Over the course of a decade-long career, Belgian Director Jef Cornelis (1941-2018) has built a unique archive of exhibition histories through the format of the television documentary. Now-celebrated figures, such as Harald Szeemann, Daniel Buren, Sol Le Witt, James Lee Byars and Marcel Broodthaers feature in programmes that experimentally probe at the structural conditions of making art public. From small project space exhibitions, to Documenta 4 & 5, his camera, and lines of questioning, manage to capture the contingent lateral elements of cultural production, often concealed from the public’s view. Rifts, disputes, anxieties and rivalries are all laid bare through Cornelis’ elegant and revealing exposition of the centrality of conflict in staging exhibitions and making art. These films are all the more compelling today given that they were commissioned and broadcast on public television in Belgium; highlighting the decline in both the quantity and quality of cultural programming on our screens today.
With thanks to ARGOS Centre for Art and Media, Brussels
Jef Cornelis (1941-2018) (Antwerp, Belgium) studied set design and film direction at the Netherlands’ Film Academy (Amsterdam) and began his career as a director for the Arts Division of BRT Television (Flanders, Belgium). He worked as executor, director and scriptwriter from 1963 until 1998. Over those 35 years Cornelis accomplished an impressive body of work of over 200 titles. As a whole, his work comprises a unique chronicle of modern and contemporary art since 1960, a history of art and social attitude. At the core of his effort lies a tumultuous relationship between visual art and television.
Images 1-4: © VRT. Courtesy of ARGOS, Brussels.
Images 5-6: Installation view © Mark Blower