Jointly developed by M HKA and the KU Leuven, this long-term, interdisciplinary research project focuses on a specific, yet complex body of work; multifaceted and variably installable, unfinished and open-ended: Ship of Fools / The Dockers' Museum (2010-2013) by artist and theorist Allan Sekula (1951-2013). Informed by the research of the team members, the project continues to evolve in a succession of research outputs, such as this digital platform.


Art Against the Grain of “Collective Sisyphus”: The Case of Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum (2010-2013)

Between 2014 and 2020 the research project Art Against the Grain of “Collective Sisyphus”: The Case of Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum (20102013) was jointly developed by M HKA and the Lieven Gevaert Centre at KU Leuven and UCLouvain, with professor Hilde Van Gelder as promotor.

Two PhD trajectories, a first one in art historical and a second, parallel one in Curatorial Research, have been carried out by Jeroen Verbeeck and Anja Isabel Schneider respectively. Both trajectories have been supervised by prof. dr. Hilde Van Gelder together with dr. Mieke Bleyen (KU Leuven). For the trajectory in Curatorial Research, dr. Edwin Carels (M HKA) has been a co-supervisor. A pioneering pilot project, it integrated through Anja Isabel Schneider’s project the newly developing academic field of research-based curatorship at KU Leuven. Jeroen Verbeeck, who died in 2019, pursued work on a profound art historical and theoretical interpretation of Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum as an artwork in its own right. Sadly, he could not see his important research project to completion.

Informed by the research of the team members, the project evolved in a succession of research outputs. In 2016, these included the publication of Allan Sekula: Mining Section (Bureau des mines). Collaborative Notes edited by Nicola Setari and Hilde Van Gelder. This publication accompanied a research presentation of selected items from The Dockers’ Museum, held at the Anatomical Theater in Leuven (Constantin Meunier’s former studio), curated by Anja Isabel Schneider.

The two-day conference, “Disassembled Images”: Contemporary Art after Allan Sekula, was held in early March 2017. It opened up to other artistic practices and wider theoretical questions. The conference proceedings “Disassembled Images”: Allan Sekula and Contemporary Art edited by Hilde Van Gelder and Alexander Streitberger were published by Leuven University Press in 2019.

The exhibition Allan Sekula. Collective Sisyphus was co-curated by Carles Guerra, Anja Isabel Schneider and Hilde Van Gelder at Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona. A publication documenting this exhibition, entitled Allan Sekula. Collective Sisyphus, was edited by the curators and published by Walther König Books, London, 2019.

Hilde Van Gelder is presently completing a book-length study, entitled Ground Sea. Photography and the Right to Be Reborn, forthcoming from Leuven University Press. As a lengthy study of the dire reality situation in the French Calaisis today, this publication closely connects to Allan Sekula’s photographic sequence Deep Six / Passer au Bleu (1996/98) and to selected items from Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum.

The research presentation Mermaid Honeymoon. A curatorial reflection on Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum (20102013)” (18.01-26.04.20) is one concluding outcome of the PhD in Curatorial Research by Anja Isabel Schneider, who will publicly defend her PhD-project (accompanied by a dissertation) on April 24, 2020.

Art Against the Grain of “Collective Sisyphus”: The Case of Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum (20102013) was developed with the support of the Research Fund KU Leuven, the Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO) and the Allan Sekula Studio.


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