'Brussels, 2016' (2017)

Brussels, 2016 is framed as a letter to artist Sara Sejin Chang’s unknown mother in South Korea. Set in the months following the Brussels bombings of March 2016, and just before the “Brexit” referendum, Chang’s film captures the city of Brussels at a vulnerable moment. Functioning as a portrait of the city, the film shows Brussels’ European institutions, WIELS, lush parks, as well as the various communities that intersect in Chang’s life: her fellow artists, her queer friendship group, and her Roma and Syrian refugee neighbours. Brussels appears as a series of parallel realities, brought together by Chang’s gaze.

Chang made the film while participating in the WIELS Residency Programme, where she uses her position as both inside and outside an institution and a country to consider the uncertain status of WIELS’s unofficial residents: a community of displaced Roma and Syrian refugees living around the edges of the art centre. In presenting their makeshift home and in reflecting on the antagonism she has witnessed towards immigrants from former colonies and Belgian people of colour, Chang invites the viewer to consider the broader political narrative within which such hostility has arisen. In her poetic rendering, she exposes the “foundational fictions” that underlie the city of Brussels, and the united Europe it purports to stand for. Through the encounters that structure the film, Chang proposes that intimate interactions are necessary for us to collectively repair our society and imagine how things could be. Such interactions include Chang going on a walk through the woods with her dogs, meeting a friend’s newborn baby, getting to know a stray cat, and falling in love.

HD/DCP, 33 min. Digital film, colour, sound. Dutch narration, English subtitles.
Thanks to AFK en Mondriaan Fonds