© Muriel Thies - Trinkhall museum

THE MUSEUM

The Trinkhall Museum opened its doors on 18 June, in the heart of the Parc d’Avroy in Liège! A successor to the MAD Museum, it has found its second wind after several years outside the building that housed the Créahm collection for the last forty years. It keeps alive the memory of all those years of shared creativity, research and emotion. It is a museum of contemporary art, questioning the here and now on important issues. We envisage a revolving door: a museum in full throttle with the ambition, however modest, to change the direction of the world; surmounting the obstacles and contradictions inherent to any museum project; celebrating art without restricting it, collating without diminishing it, empowering without imposing it, which, in these dark days of globalization, champions the singularities and the expressive power of fragile worlds. Our project is as artistic as it is powerful.

In keeping with the forefront of the cultural landscape of Liège, the Trinkhall is developing many collaborations with the various stakeholders on the artistic, social and cultural scene in Liège and well beyond the borders of the city. The opening of the Trinkhall is the culmination of a project that took more than ten years to materialize. It emanates from the Créahm which, for forty years, has championed a still profoundly innovative perspective committed to the artistic expression of people with intellectual disabilities. The Trinkhall benefits from the guidance of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and the support of the City of Liège and its municipal culture. To this end, it is the expression of an urban policy which sees art as an instrument of emancipation, inspired by the desire and demand for better living.

Pascale Vincke, pastel on paper, 32 x 25cm, 1990. Workshop: Créahm Brussels (BE). ©M.Thies/collection Trinkhall museum

A NEW MUSEUM POLICY

As in the past, the museum will develop and showcase its very rich collection: over 3,000 pieces from all over the world, mainly created by artists with intellectual disabilities. But from now on, in the context of a deeply renewed museum project based on the concept of ‘Situated Arts.’

The concept of Situated Arts gives the museum its new identity. It demonstrates the uniqueness of the Trinkhall on the contemporary art landscape and controls the establishment’s programme of exhibitions, research and mediation. It encompasses, but is not limited to, forms of expression related to intellectual disability and its associated experiences, particularly in the context of creative workshops that have developed around the world over the past 40 years or so.

To this end, the museum maintains very close links with the Créahm workshops. But the areas of the Trinkhall collection and the historical experience of the workshops help us see beyond intellectual disability. They touch on the very issue of artistic creation and its relationship with society, the world and each one of us. The Trinkhall is a museum of contemporary art whose policy is built on the experience of the workshops.

Irène Gérard - 2010.079

SITUATED ARTS

The concept of Situated Arts defines the Trinkhall museum policy. It is based on a way of perceiving and understanding pieces that integrate the fundamental dimension of their environments and refuse to accept the aesthetic reductionism that often unwillingly prevails in the categories commonly used: a work of art is a system of localized relationships whose aesthetic expression is its medium and the impact it has. In this sense, all works of art are ‘situated.’ But, given their apparent singularity or relative marginality, some communicate their situation louder than others. This is the case with the pieces in the Trinkhall collection: in their unique place, they are the privileged instrument that allows us to see and understand the very conditions of the artistic experience - what we may call the "artistic condition," in the same way as we speak of the "human condition"...

John Breslin, s.t, pastel on paper, 83,5 x 59,5cm, between 1991 and 1993. Workshop: Project Ability, Glasgow, Scotland (GB). © M.Thies/collection Trinkhall museum

ART AND INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY

By excluding any form of stigmatisation relating to intellectual disability, the concept of Situated Arts wholeheartedly does justice to the exceptional richness, diversity and

thought-provoking nature of the collection housed by the museum. By bringing to the forefront the issues of creative and receptive devices and the issue of environments, the aesthetic power and societal or political significance of the pieces is made intelligible. By building on the singularity of workshop practices, it shatters the categories of genre or style to the benefit of the open and lively intelligence of the pieces.

DEWAELE Christiane - 2015.079

SEEING AND UNDERSTANDING THROUGH THE COLLECTION

This is the principle that leads us to contemplate the Trinkhall’s identity and missions: thanks to the Situated Arts Programme, we no longer just view the collection through the eyes of the art world, but we also view the art world through the eyes of the collection.

