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Alexis Blake

Crack Nerve Boogie Swerve: the archive

07 06 11 08 2024

Originally conceived as a performance, Crack Nerve Boogie Swerve embraces concepts such as transparency, resistance, resonance and disruption—breaking free from norms, liberating oneself from the constraints of oppression and stretching the boundaries of art institutions. At WIELS, Alexis Blake (b. 1981, US/NL) expands the scope of a live work into a performative exhibition that encapsulates its past iterations while slowly transforming the present one.

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Alexis Blake, Crack Nerve Boogie Swerve, 2019/2023, performance and installation. Photo: Diana Oliveira.

By exhibiting Crack Nerve Boogie Swerve, Alexis Blake — a former WIELS resident and recipient of the prestigious Prix de Rome — invites the audience to conceive of performativity without prejudice and to look at the exhibition space as a speculative archive and a site for process. She creates an environment that allows the glass to become a performer, conductor, instrument and metaphor for the individual and collective body: vulnerable but resilient.

“Glass is amorphous, it’s always changing, it’s neither liquid nor solid. And like the human body it’s extremely fragile but extraordinarily strong—depending on how you handle it.”

Alexis Blake

The malleability of glass, able to be shaped into any form or size and consisting of varying degrees of hardness, becomes the very essence of its materiality. Glass exists between a state of ‘whole’ and ‘broken’. If 'broken', it renders itself 'useless'. This perceived fragility supersedes a literal interpretation of materiality and extends into the socio-political realms. The act of ‘breaking’ puts one in contention with opposing forces, creating tension between the notions of oppression and liberation. In order to break free from stagnant and retrograde hierarchies, many forms of civil disobedience take shape within the allegory of smashing through glass obstacles, may that be metaphorical ceilings or the destruction of storefront windows. The imagery of broken windows is often construed, erroneously, as a crime. When that happens, broken windows become a signifier for societal decline and decay.

By pairing a custom-made glass-panelled floor that boasts a series of reflective sculptural glass and steel elements, with a low frequency sound score, Blake actively engages with the architecture. She explores how both the space, the installation and its audience might resonate when exposed to the subliminal vibrations of several heavyweight subwoofers. Throughout the span of several weekends, isolated sections from the original version of Crack Nerve Boogie Swerve are performed by a group of dancers, bringing all the different elements of the exhibition into dialogue.

Finally, the audience is invited to interact with the glass installations by walking across the glass floor. The resulting cracks will act as a physical marker of the passage of time and people’s movements throughout the exhibition space. As such, glass, breaking and resonance are not only used metaphorically, but also as a means of communication, collectively creating a new vocabulary of sound and physical expression.

Curator: Helena Kritis
Curatorial assistant: Josue Aliendre Carvani
Low frequency sound score: Stefanie Egedy
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With the support of
: Mondriaan Fund, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Belgium, europalia

With the support of:

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Europalia art2gether LOGO V1