C-Mine summer festival offers new angles on art and innovation

Summary

Genk’s unique cultural centre celebrates 10 years with an arts festival that promotes local talent, city tours, an open house and a monumental labyrinth

An experiential journey

C-Mine, Genk’s one-of-a-kind cultural centre, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The long-term project of converting the former Winterslag coal mine into a combination of cultural centre, exhibition space and design campus was officially launched in 2005. Since then, C-Mine has become one of Limburg’s biggest tourist draws, with 800,000 visitors per year.

As part of its decennial celebrations, the architectural duo Gijs Van Vaerenbergh (Pieter-Jan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh) have created a monumental outdoor labyrinth in the site’s central courtyard.

Covering 1,600 square meters, the labyrinth is an interactive artwork that invites visitors to lose themselves in a convoluted maze created from steel plates five metres tall. Twists and turns challenge one’s sense of direction, while dead-end passages require doubling back. Along the way, geometric cut-outs create both unexpected views within the labyrinth and interesting perspectives of the world outside (pictured).

The architects, who also designed “Reading Between the Lines”, the site-specific “see-through church” installation in the countryside of Borgloon, were inspired by the site itself. “We came up with the idea for the labyrinth because we were fascinated by the head frame that stands in the middle of the site, from which you have a view over the whole courtyard,” says Gijs. “This relationship is interesting because, as a viewer, you can walk through the labyrinth as well as climb the tower and see it from above.”

A maze of perspectives

From the top of the 62-meter-high head frame – the construction that housed the mine’s lift mechanism – visitors can get a bird’s-eye-view of the labyrinth. From above, the maze becomes an orderly pattern of lines and angles, rather than the disorienting and fragmentary structure experienced from within. At ground level, the walls of the labyrinth frame views of the industrial steel structure towering above it. 

Geometric cut-outs in the labyrinth create interesting perspectives of the world outside

The tower is accessible via an outdoor staircase with the purchase of a ticket to C-Mine Expedition, an interactive mine attraction underneath the mine site. The labyrinth, however, is free to visit until the end of September.

The labyrinth is also the starting point for C-Mine Line Up, an experience trail that leads visitors on a self-guided, interactive journey through the mine site. Upon leaving C-Mine, the route continues along Genk’s multicultural Vennestraat, with its many speciality shops and international restaurants, and into the historic tuinwijk, or garden district, built as planned housing for mine workers in the early 20th century.

C-Mine’s anniversary is also being marked with a varied program of special exhibitions and events. Vollebak Vennestraat is a hip street festival in the neighbourhood on C-Mine’s doorstep. For four consecutive Saturdays starting on 22 August, Vennestraat will be completely car-free starting at 17.00, with entertainment, street art, live music and international cuisine. 

Focus on the local

In the Energiegebouw, C-Mine’s main building, there’s an exhibition by Flemish photojournalist and fine art photographer Stephan Vanfleteren. His MMXIV: De Rode Duivels is a series of large-scale, black-and-white portraits of the Belgian national football team, depicted in extreme close-up, or with naked torsos like modern-day Olympians.

Celebrated ceramist Pieter Stockmans has his studio in the former warehouse of Winterslag. A retrospective exhibition of his work, in honour of the artist’s 75th birthday, approaches his oeuvre from a new perspective. In Porselein over Porselein, curator Hugo Duchateau regards Stockmans as a painter working in porcelain.

Theatre in the Saddle is a one-day bike event that leads participants on a route through lesser-known places in Genk. At each stop, circus acts provide entertainment for the whole family while food and drink trucks offer refreshment. The bike route ends at C-Mine, where more circus acts and a closing show take place in the central courtyard.

Finally, on 12 September, C-Mine will host an open house, where the 40 organisations, businesses and creative start-ups that call the site home open their doors to the public. Visitors can meet the young entrepreneurs working in C-Mine Crib, an incubator for cutting-edge new enterprises, and lean about the diverse products and ideas being generated every day by the many companies housed in these former mine buildings.

A free map and programme book for C-Mine Line Up are available at the C-Mine visitor’s centre until 31 August

Photo by Filip Dujardin