Rue Van Meyel 49
1080 Brussels

Saturdays 14:00-18:00, and by appointment


"Sometimes the words tell the shapes what to be and sometimes the shapes tell the words what to be." - David Daniels

David Daniels was a self-taught American poet born in 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, died in 2008 in Berkley California. His work consists of many hundreds of shaped poems painstakingly typed out on various versions of Microsoft Word and self-published as PDFs on his website. Lining the walls of Winona is a selection of 64 such poems, from his magnum opus, The Gates of Paradise, which he wrote between 1988 and 2000. Daniels refers to each of the 350 poems in the collection as "gates". He is interested, he says, in opening "[him]self and other people up and seeing what is inside."

What is prescient in these poems is Daniels’ early realisation that, despite appearances, MS Word is a tool of the hand made. Already at the beginning of personal computing, he had understood the possibility of the medium as a kind of folk art, equivalent to needle-point or mosaic where simple and available tools can be turned toward extremely complex ends, not by grand design but through the moment to moment decisions of someone familiar with the medium. He understood, too, a kind of short circuiting that was then occurring between the intimate space of the personal computer and the planetary scale of networked computing, both of which were rampantly accelerating around him in California in the time these poems were written.

The poems speak to both scales simultaneously. They are cosmic in their outlook, dealing endlessly with themes of transformation, alchemical shifts in the state of matter, and testimonies of animate objects ("if x could talk"). At the same time, they are prosaic and personal. They speak the languages of folksy aphorisms, sexual frustration and bad jokes. The poems might be said to share in a certain cabalistic tradition of Jewish writing in which language can be endlessly broken down into smaller parts and rearranged atomically, not to in order to form "meaning" per se, but to create junctions of sense and sudden realisations. There is a leitmotif (present in almost every poem) which acts as the poems’ eternal return. It goes: "Stars shine bright on shatter light."

Elsewhere in the space are three sculptural works by Anna Van Der Ploeg. On the floor, an a4 poster from a community notice-board has been scaled up massively in the manner of an allegory. Across from it, a painting without image squares off against a book made from holes. Anna says the book is a scale model for some larger, future sculpture. There is a sort of theatre happening here.

This book might be be the central image of the show. A language made of holes, a syntax of gaps, a grammar of subtractions (Could we call it a punchcard?). The book is a space through which language has to navigate, a set of shapes through which it must squeeze itself, and a collection of leaks through which it might escape. There is nothing to keep language there. And the book and the painting are like lovers. They belong to one another and yet they don’t. They wear the names of two folk singers, endlessly singing to the absence of the other in the way that singers of love songs do.

Well, I’ll be damned
Here comes your ghost again [...]
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
’Cause I need some of that vagueness now.


All photos by Silvia Cappellari.
(c) Anna Van Der Ploeg, David Daniels and Winona.



Since it needs to take place in the future, all planning requires leaps of faith. This act of leaping and the speculative distance it covers is inextricable from how we think about the future. Even relatively banal and stable predictions ("it will rain tomorrow") require complex acts of interpretation, faith and assumption. It is a kind of science fiction not in the narrative sense of spaceships or a coming apocalypse but in the small every day sense of assuming a plausible future at least enough that you can choose an outfit, make dinner plans, decide on a career, vote, or fall in love.

One model for thinking about this connection is gambling. The casino is a highly controlled, diagrammatic space in which to ideas of speculation and continuation get negotiated nightly. In a game of roulette, for instance, players bet their money against one of a set of possible futures. When the wheel is spun, the white ball will land somewhere and it is the role of the player to stake a claim as to where. The higher the speculative leap, the higher the payout. A European roulette wheel contains black and red squares numbered 1-36 which fan across the wheel and green square ("the zero") at its centre. A player who can predict the right number gets their money back 36 times over. However, remembering the green zero, the odds of a correct bet are 1 in 37, meaning the reward dips just below the risk. This one 37th gap or remainder gives the casino a constant competitive edge that allows the future continuation of the whole system. While the individual fortunes of players may rise and fall, the essential stability of the game is guaranteed by the green zero.

The objects in this exhibition also display a diagrammatic musculature. They too are models for futures: An economist’s prediction for a way out of the planet’s economic trouble; a scale model of a Los Angeles bank built from memory and a real estate prospectus; two plinths as remainders or shares from a previous exhibition. All of the models speak the language of economics as the field in which the questions of future and speculation are most frequently rehearsed. They employ a grammar of predictions and remainders. In each of these proposals, it is the gaps and spaces ("space for notes") that give meaning to the solid space around it. This meaning is inflationary. It is made of competing associations that fill the voids in the models. In this way, the model remains open. Meaning hovers like a magic trick. As with the green zero on the roulette wheel, the gaps here do not perform the role of ruptures, but as guarantors of a smooth continuation. Maybe part of what the diagram promises is that things could be otherwise. Diagrams suggest that certain values can be swapped out and that by doing so we might get a glimpse of an alternative future. The better the model the greater the fidelity of the prediction. The simpler the model the greater the demand for faith.


