petition: the imminent end of the Biennial of Moving Images

Filipa Cesar and Louis Henderson, Op-Film: An Archaeology of Optics (2017)

Message regarding the imminent end of Contour Biennial of Moving Images

After ten editions, the internationally renowned Contour Biennial of Moving Images is now slated to disappear. Artists, filmmakers, curators, producers and organisations active in the field of audiovisual and visual arts wish to sound the alarm bell. Contour is the only biennial in Flanders with a leading reputation and a solid anchoring in the international art world. It occupies a distinct position and plays a crucial role in the audiovisual and visual arts.

Contour Biennial started in 2003 as an arts festival in Mechelen and soon attracted both local and international visitors. The biennial made a significant contribution in creating and publicizing the much-needed support for the audiovisual arts among a wider audience. Contour and arts center nona (Mechelen) decided to merge in 2017. As a small but ambitious structure, Contour looked for an organisation that could bolster and strengthen the biennial. The opposite happened: last spring, nona decided to shut it down. As an alternative, nona offers to organise two exhibitions a year in Mechelen with a substantially reduced budget. And yet, nona received a positive feedback for the current funding period by including the biennial as one of the pivotal elements to their program. In fact, it was one of the commission’s core argument to validate their submitted ten-year plan.

In the years after the merger, it became clear that nona was out of touch with the biennial and its value within the audiovisual and visual arts. No less than four years passed between the last two editions, no coordinator was appointed for several years and the impact of lukewarm efforts invested in communication, promotion and general audience development became tangible in the poor visitor numbers and the lack of overall visibility of the biennial. And yet the increased operating resources should have allowed the organisation to invest as much in Contour as it does in its live arts program.

The sector does not support the decision to shut down the Contour Biennial. This decision was taken behind closed doors by nona, without consulting the artistic committee which has served as the advisory board for Contour for fifteen years and was quietly dissolved. Co-producers, partners, and other stakeholders of the audiovisual and visual arts were not consulted. We deplore the lack of responsibility and care shown by nona in all matters concerning the biennial. The sector wants to actively contribute to solutions for a continuation of the biennial.

We, the signatories, disapprove of the unilateral and ill-considered termination of the Contour Biennial and advocate for Contour to continue to exist as a biennial within a new constellation of actors.

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