• Duncan Campbell, Make it new John, 2009, Beta and 16mm transferred to video, 50 minutes. (still)

    Manifesta 9

    Watersche Mine

    June 2–September 30, 2012

    Curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina, Dawn Ades, and Katerina Gregos

    The itinerant Manifesta biennial this year occupies a former mine in the small Belgian town of Genk, a setting that is used to explore art’s connections with the legacies and consequences of coal extraction. Titled “The Deep of the Modern,” the exhibition is divided into three sections: One—featuring thirty-nine contemporary artists, including Edward Burtynsky, Claire Fontaine, and Erik van Lieshout—addresses what lead curator Cuauhtémoc Medina calls “economic restructuring”; a second segment is devoted to the industry’s material legacy, including designer Eva Gronbach’s repurposing of vintage miners’ clothes; and the third, curated by art historian Dawn Ades, showcases some eighty works from centuries past, among them Duchamp’s Twelve Hundred Coal Bags Suspended from the Ceiling, 1938. Focusing on coal as cultural signifier, synecdoche for socioeconomic shifts, and simply as physical matter, the show promises to modify our understanding of individual works with a special kind of “history from below.”