ECHO. Wrapped in Memory, (c) MoMu Antwerp, Photo: Stany Dederen
ECHO. Wrapped in Memory, (c) MoMu Antwerp, Photo: Stany Dederen
Simone Rocha, Spring-Summer 2022 © Photo: Jacob Lillis
ECHO. Wrapped in Memory, (c) MoMu Antwerp, Photo: Stany Dederen
ECHO. Wrapped in Memory, (c) MoMu Antwerp, Photo: Stany Dederen
Simone Rocha, Spring-Summer 2018 © Photo: Jacob Lillis
Simone Rocha, Autumn-Winter 2022-23 © Photo: Jacob Lillis
Louise Bourgeois in her home on 20th Street, New York, wearing her Helmut Lang coat, 2009. © Alex Van Gelder, from the series Mumbling Beauty, Louise Bourgeois, 2008-2010
Louise Bourgeois – Dawn (detail), 2006. Photo: Christopher Burke, © The Easton Foundation/SABAM Belgium 2023

NUMÉRO BERLIN TAKES OVER ANTWERP: A VISIT OF “ECHO” AT THE MOMU

Marien Brandon attended the ECHO Exhibition at the MoMu for Numéro Berlin and provides a comprehensive review.

I have been thinking of pink days and blue days ever since I visited the exhibition “ECHO” at the MoMu of Antwerp. According to Louise Bourgeois, pink days are filled with happiness and associated with femininity, while blue days call for melancholy and depression. We are all affected by the ups and downs of life and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the echoes from the past and how we carry them with us – wear them, at times. The universality of such a theme is precisely what makes the exhibition “ECHO: Wrapped in memory” such a meaningful project, allowing different narratives to touch. It was my first time in Antwerp and I deeply felt the mark left by this city on the landscape of global fashion. Belgian designers and artists have a way of taking themselves apart from the norms and rules set by Paris and other fashion capitals.

The city, home to the prestigious ModeMuseum (MoMu), is undoubtedly rooted in a spirit of innovation, avant-garde creativity, and a distinctive blend of tradition and boundary-pushing design.

This is seen with the rise of the “Antwerp Six” – a group of influential fashion designers including Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, and Walter Van Beirendonck. Their experimental and rebellious approach to fashion challenged conventional norms, fostering a reputation for the city as a hub of artistic and progressive design. Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, played a pivotal role in shaping the city’s fashion ethos. The academy has produced a stream of exceptionally talented designers who have gone on to make waves globally. We can think of Demna Gvasalia in recent years, but also of emerging talents such as Laura Meier Hagested or Tim Stolte. The impact of Antwerp in fashion is not solely about individual designers; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has fostered a distinct and influential aesthetic – grungier and rougher around the edges. You can understand my excitement when discovering ECHO, guided by curator Elisa De Wyngaert. I was definitely left inspired by the history and cultural influences revealed before my eyes. Memories and fashion are an intricate fabric which Elisa De Wyngaert explores through the work of artist Louise Bourgeois, designer Simone Rocha and dancer and choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmeaker. Three women, three generations, three different artistic mediums. Clothes, and the memories attached to them, act as the common denominator of their works. 

“ECHO” chronologically explores womanhood in the arts, and the experiences lived by them from childhood to motherhood, and so on.

Garments portray with fidelity who we are and remain stained with our tears, sweat and smells. They accurately give us information on their wearers’ lives, marked by their traumas and loss. MoMu’s director, Kaat Debo describe clothes as “a portal to our memories.” The exhibition beautifully utilizes the connection between fashion and emotion to explore wear and tear. Indeed, a fashion item would usually be considered of “museum condition” when its state of preservation is pristine. On the flipside “ECHO” places a looking glass on mended pieces and altered artifacts found amongst their larger-than-large archive of 38 000 objects – each carrying their own story and emotional weight.  The exhibition sheds light on the profound intersection of fashion and personal narratives, inviting us to delve into the layers of history woven into the fabric of our lives. The dialogue is opened between the work of Bourgeois, Rocha, De Keersmaeker and contributing artists such as Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, Laila Gohar, Liz Magor. Each showing a personal connection to the theme but all linked by its universality. In fact, pioneer French-American artist, Louise Bourgeois is renowned for her profound and emotionally charged sculptures, installations, and works on paper. Born in 1911, Bourgeois’s art delves into the complexities of human relationships, psychological states, and the female experience.

Bourgeois’s work intersects with the thematic elements of clothing as a vessel for memory.

Her exploration of the emotional weight carried by garments aligns with the idea that clothing can serve as a powerful conduit for individual and collective stories. Archival footage of De Keersmaeker’s choreography is placed in relation with Bourgeois and Rocha’s works. Her choreographic language involves intricate patterns and rhythmic complexities, creating a visual and kinetic experience that resonates with the dynamic nature of fashion. Personally, I was more familiar with the work of Irish designer Simone Rocha but looking at her collections in parallel to the steps of womanhood felt special. Indeed, themes such as pregnancy or the act of giving birth tinted her designs throughout the years and depicted her take on such experiences – her blue days and pink days.

ECHO poetically taps into the special connections between clothing, identity, and the human psyche. This exhibition is highly inspiring, I will now carry it with me. I recommend you do the same.



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