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Ni Haifeng, Para-production, 2008–12, textile shreds, sewing machines. Installation view, Waterschei Mine, Genk, Belgium, 2012. Photo: Kristof Vrancken.

Manifesta 9

Ni Haifeng, Para-production, 2008–12, textile shreds, sewing machines. Installation view, Waterschei Mine, Genk, Belgium, 2012. Photo: Kristof Vrancken.

IN AN ERA when institutions from Dia:Beacon to Tate Modern are housed in industrial buildings, one might have found it unremarkable that the most recent edition of the itinerant biennial Manifesta took place in the headquarters of a disused mine in Belgium. Indeed, we are all too accustomed to seeing such spaces transformed into art venues and accepting the flattening of their history that accompanies such repurposing. In this case, however, curator Cuauhtémoc Medina (with Dawn Ades and Katerina Gregos) directly confronted the site’s industrial legacy, titling the show “The Deep of the Modern” and focusing much of its content on what Ades describes as the “impact of coal on the modern sensibility and its aftermath.” The hulking Art Deco industrial cathedral of the Waterschei mine itself thus strongly inflected one’s reception of the exhibition, and the cumulative effect of Medina’s

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