Vincent Meessen Interview: Working With Belgium’s Colonial Past


“How can we use art, as a practice, in order to raise questions?” asks the acclaimed Belgian visual artist Vincent Meessen. We met him in his studio in Brussels to talk about his multifaceted work, which is often connected to colonial issues, and about rewriting – and challenging – history through art.

“I’m interested in understanding the present, and making sense of the present, by digging into the past.” Meessen works with different kinds of media, and with material, mostly from the past, that has a certain power in the present. Consequently, he explains, a lot of his work is related to colonial issues – such as exile, belonging, and navigation. Doing the work, he feels, is a way of “going to the front”, of acting and figuring out what you can do as an artist: “A very important part of the work is to convey, never a message, but a sense of something that has been lived. It’s an experience.”

Vincent Meessen (b. 1971) is a Belgian artist. His work draws on history, assembling printed objects and architectural elements to challenge conventional narratives and stir conversations about the present. Meessen has presented his films and artworks in museums around the world, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Kiasma in Helsinki and Lincoln Center in New York. He has also participated in the Chicago, Venice, Shanghai, and Taipei biennials.

Vincent Meessen was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen in his studio in Brussels, Belgium in February 2020.

In the video, Meessen presents his work ‘One.Two.Three’ (2015) and ‘Ultramarine’ (2018).

Camera: Jakob Solbakken

Produced and edited by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen

Cover photo: From ‘Ultramarine’ (2018) by Vincent Meessen. Courtesy of the artist

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020

Supported by Nordea fonden

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