquid City

Memory can be deceptive. It is often impossible to know where our individual recollections stop and the collective memory takes over. The ego, the subconscious and the Zeitgeist form a ménage à trois in our minds, while the anxiety-riddled times in which we are living today make us long wistfully for ‘how things used to be’. None other than Zygmunt Bauman, prophet of the permanent crisis in the West, devoted his final book to this phenomenon, also known as ‘retrotopia’. The originator of the concept of ‘liquid modernity’ published the book a year before his death in January 2017. In Retrotopia, Bauman invites the reader to question the dynamics of our society, as well as the metaphor ‘liquid’ itself, which today stands in stark contrast with the institutional framework that once formed a safe environment for our (grand)parents. Each institution in turn, be that the government, the church, political parties, insurance companies and banks, have lost the trust of the public. This renders society particularly vulnerable to fear-mongers. The ‘good old days’ are in reality not that much different from our own, or from, say, the golden age of the 14th-15th centuries. At that time, Bruges was already known as the liquid city of Northern Europe: socially divided as few others, its prosperity dependent on the sea and its economy driven by the tides and the ruling classes’ hunger for money. The death of Philip the Good (1467), Charles the Bold (1477) and Mary of Burgundy (1482) in close succession marked the end of the Burgundian dream in several ways, and even brought down one of the most powerful banking houses, the Banco dei Medici in Florence. So what remains in our collective memory about that period? The artistic legacy, the foundations laid by the Flemish Primitives who placed Bruges on the map as an international artistic centre. Today, we are once again inviting artists and architects to enter into dialogue with the city and to breathe new life into concepts such as hospitality, co-creation and creativity. Their public installations and artworks serve as beacons against an unpredictable future; a home port in turbulent times. If the liquid past foreshadows the liquid future, then that which Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling once achieved is once again achieved by the artists of today, for the benefit of all who live in or visit Bruges!