— About this edition
© Rinus Van de Velde

Step on board for EUROPALIA TRAINS & TRACKS, from 14 October 2021 to 15 May 2022!

This year marks several train anniversaries*: a spectacular opportunity for EUROPALIA to dedicate an edition to a world in itself, an invention that shaped society and appears to be playing a leading role again today.

EUROPALIA TRAINS & TRACKS presents more than 70 different projects—mostly new creations and residencies—spread across artistic institutions but also, and especially, to be discovered in stations and on trains, in Belgium and in neighbouring countries.

The multidisciplinary programme revolves around three themes. It starts with the impact of the train on society. This impact was huge when the train was invented and its role seems to be growing bigger and bigger again today. Originally a symbol of the acceleration of society, the train is now becoming a symbol of slowing down. In addition, we work on the themes of time and motion and meetings and farewells, concepts that are closely linked to the world of the train, which provide starting points for wider perspectives.

EUROPALIA opens on 14 October with the exhibition Tracks to Modernity at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels. The exhibition focuses on the impact of the train, from its inception to the 1950s, and tells the story of how artists were hypnotized by the speed, power, and beauty of the machine. Artists such as Monet, Severini, de Chirico and Mondrian are brought together for the first time around the theme of the train and their works bear witness to the enthusiasm for and fear of a new world, of modernity. Performances and installations by, among others, Fiona Tan, CREW and Farida Amadou, add a contemporary dimension to the story.

On 15 October, choreographer Boris Charmatz will kick off a programme of 40 events taking place in stations and on trains. His performance, La Ronde, takes place in the hall of Brussels-North: a six-hour long human loop of dancing, singing, and talking duets. A collective moment, an explosion of love in public space.

Brussels’ stations but also those of Antwerp Central, Liège-Guillemins, Bruges, Verviers Central, Leuven, Ronse, Louvain-La-Neuve, and Oostende, and trains all over the country and in Europe will become unexpected venues for concerts, slam poetry, literary encounters, performances, operas…

With Endless Express, the Oostende-Eupen line becomes an exhibition, featuring installations by seven artists: Che Go Eun, Inas Halabi, Flaka Haliti, Chloé Malcotti, Sophie Nys, Marina Pinsky, and Laure Prouvost. The line that crosses Belgium and its different language regions, conceals stories that the artists expose in new works alongside the tracks, on platforms and inside stations.

TRAINS & TRACKS looks at the intriguing past of the train and thus of Europe, questioning and examining the public space of the station and those passing through it. To this end, EUROPALIA has invited artists of various disciplines to engage with a broad audience—casual passers-by, railway buffs and train spotters, commuters, tourists, art lovers, children, and families…

The programme also addresses the future of the train and its growing role in sustainable travel. Young people can participate in interactive workshops and debate with policymakers on what they think the railways in Europe could or should look like in the future.

TRAINS & TRACKS also celebrates mythical train journeys such as the Orient Express (Train World, Brussels) and invites the public to embark on imaginary journeys such as the exhibition Rinus Van de Velde: Inner Travels (Bozar, Brussels), a visual voyage of discovery through the artist’s universe, in dialogue with works by, among others, Pierre Bonnard, Edvard Munch and Joan Mitchell, and performances by Charlotte and Dolores Bouckaert, Rita Hoofwijk, Gaëtan Rusquet.

Discover the full programme here or in our festival magazine.

*175 years ago, Brussels and Paris became the first capital cities on the European continent to be connected by rail; 40 years of TGV; 25 years of Thalys. 2021 was declared the European Year of Rail by the European Commission. 

For this edition, EUROPALIA is working closely with the SNCB/NMBS and Train World, its museum. The Commissioner General of EUROPALIA TRAINS & TRACKS is Jan, Baron Grauls.

Regular Institutional Partners