Geliefde Lichamen is the first project of the Artistic Theology Lab, curated by Sander Vloebergs. Sander developed this project during the academic year 2018-2019. The project grew organically – starting from an artistic dance video (Christina) and resulted in a multimedia exposition with live performances and a colloquium on the relationship between art, church, and mysticism.

“Words and kisses caress her body”. Movement. Sacred Space. Woman. Ecstasy. Absence.

The Abstract

Sander presented the first results of this experimental artistic multimedia project in the Grote Kapel of Kadoc (KULeuven) from June 21th – July 12th. Sander collaborated with artists and academics from diverse disciplines to explore the potential of a sacred body in a contemporary sacred space. He investigated the role and meanings of a body being virtually, imaginary and physically present and absent, using a unique exploration of Flanders’ mystical past. Sander opens a dialogue between contemporary artists and thirteenth-century women like Christina the Astonishing, Lutgardis of Tongeren and Ida of Louvain – women who were worshiped as living saints. They danced and sung ecstatically in churches and on the streets, fulfilled with a divine presence. Their heavenly bodies were incorporated in a community, a history, that lovingly commemorates their absence and passionately represents their presence. Beloved Bodies.

The Inspiration: Religious Women

Geliefde Lichamen is a multimedia project that brings together artists of different media who work on one specific group of texts, selected by Sander Vloebergs as source material. These are the saint lives (vitae) of religious women who lived in the diocese of Liège during the 13th century (called Mulieres Religiosae in scholarly literature). These women had a reputation of being living saints and their bodily performances were considered miraculous. They represented heavenly bodies on earth. Their lives were documented by male clerics who adapted their performance to written text – and in doing so, preserving their memory for the next generations.

The artists were tasked with reading these texts and challenged to re-embody the living saints in their artistic works. Some artists choose to focus on the life of one woman in particular while others were interested in specific themes concerning the women in general (their role within society, their suffering body, eucharistic devotion,…). The process of artistic interpretation of the sources and creative inspiration was documented by Sander and published in blog posts, listed down below.

The Artists

The artists can be divided in two groups: visual artists and performers. The visual artists are : Veronique De Doncker (photography), Laurence Verheijen (animation), Sander Vloebergs (drawing-installation), Lies Daenen (visual art-installation), Tom Callebaut, Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven (Painting), Bram Van Breda (Textile-installation), Eva Beazar en Renée Lorie (Sculpture). These works were part of the permanent exhibition.

The performances were programmed on Fridays – referring to Elisabeth of Spalbeek’s reenactment of the passion which she performed on Fridays. During 4 Fridays, the following performance artists showed their works: Pé Vermeersch, Pierrette Coffrée, Danscompagnie Lune (Jennifer Redigor), Lies Daenen en Sander Vloebergs.

The Catalogus of Geliefde lichamen can be find here.

The Exposition

Geliefde Lichamen, Triptych with work of Veronique De Donker

The exposition was inspired by embodiment, sacred and profane bodies connecting us during space and time. The linear movement through time is disrupted by the sacred, in a round chapel. In this transhistorical interspace time and bodies move through spiral constellations. The exposition uses the rhythmic repetition of rituals, and the Eucharist, in particular, to guide visitors through the art exhibition’s sacred space.

The two first works, in particular, are explicitly referring to sacred space and the Eucharist to disrupt linearity in movement and time perception. The viewer is confronted with the first artwork, thematizing water and purification. A triptych with photographs blocks the way towards the middle of the chapel. It forces the visitor in a circler movement. An animation video is projected in the chapel’s narthex, thematizing eucharistic devotion and the transformation of female bodies and eucharistic hosts. This video is played in a loop to transform ordinary to liturgical time.

The other works focus on embodiment, translating texts and ideas to material objects. The objects created by these artists reenact the power of relics by referring to and representing the sacred bodies of women – mediated by the artists’ touch. They are the result of an exchange of embodied experiences between artists and saints: wearing textiles, weeping, bleeding, exposing a suffering body in the community, praying, and image-making.

The works gravitate towards the focal point of the dance floor, where bodies are absent during the week, only to incarnate on Fridays. The dance floor is the virtual altar where contemporary bodies are sacrificed, where bodies are flirting with ecstasy and transubstantiation at the threshold of the ordinary existence.

Artists’ Blogs

Exhibition

Performances

  • Pé Vermeersch
  • Pierrette Coffréé
  • Danscompagnie Lune
  • Sander Vloebergs : LUTGARD-IS and HADEWIJCH
  • Lies Daenen

Colloquium Art, Church and Mysticsm

  • Veerle Fraeters
  • Marc De Kesel
  • Anja Veirman
  • Rik Torfs
  • Panel : Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Lies Daenen and Pé Vermeersch

Videos and pictures of the colloquium can be found here.