Against the Impotence of Art: the Ruimte Morguen Archive
Morguen vzw was founded in 1979, following a street project with the residents of neighbourhood Bleekhof in the Antwerp district of Borgerhout. A number of artists initiated the project, including Marc Schepers, Luc Tuymans, Leen Derks and Jacques Sonck.
‘Morguen’ is a neologism, a contraction of the English word ‘morgue’ and the Dutch ‘morgen’ (tomorrow). The project started from the idea that the present only lives on in the future as remnant or cadaver. It regarded the relics of the present as vanitas. As a result, movement and change through time became a constant theme throughout the programme, resulting in a dialectical method.
A further step in the development of this programme was the establishment, in 1982, of Ruimte Morguen (Morguen Space), a permanent exhibition space. In their manifesto of the same year, the artists stated that the space was set up ‘against the impotence of art, its impossibility, its untenability, its elitism, its submission to power’. Initially, Ruimte Morguen was located at Van der Keilenstraat in Borgerhout, later it moved to Waalsekaai at Antwerp South.
The first Morguen projects revolved around what the group called ‘current folk art’. Current folk art was a concept inspired by German magazine Volksfoto. Zeitung für Photografie by Andreas Seltzer and Dieter Hacker, as well as the so-called Produzentengalerien or producers’ galleries, which were mainly active in the Federal Republic of Germany. Thus, both the social realm and the urban environment served as a starting point for Ruimte Morguen’s numerous exhibitions and projects. The list of artists who exhibited here is long. B. J. Blume, Didier Bay, Eberhard Bosslet, Werner Klotz, Luc Tuymans, Paul Van Biervliet, Ria Pacquée, Nadine Tasseel, Marcel Van Maele and Paul De Vylder all showed their work, as well as founder Marc Schepers himself.
Ruimte Morguen’s activities were diverse, but the social aspect was always central, as witnessed by the social and artistic projects that were organised since 2002 in the Europark district, consisting of social tower blocks, on Antwerp’s Left Bank.
In 2020, Marc Schepers decided to put an end to Ruimte Morguen. By now he was 68, and financially too, it was not always obvious to keep things running. Ruimte Morguen’s well-preserved archive was transferred to the M HKA.
In collaboration with CKV, Marc Schepers will make the archive more accessible. The latter consists of numerous archive boxes with documentation about artists; ring binders with chronologically arranged archival materials per exhibition and artist; correspondence, invitations and publications; and audiovisual material such as photos and video and sound cassettes. In total, there are 16 removal boxes and a 150 GB digital archive. CKV asked Marc Schepers to already open a few boxes and to provide certain pieces with context. This ‘Unboxing the Archive’ conversation was recorded and is part of a broader trajectory around oral history, started by CKV in 2021.
You can find out more about Ruimte Morguen in a conversation with Marc Schepers, featured in the June issue (214) of art magazine HART.