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Explore Track & Trace, photo festival in Kortrijk

Following and being followed is more than ever a part of life. Kortrijk turned it into a theme for its first photo festival. Renowned and lesser-known photographers show their work on heritage sites, squares and city walls for six weeks. An overview, based on four images.

Connected in solitude

Horse stables, Korte Kapucijnenstraat z / n

A crossroads in the Chinese city of Wuhan, two years ago. A woman crosses the street. Girl in one hand, plastic bag in the other. The Ghent photographer Cato Van Rijckeghem (24) is waiting for an appointment at the same intersection. She makes the image because it fits so beautifully into the series she is currently working on.

In ‘Our Life is Full of Sunshine’, Van Rijckeghem explores what it was like to grow up as a girl during the one-child politics in China between 1979 and 2015,
knowing your parents would have preferred a boy. The theme intrigues the
photographer because her sister was adopted from China, where she was abandoned as a result of the one-child policy.

Van Rijckeghem discovered that the girls who grew up in China during that period – as an only child, or in exceptional cases with a brother or sister – share the same feelings. ‘Loneliness is a great emotion that connects them. But there is also the feeling of a kind of rejection, of not complying completely. ‘

Those feelings dominate ‘Our Life is Full of Sunshine’, a line from a propaganda song from the 1980s. The series consists of portraits of the young women who visited Van Rijckeghem and images that tie in with the conversations she had with them. ‘The photo at the intersection is a fluke. But I like to stage something just as much. The line between document and fiction attracts me. A natural image sometimes appears to be staged, a staged image sometimes appears natural. But it should never be without obligation. ‘

The series, surrounded by audio clips, fragments of letters and stills from one
Chinese propaganda film, can be seen in the Track & Trace expo documentary photography in the Horse Stables, which were part of Brouwerij Tack in other times. Van Rijckegem shares the location with four photographers, including Sebastien Steveniers. He shows his series ‘Bosfights / Live Free’, about football hooligans who seek out the fight.

Bieke follows Agata follows Germaine

Groeninge Abbey, Begijnhofpark z / n

© Bieke Depoorter / Magnum Photos

It looks like a scene from a play. And it kind of is. Agata is sitting at the piano in the clothes of Germaine, the deceased owner of a house in which she
lived for a while. She portrays herself on the basis of diaries, photos and videos
together with the Ghent Magnum photographer Bieke Depoorter in what it would be like to lead Germaine’s life.

The Germaine scenes – on the balcony, in the bathroom, in the restaurant, on the phone in the hallway, sunbathing in the garden – are part of Depoort’s ‘Agata’ project. In Kortrijk they hang close together in a dark room. In addition, a large space is filled with dozens of images of Agata as Agata, searching hard for who she is.

Depoorter started following the Polish Agata in November 2017, when she met her in a striptease club in Paris. And at a certain point they started to follow Germaine’s tracks together. Which are intersecting quests
intense, and sometimes complex.

Not long ago, Depoorter decided to stop the series. For now anyway. ‘The great thing about the project is that it contains more questions than answers. Then it can also become confusing ‘, she writes in a letter to Agata, which can be read on the solo-
expo of Track & Trace. The photographer was also increasingly struggling with the question, “Would some things have happened if I hadn’t been there?”

Dancing through the street

Local talent in the public space

© Willy Houthoofd

Track & Trace is strongly committed to local talent. The festival linked eighty members of Kortrijk photography clubs and associations with eleven Kortrijk welfare organizations, who showed them in front of and behind the scenes. Such as De Stroate, an association for the promotion of hip-hop culture.

The resulting photos leave a visual trail through the city center and also lead to the historic open-air swimming pool Abdijkaai. Nine of those images have sound. Anyone who scans the QR code will receive a moving story or a funny anecdote whispered in the ear by the West Flemish singer and musician Wannes Cappelle.

‘The combination of local, national and international talent makes the photo festival unique. The great involvement of the local photographers strengthens the image of the city, ‘says Anke D’Haene, Track & Trace project manager. The focus on local
talent certainly also fits in with Kortrijk’s ambition to become European Capital of Culture by 2030.

In the crosshairs of the FBI

No photographer has experienced the theme of the Kortrijk festival as intensely as Hasan Elahi (49). The American media artist and art professor with Bangladeshi roots got the FBI after him on June 19, 2002. He was returning from an assignment abroad when he was taken to a room in Terminal A of the Detroit airport. What followed was the reason for the ‘Tracking Transience’ project.

The cop in the room wanted to know exactly where Elahi had been, what he’d done, who he’d talked to, and if he happened to remember what he’d done on September 12, 2001. The artist, a meticulous planner, took his digital diary and replied in detail. It did not prevent him from remaining a terror suspect and having to report regularly to the FBI office in Tampa, Florida for another six months to answer further questions. Sometimes with a lie detector.

When the FBI finally recognized that he had nothing wrong with him, Elahi decided to keep the FBI – and the world – informed about his comings and goings. He shared the numbers of the flights he took. He photographed what he ate, what he bought, where he was waiting for the train, where he even went to pee. He even gave access to his payment details. The idea: by overwhelming an intelligence service with so much personal data, you devalue that information and you can continue with your more or less anonymous life.

Elahi’s database now contains thousands and thousands of images of dishes, waiting rooms, shop shelves, gas stations and toilet bowls. He uses this to make new work. He created a striking wallpaper for the cleverly constructed group exhibition of Track & Trace. The yellow stripes refer to the swell of the Leie, which turned gold when flax was still rooted in it. They also refer to the structure of the exhibition space, the golden crown hall of the Texture textile museum.

There is also ‘The Lookout’, an installation by media artist Dries Depoorter. In a kind of control room you get to see a stream of live images from about 1,500 unsecured cameras. They are located on ski slopes, in cow sheds, in locker rooms worldwide. Some cameras can even be controlled with a game controller. A confrontation with the limits of privacy.

Track & Trace is much more than these four images. In addition to the three exhibitions and the route through the city, there are also instawalls and a virtual reality project with heritage images. The festival is free and runs until April 25th.

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