LARA
MENNES
Achterland [2014]

De Rand van het Landschap [2012]

Dans l'ombre du coin perdu [2012]

Het lelijkste land ter wereld [2012]

Capturing The Sensible [2011]

Studie voor een open kapel [2010]

Cité - Volkswoningbouw & S.A. Charbonnages de Winterslag [2009]
If belief lies in vast, coherent landscapes, then Belgium has never believed much in anything. It is not a country of one persuasion, nor indeed of many. Ideas and plans are only crystallised on a small scale - that of architecture and buildings - and then with a down-to-earthness which might be interpreted as uncertainty or ambiguity. The photographs and snippets of text in Lara Mennes' Cité bring the observer face to face with a sometimes forgotten corner of Belgium which nevertheless reveals a remarkable history of belief. In 1902 coal was discovered in Limburg and in 1913 work began on building a mining infrastructure and housing for the workers in Winterslag. The architect was Adrien Blomme.

The first chapter of Cité, entitled 'Societé Anonyme Charbonnages de Winterslag', shows the defunct infrastructure used to bring coal to the surface from 1914 to 1988 when the site was finally closed. Like the other examples in the series, these are black and white photographs. Both the interior and the exterior pictures aim for a sort of timelessness: the industrial architecture is anonymous enough for us to date it 'sometime before the Second World War', but as to when the artist took the pictures, one can only say that it was sometime after that - in the 1960s, the 1980s or the twenty-first century. After the end of history, the pictures are released from their age, like ghosts.

The same applies to the photographs in the second chapter of Cité, 'Volkswoningbouw, which shows the different types of homes built mostly between the wars to house the various employees. Only the exterior is photographed, and though the houses have never stood empty, here too we are struck by the way time is frozen. This sense is heightened by the white, uniform sky which seems to have been cut out and pasted on. How is it possible that the year 2009 has not managed to leave more of a stamp on the objects and architecture shown here?

No people - or very few - appear in the pictures in Cité. This allows us to concentrate on the things, which - like some of the texts - invariably testify to a belief in the industrial revolution, in pit coal as the raw material for the whole of society. The stillness of the images suggests that the belief documented in Cité still prevails today - but then like a dream which, on awakening, we cannot easily recall.

Past Is Spoken Through All Things Present [2008]

Home(les)s [2007]

Dancing London [2007]

Faded [2007]

Phases [2006]