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Experience Traps

The contemporary legacy of baroque landscape architecture

The Middelheim Museum has asked internationally renowned artists from different disciplines to present new or existing work inspired by the innovative ideas of baroque landscape architecture. EXPERIENCE TRAPS is a collection of enormously diverse which will be set up in the Middelheim Museum and a number of city centre locations during the summer of 2018.


Turbulent times

During the Baroque era (ca. 1600 till ca. 1730), international trade flourishes and an explicit bourgeois culture arises. But the Baroque is also a period of deep social crisis. Both the church and the worldly elite try to reinforce their dominant position and oppress disobedience. The art of the Baroque was always ‘commissioned’. It is a rational art form deployed as a weapon in order to direct and control people and society.



The garden is traditionally used as the major metaphor for control (and dominance) of humanity over nature. The 16th century sees aristocrats engaging artists and architects to shower both garden and landscape with spectacular effects: laid out labyrinths, artificial grottos, trompe-l’oeils, fountains with fake birds singing, imitation ruins… . The Baroque garden is a status symbol, a kind of pre-amusement park where visitors are being surprised and entertained. These gardens are exclusive. The aristocratic garden becomes a destination, a place for social gathering, for sharing and exchanging experiences.

Besides the garden as playground for the rich, at the end of the 16th century a second type is introduced: the botanical garden. It is a place where knowledge and science are shared. In this inclusive garden close attention is paid to the classification of plants. Scientists hope that this will allow them to get a grip on nature’s secrets and so be able to use the medicinal qualities of plants to infl uence human behaviour.

The age-old park surroundings of the Middelheim Museum are a combination of a park garden and a botanical garden. Now it is a social space where people gather to relax, to meet and to admire the artworks.


Experience and movement

‘Experience’ can be read as the emotional kick of a one-time-only event, but also as ‘the repetition that leads to gathering more and more understanding’, resulting in a progress. Baroque art moves the spectator ‘from within’. The exuberant movement in Baroque art turns him into a participant: the spectator becomes the artwork’s accomplice.


Experience Traps: 16 artists lead you up the garden path

In this exhibition, contemporary artists try to guide our physical and mental experience. To this end they use style elements such as the grotto, the ruin, the fountain and the labyrinth. These motifs allow us to look at ‘commissioned art’ in a playful but critical manner. The art tries – in true Baroque tradition – to trick, surprise, impress or seduce the public.

Experience Traps is also a critical reflection on our contemporary society and economy, in which we continuously expect unique experiences, preferably authentic and with a good story behind it. This way, we try to position ourselves against the other(s) – for instance via social media.


The artists

William Forsythe (USA) is a contributing artist and co-curator. He will also incorporate some of his well-known ‘choreographic objects’ into the project to incite the visitor to move around.

Other artists who will present a new or existing work for the exhibition are Mike Bouchet (US), Monster Chetwynd (UK), Jeremy Deller (UK), Spencer Finch (US), Gelatin (A), Ryoji Ikeda (JP), Bertrand Lavier (FRA), Louise Lawler (US), Bruce Nauman (US), Recetas Urbanas (ESP), Monika Sosnowska (PL), Adrien Tirtiaux(BE), Dennis Tyfus (BE), Andra Ursuta (RO) and Ulla von Brandenburg (D).

For a number of years, the Middelheim Museum has explored the boundaries between sculpture and sculptural performance in the events it has organised. During the three day opening festivities of Experience Traps, there will be performances and actions by Monster Chetwynd, Gelatin, Ulla von Brandenburg and Dennis Tyfus.


Practical information

  • From 1 June until 23 September 2018
  • Free entrance





Bruce Nauman’s Diamond Shaped Room with Yellow Light was acquired with the support of:

and the Middelheim Promotors

Ackermans & van Haaren, Argo Law, Art Secure by Vanbreda Risk & Benefits, BASF, BNP Paribas Fortis, CMB, Cordeel, Delen Private Bank, Deloitte, Deme, EY, Grant Thornton, Hubo, Hugo Ceusters,, KBC, Laurius, Leasinvest Real Estate, Pamica, SipWell, Soudal, Havenbedrijf Antwerpen

Dennis Tyfus’ De Nor was realized with the support of FVWW Architecten.

The exhibition Experience Traps was made possible with the support of water-link.


Baroque Festival Card

The pass is valid for 48 hours (from the first time you use it) and entitles you to free admission to all the exhibitions and monumental churches that participate in the cultural urban festival “Antwerp Baroque 2018. Rubens inspires”.

The Baroque Festival Card costs €25 and is available for purchase in the visitor centres in Grote Markt | Central Station, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, in the Rubens House and Hostel Pulcinella. You can also purchase this card online.


About Antwerp Baroque 2018

The exhibition Experience Traps is part of the city festival 'Antwerp Baroque2018. Rubens inspires'


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