This principle invites us to roll out our activities in three complementary directions:

  • to take care of the collection, i.e. preserve, enrich, study and disseminate it
  • to enter it into the broader landscape of "arts on the boundaries of art" or "arts of the outside world" whose legacies and insistent presence on the fringes of contemporary arts are a phenomenon of the utmost importance
  • to use it for the benefit of renewed exploration and understanding of the general conditions of artistic expression
Sylvain Cosijns, s.t., pencil and pastel on paper, 59,5 x 43,5cm, 2001. Workshop: De Bolster (BE). ©M.Thies/collection Trinkhall museum

ART AND SOCIETY

The Situated Arts Programme, as implemented at the Trinkhall, is based on a simple reading of the elements that define our collection: "works of art created by artists with intellectual disabilities in a workshop setting":

  • This is about works of art and no proof is needed that the museum's mission is fully within the realm of the arts. But the particular situation of the pieces in the collection, on the fringes or borders of the art world, blurs the obvious, the convictions and the acknowledged sharing, thus reviving the simplest and most fundamental questions concerning the nature, medium and function of art. From its relatively marginal place, the Trinkhall collection is an ideal observatory of the art world.
  • The vast majority of the artists represented in the collection have intellectual disabilities. But the richness and extraordinary diversity of their work prevents us from initially recognising any general characteristics of genre or style, that we would associate with intellectual disability. Neither disability nor mental health disorders generate specific expressive forms. In terms of the collection, the only really relevant characteristic is, once again, a situational one: the individual or social vulnerability of the creators. It makes it largely possible to identify and understand the expressive resources used in the creations of artists with intellectual disabilities. Furthermore, it reflects on the far more general principle of fragility and, put bluntly, the poetic licence of the variance that supports all forms of artistic expression.
  • The principle of fragility lies at the heart of the workshop's mechanism, without, however, calling into question the expressive power of the pieces created there. In fact, by establishing a unique environment, the workshop opens up individual paths of expression through a complex scheme bringing together the artists with disabilities and mentors who are professional artists themselves. More generally, the workshop mechanism, whatever its structure, sets up a collective. It reveals a general dimension of artistic expression often obscured by the cultural stereotype of the creator’s omnipotence. Moreover, by building a world of expression originating from fragile situations, it flies the flag for the founding principles and reasons behind a genuinely democratic society.
Andrea Wellens, s.t. pastel on paper, 98,5 x 68,5cm, between 1988 and 1992. Workshop: Zonnelied, Roosdael (BE). ©M.Thies/collection Trinkhall museum

RESEARCH AND MEDIATION

The Trinkhall project, based around the concept of Situated Arts, intertwines the artistic, scientific, social and political arenas. It makes use of the originality in the collection and the workshop experience to contemplate artistic expression in terms of its relationship to society, culture and history, beyond the sole standards and values of the world of art and the stereotypes of a so-called globalised culture. As a ‘situated’ museum, committed to artists with intellectual disabilities, mindful of the devices necessary for the expression of fragile and marginal worlds, keen to break down borders, to recognise and experience their porous nature, and concerned about the freedom of art, the Trinkhall is an analytical laboratory and a tool for emancipation. It aims to attract an audience which is in agreement with its policy of open and participative mediation. The Trinkhall is a place of life and experience, where attention is constantly focused on encountering works of art, emotions, ideas and audiences. It is also a place of debate and research. In December 2019, an international symposium held at the Cité Miroir, brought together historians, philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists, stakeholders in the art world and workshop leaders, thus stimulating free, demanding and committed reflection to accompany museum activities as fully as possible. The opening of the museum was also celebrated by the publication of several works, lasting manifestos supporting the museum's Situated Arts, that encourage appreciation and speculation.

Finally, the Trinkhall's resource centre boasting over two thousand publications and open largely to researchers, students, pupils and art lovers, complements the research projects and mediation activities of the museum.