All photos by Silvia Cappellari.
(c) Kathi Hofer and Winona.


Recently, in the New York Times, an article claimed the resurgence of the ‘conversation pit’ — a soft and sunken living room structure synonymous with the 1960s and 70s. If it is true that the conversation pit is making a comeback, we want to know: what is it about this particular relic of mid-century design that speaks to the current moment? The article makes the suggestion that the conversation pit is an antidote to an atomised society: conversation pits mean face-to face interaction, unmediated by screens and satellites. But this neat, quasi-conservative, back-to-the-good-old-days thinking sits uneasily against the article’s other key observation: that is, conversation pits are mostly consumed as images. Indeed, the lush colours and geometry seem to circulate seamlessly via social media platforms. Our own design process for this exhibition began the same way: a stream of drooled-over images traded back-and-forth over phone screens. Desire thinly veneered as research.

Together, these two observations suggest the conversation pit as a curious kind of hybrid object, both a physical rejection of contemporary communication technologies and a virtual space remotely inhabited via the very technologies it would seem to refuse. Is a conversation pit better to look into or to look out from?

This exhibition began as a plan to build a full-scale, useable model of a conversation pit in the tiled space of Winona, to test the online and offline dynamics of this architectural feature in contemporary Brussels. Gradually, that hollow form got filled up with contributions from artists who lent or fabricated works for the setting. By happy coincidence, many of these works were collaborations. The invitations also turned into a program of talks, readings, and concerts that will take place in the coming weekends. It got filled up too, or will, with the slumped and lounging bodies of visitors. Put basically, the pit is a container in which to collectively experiment with how those elements will collide and interact and (ideally) generate pulsing, hallucinatory conversation.

The works included oscillate similarly between the onsite and the remote. The red vinyl pattern which covers two walls was sent as a vector graphic by Jim Isermann, from his chosen home in Palm Springs, California. For decades, Jim has been making radically decorative work that traffics between minimalist aesthetics and the functional utopias of design. Nina Canell and Robin Watkins sent their work as a sound file to be played through the pit’s quad sound system. On September 2, we will sit and listen to it together. Shirin Sabahi’s work is a window vinyl from an iterative series, scaled to fit Winona’s street facing window. What appears as decorative, abstract geometry is in fact derived from patterns of tape used to secure windows from bomb blasts or earthquakes in unstable environments. Simon Denny leant us a set of custom postage stamps, produced collaboratively with the stamp designer Linda Kantchev, each of which commemorate one of the companies that in 2016 (the year of the work’s making), were designing the infrastructures and vectors of decentralised currency trading. Miles Huston’s work takes the form of a set of remote-viewing tools. On three paddles are three altered reproductions of paintings by Arnold Clapman produced for Paul Lafolley. Clapman’s paintings are themselves reconstructions based on descriptions of an earlier set of paintings by the Boston artist Richard Upton Pickman, who (Pickman) claims to have based them of live drawing sessions with a number of demon children living in the sewers under Boston’s North End. By holding the paddles at arm’s length and staring at the three coloured dots for 30 seconds, viewers can summon spectral hallucinations of Clapman’s now-destroyed paintings of Pickman’s lost works. In contemporary architecture, the stakes of the there-and-not-there dilate along axes of supply. What is remote can be brought closer. Brianna Leatherbury arranged her contribution as a set of dispatches of non-functional buttons from Amazon which will gradually populate the space of Winona over the course of the show. Of all the artists included, only Cecilia Bjartmar Hylta worked on-site, installing a discarded and inverted steel bollard from the streets of Brussels as a subtraction from the volume of the pit’s structure.

The experiment of the exhibition will be cast against the next 4 weeks of its showing. As an experiment, its aims are open ended, its metrics for success or failure unclear. Life gets lived below floor level.


All photos by Marina Pinsky and edited by Silvia Cappellari.
(c) Marina Pinsky, Shirin Sabahi, Simon Denney, Jim Isermann, Miles Huston, Brianna Leatherbury, Cecilia Bjartmar Hylta, Nina Canell and Winona.


"Sometimes, when a man is holding a pencil, his hand won’t release it no matter how badly he wants to let go. Instead the hand tightens rather than opens."


