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International art trail Contrei Live: 13 towns and cities, 16 art installations, 3 cycling routes


Intermunicipal organisation Leiedal – the regional developer for South West Flanders – has just turned 60 and wants to share this special occasion by putting its territory in a festive spotlight, involving locals as well as visitors. Marking its anniversary, Leiedal sets the stage for Contrei Live, an arts trail on and off the water throughout the region’s 13 towns and cities. Sixteen national and international artists, architects and designers invite people on a meandering trail of artistic discovery to reflect on water in a landscape theatre and to engage into dialogue on the importance of water as an ever more precious commodity. Contrei Live takes to the water with made-to-measure art interventions from 9 July to 26 October and is free to visit.

A region with a view

At the very core of Leiedal is the dynamic and durable development of the region towards an attractive area for work, life and leisure. In 2018, Leiedal launched Contrei, a spatial vision for the Lys and Scheldt region. Contrei – with the support of local and supra-local authorities and loosely translated as ‘country’ – pictures a sustainable vision of the future of the region, tackling important challenges such as water systems, dropping groundwater levels, climate and energy, mobility in tune with spatial development, open spaces and how to reinforce them, etc. Contrei Live now makes that vision visible on the field. Through the arts trail, Leiedal sets out to bedazzle and to connect, to instil awareness and to invite citizens to enter a discourse on the importance of water in the landscape. Rivers, canals, brooks, creeks and ditches course through our region as our lifelines. Cities are rediscovering the appeal of water and welcome it back into their hearts. Water entices, given the system is made more durable and viable. Climate change forces us to change course if we are going to absorb both floods and drought sensibly, in cities as well as in the countryside. Creating basins, facilitating transport by water or embracing nature and recreation are but some of those sensible ways to go. Contrei Live keenly points out the proverbial rapids in a region in full transitional swing.

211 entries, 13 municipalities, 16 artistic interventions, 3 bicycle loops

In February of 2019, Leiedal made an open call to artists and designers all around, suggesting a number of outstanding places with a clear link to water. Through Kortrijk Design Region, the city of Kortrijk has been part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network since 2017, which accordingly contributed to no less than 211 entries from artists and designers from over 35 countries worldwide. A panel of experts selected a number of them for Leiedal to check their practical, logistic and financial viability. As a result, at least one work of art will be shown in each of the 13 Leiedal municipalities. The grand total of 16 artistic interventions makes up an intriguing mix of land art, landscape architecture, sound art and kinetic installations. The interventions are tailored to the specifications of their particular site in the landscape or public space, fortifying the aquatic acquaintance with the story of water. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the works of international top-notch artists Hans Peter Kuhn, Matthijs la Roi, LANDLAB, Kevin Trappeniers, Michel Desvigne, OMGEVING, Esther Kokmeijer, Niels Albers, Willem Boel, Jan Detavernier, Patrick Ceyssens, Rick Abelen, Žilvinas Stasiulevičius, Marco Barotti, Zeli Bauwens and Adrien Tirtiaux. Contrei Live also provides wind at the back for bicycle tourism in South West Flanders, with partners Toerisme Leiestreek and Westtoer helping to open up the arts trail by putting together three bicycle loops. For each municipality, partner in all things health Logo Leieland has outlined a walk to discover the installations in 10,000 steps.

(Re)discovery as an art

Leiedal and its stakeholders would like to invite all locals and visitors near and far to tap into Contrei Contrei Live: art runs thicker than water North Sea Region SHARE-North European Regional Develepment Fund Live and be marvelled and carried by the region with water guiding the way. A user-friendly mobile website, a free cycling map and (payable) visitors’ guide will pilot you along three cycling loops boasting some delightful deviations and stimulating stops. At various easily accessible locations, a total of 120 bikes may be shared, courtesy of Donkey Republic, free and easy to book with an app. Students at Howest Digital Arts and Entertainment, meanwhile, have rendered Contrei Live in a game available in app stores or to be played online. Educational packages will be made for schools. Contrei is all about connecting and inviting young and old to come and discover their own country. After an exceptional time of equally exceptional measures, we are all looking forward to summer, so we might go and explore the arts trail freely, in line of course with the distancing rules. Rather than a mass event, Contrei Live is a cultural happening inviting you to discover some surprising spots whilst adding a meaningful and artistic dimension to it, the three bicycle loops even motivating people to keep moving.