Adriaan Gonnissen, 2012


On 11 July 2012 a Bolero exhibition opens at the TVL café of the public library of Genk as part of the Manifesta 9 Parallel Events. This year’s theme of Manifesta is ‘landscape in transformation’ -  the art events are about migration and interculturalism. Bolero invites six immigrant artists who live and work in Belgium. Meanwhile forty artists from all over the world created a work of art on a newspaper as well. In Genk the art interventions on a newspaper will be put on newspaper sticks.

The 19 February 2010 edition of De Standaard was the starting point of this international artists project. Four visual artists, Frank JMA Castelyns, Willo Gonnissen, Pierre Mertens and Mulugeta Tafesse work and live in Flanders. They used a page from the newspaper as a canvas for a work of art. Digitalized and printed the art on the newspaper travelled to Addis Abeba (Ethiopia). Local artists were invited to do the same with a local newspaper in order to add their work to the exhibition. That was Bolero’s first stop. From Addis to Das Es Salaam (Tanzania) and through Prince Albert (South Africa), Ho Chi Min City (Vietnam), Bangalore (India), Dortmund (Germany) and Beijing (China) the exhibition meandered through the labyrinth of the world. The exhibition expanded within a climate of cultural diversity. From each stop invitations were send with a picture of the last newspaper. Like a caravan in the desert, versatile and constantly transforming, Bolero travels and spreads its message to new places looking for local companions.

Bolero is a no-budget project. Thanks to modern printing, scanning and internet techniques Bolero is virtual and can be cloned. During the summer duplicates are shown in Genk (Flanders) and Rammalah (Palestine). 


In 1969 the first photographs were taken from the moon of the earth as a blue oasis in the middle of the universe, indicating that mankind shares one home. Since then globalization – the growth of international exchange, the interconnection between communities and the creation of one world – definitely became a physical and at the same time a virtual reality. But what are the roots of globalization? It could be traced back to the origin of the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean one or two millenniums ago or when the desert caravans tamed and travelled all over the African Sahara. Nowadays there is a global market capitalistic system with over two hundred nation states, thousands of international organizations and countless transnational corporations, without a central government. 

Bolero looks for a way to deal with globalization and reflects on the notion that even though art is always created locally, it has to be global as well. Bolero sees globalization as two realities coming together, a global and a local reality. Bolero is ‘glocal’ art. A newspaper is ‘glocal’ as well. 

The front page refers to the location and the social context in which it is spread and to the international news of the day. By making a piece of art on it the artist reflects that context of time and place. The date of the paper refers to one specific point in time, the cover shows the most important news of the day, the paper refers to recent events. Last week’s newspaper is definitely part of history. But by placing the newspaper in an artistic context it will always be current. The linear passage of time is partially disrupted. 

Sometimes that generates strange effects. The German Bolero-artists made their work on the Bild-Bundesausgabe of Friday 11 February 2011. Chaos in Cairo figured above a photograph of Moebarak and the people on the Tahrir Square. More than one year later, on 1 May 2012, this cover announces the opening of the Bolero exhibition in Beijing (China). 

The different journeys of Bolero have nourished its senses and started a snowball effect. But it did not miss its mark, Bolero grows on its journey as a world-wide cultural omnivore. Bolero started out as an art project with four participating artists. In China Bolero had thirty four participants. It is never the individual artist who is in the spotlight. There is no point in extracting only one work of art. Each piece is inextricably part of the whole. It is always about the collective. Bolero is a composed hybrid body. But it is also an autonomous body which is handed over to a local and temporary curator at each location. 


How can you set up an exhibition on the spur of the moment and in next to no time without running into problems with insurance or transport? It is not that complicated if you work with prints of art on a newspaper. You can always make new prints and it is easy to put them in a simple suitcase. That was the starting point. But even the physical relocation is not a necessity. Prints can be e-mailed through thousands of virtual worlds where they travel faster than lightning. At their destination the prints can always become a physical reality again. A newspaper is without a doubt an example of old media. Bolero uses this ‘poor material’ and the visual qualities of a newspaper and links it to the computerized, communicative, fast and of course cheap characteristics of the internet. 

The four founders of Bolero are familiar with ‘new media’ and they are working together with experts in constantly advancing printing techniques and technology.

That is why only prints are shown, the original newspapers are filed carefully at Bolero’s home in Antwerp. There, Bolero’s archives of global media grow and coincidentally become a world atlas. Wherever Bolero goes, it shows the road travelled so far. Sometimes Bolero hangs its prints in a nice exhibition space, but sometimes they are glued against a tree, a wall or the window of a café, and slowly they peel off, subjected to the impact of the outside world. 

Bolero spreads its wings, but for the first time it visited its country of origin in honour of Manifesta. The prints are put together again and the newspaper of art is put on a newspaper stick. A global and medial circular motion takes place, but the circle is not complete. Being in contact with the six intercultural Belgian artists could open up new perspectives, new worlds and new workplaces.