These boots are made for walking. Or… not? ‘Hintersteg’ by Sarah Westphal at Be-Part (Waregem)

BePart_SarahWestphalIt was right after I had left the basement, my eyes getting used to the light again, that it happened. I noticed a pair of rubber boots and a football, near the door leading to the garden. The objects confused me. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, so maybe the owner of the art centre had left them here? Or had the artist, Sarah Westphal, put them there, intentionally, with that curtain as well? I checked the map of the exhibition. No, they were not listed. So I asked. And of course: the German artist had put them there. Just a small extra. But it tickled my imagination and made everything come to life, at Be-Part (Waregem, through November 30). Apart from that: just that flooded basement was already worth the trip to Hintersteg, a fine exhibition with just a couple of works.

At first Sarah Westphal’s Hintersteg disappointed me. Just a few works. None of them really spectacular. A carpet, a cat, some small pictures, a couple of large photographs, in that difficult Be-Part exhibition space. Then I took the stairs to the basement. Dark. A low ceiling. A faint reddish glow. Impossible to see anything. ‘Be careful not to fall in the water’, they had told me at the entrance, enigmatically.
As my eyes were getting used to the dark, I started seeing more. A mysterious, flooded room, with lots of objects. A photographer’s dark room, paintings… And a bird-cage, the sound of the birds adding some life to this sombre environment. It proved to be the turning point, I realised later, after I had noticed the boots. And I took a closer look to all the works in the exhibition.

As an artist Sarah Westphal (a 2009 laureate of the Higher Institute for Fine Arts, Gent) is interested, among other things, in what makes a house a home. She tries to breathe life into (empty) spaces, and hopes with her exhibitions to slow down the fast way in which we consume art and exhibitions. One of the things she also ‘added’ to the exhibition, and that most visitors will not even notice, will remain there even after Hintersteg will have been taken down: ivy, underneath the ‘windows’ in the main floor of the exhibition space.

(images: courtesy Sarah Westphal & Be-Part)

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More installation views here. More on Sarah Westphal here.

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