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Staycation Spotlight: Moon Hugs exhibition

Leen Van Dommelen and Angyvir Padilla

While the coronavirus pandemic has made travelling abroad difficult, there’s plenty of fun to be had right here in Brussels. Brussels Staycation, or StaycationBXL, is a series of initiatives designed to help Brussels residents make the most of their summer in the city.

Today’s spotlight is on Moon Hugs, an interactive performing arts exhibition that celebrates physical touch after over a year of social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Going without the touching and hugging was so difficult,” Leen Van Dommelen, one of the artists behind the project, told The Brussels Times.

“It was really missed, and we really wanted to give back that sense and feeling of touching each other.”

Van Dommelen co-created the Moon Hugs exhibition with fellow artist Angyvir Padilla. The two are sculptor-performers who practice with movement and materials, and Moon Hugs will feature both.

The pair have made “moon sand,” a sort of kinetic sand that holds its shape longer than the conventional kind that can be bought in a store, due to a recipe of their own creation.

“It leaves an impression, but if you touch it very strongly, it can fall apart into pieces,” explained Padilla.

“It’s not a sculpture that stays put, it moves and changes. It constructs and deconstructs.”

The idea is to pile the sand high enough to make impressions in the sand with one’s own body, or to sculpt into huggable statues. It’s an attempt to convey the idea that by the material’s nature, when hugged, one could feel the sensation of the sand hugging them back.

“Spectators are invited to look but also come inside and build their own bodies, or we can build them together,” said Van Dommelen.

“It’s a world unto itself, a dream of intimacy.”

The malleability of the sculpting material, or moon sand, is deliberate: as Van Dommelen and Padilla explain, it’s meant to capture the fleetingness of the emotions that physical touch can stir up.

“You can build something that can also go away very easily – you can feel the emotion, but you can’t really grasp it or take it with you,” said Padilla.

The use of the word “moon” in the title of the exhibition and the name of the material also has significance, in this case evoking sentiments of distance, a reminder of the time spent apart from loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic and its related social distancing measures that limited personal contact.

The exhibition will be in two parts: first, an open workshop where people are invited to come and experiment with the material and interact with the exhibition; then, a performance related to the experimental and interactive portion.

“Now, people want to touch again,” the artists both said.

“It’s needed more than ever right now.”

Mark your calendars: Moon Hugs will have open workshops for the public on Thursday 19 August and Friday 20 August from 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM.

They will be held at ZSenne art lab (Rue Anneessens 2, Bruxelles) and Galerie Toison d’Or “Local N°29” (Chaussée d’Ixelles 31, Ixelles).

ZSenne art lab
Saturday 21 August, 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM: performance.
Thursday 19 and Friday 20 August, 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM: open workshop.

Galerie Toison d’Or “Local N°29” (Chaussée d’Ixelles 31, Ixelles)
Saturday 28 August, 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM: performance.

For more information about this project and others in the Brussels Staycation Series, visit the official website or check out our previous coverage.