There’s a passage in a book by Maurice Blanchot which describes the writer as a man with two hands: The right hand writes, wants desperately to write, while the left hand cannot or chooses not to. The right hand holds the pencil involuntarily, like an addict following a desire that is neither properly outside nor inside of them. The left hand doesn’t write but it can reach out and take the pencil, to interrupt what is being written. “Mastery,” Blanchot concludes, “always characterises the other hand, the one that doesn’t write.”

There are 4 or maybe 5 sculptural works in this exhibition, which Benedikt calls Essays zum Stand der Dinge (“Essays on the State of Things”). A car was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a fire has burned to the end, a man is running late, a pig considers its reflection, a building will soon be built. Like the left hand’s intervention, all of these short stories relate to time in complex ways. They are generic in the way that an allegory should be and they are specific in the way that an allegory should be. (Open enough. Closed enough). The fruit gets boiled down to its sugars to make jam. Like most art and story-telling, this is a question of economy too, about big returns on possible meaning for small expenditures on time and materials. (“And what was Marx’s left hand doing while his right wrote Das Kapital?”)

If we accept that writing is a negotiation between two desires that map onto the two hands, then writing is also a negotiation of two times: A right-handed time that is continuous and horizontal and a left-handed time that is discontinuous and vertical. The right hand desires the infinite prolongation of time, the deferral of judgement or conclusion. The left hand insists upon the break, the full-stop, the deadline about which meaning will have to organise itself. Time is suddenly coming down. What is left is left. Both of these times are part of writing, or maybe writing is just a plane on which these times have to get negotiated. The cosmic nature of this negotiation is equaled only by its banal everyday-ness. This is often how it happens and it happens very often.

For many of us, the central allegory of this show will be the wild boar who enters into the mirrored room, into language, into culture. When the animal sees itself in the mirror, does it see itself as a beast?


All photos by Silvia Cappellari.
(c) Benedikt Bock and Winona.



The next event at Winona, Brussels. 2 x 2 performances on a Sunday afternoon.

Front Lighting, Back Channel
Mutual - Theo Livesey
Secrets (Did I have to wear a hat?) - Francesca Hawker.

Each session includes both performances and lasts for 1 hour.

Winona is a very small room.
Numbers are very limited and registration is necessary.
Message CU via Whatsapp to reserve a place.

16h00 | Session 1
Fran Theo

18h00 | Session 2
Theo Fran


All photos by Nikolaj Jessen.
(c) Francesca Hawker, Theo Livesey and Winona.

Refined Sugars is the first show at Winona. It’s an exhibition of sorts and an event of sorts. It won’t last more than the evening. Since we’re new in the neighbourhood we wanted to take the excuse to have a party. There’s a wonderful bakery on the corner of rue de l’Intendant and rue de Ribaucourt who can print images on cakes. They print them with edible dyes onto paper made of sugar and when they mount it it melts and transfers the image right into the surface of the cake. What better way to open a new chapter than inviting all of our friends to participate in its consumption?

The images are all made by friends of ours too. Mekhitar took the photograph of the hummus, after a plate made by his mother. Margaux compiled the table of recent public apologies, with the size of the apology defining the slice of the cake (Risk Reward Ratio). Emile made the green image of a man and a woman back when he still had a studio in the previous building of Level 5. The flavours and the decorations were decided by each of the artists in collaboration with the bakery — like the relationship between a painter and a framer. Chocolate for Mekhitar, lemon for Margaux, whipped cream for Emile. By the time you read this text, its likely that the exhibition will be wholly or partly moved into throats and bellies, so you’ll have to believe us when we say they were beautiful images, made more beautiful by the knowledge they were printed on perishable materials.

A first show in a new space should be lo-fi and potlatch. It should be about finding ways to work with what’s at hand. About channelling the local and the familiar in order to make things happen. This is how a project space can function on limited means. Our overheads in this space are low. The rent we each pay is roughly equivalent to a basic gym membership, which helps to free the space from the need to justify itself to external demands from a market or from a funding body. The basic attitude might be called unproductive. A dead end. We spend with the left hand what we earn with the right. In a little over a year this whole building will be torn down. By the end of the night this exhibition will be consumed.

In English, people say “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” which is a way of forcing the dichotomy between the conservation value of a thing and the use value of a thing. It defines an opposition between aesthetics on one hand and utility on the other. The rarefied thing (the kept cake) vs. the consumption of the same thing, or rather its conversion into energy, pleasure and fat. In the end, where we locate ourselves within this dichotomy might be revealing of some larger stakes in the production of contemporary art…


All photos by Nikolaj Jessen.
(c) Mekhitar Garabedian, Margaux Schwarz, Emile Rubino and Winona.