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Labyrinth Installation

The artists and architects Gijs Van Vaerenbergh designed Labyrinth, a large-scale artistic installation, which this summer is shown on C-mine. A one kilometer maze of steel corridors, with walls that tower 5 meters above the earth, surrounds installation visitors, placing them within the intricate depths of the imposing structural mass.

Labyrinth-Installation-By-Gijs-Van-Vaerenbergh-03-Filip-Dujardin-759x517 Labyrinth Installation / Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

© Filip Dujardin

  • A series of boolean transformations comprising large, geometric shapes are cut from the structure — a sphere, a cylinder, and a cone create voids and apertures that alter the walk through the labyrinth into a sequence of spatial and sculptural experiences.
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© Filip Dujardin

‘Labyrinth’ is a sculptural installation that focuses on the experience of space. The work originated from Gijs Van Vaerenbergh’s interest in fundamental architectural typologies; earlier installations were for example based on the city gate, bridge, wall, dome… Gijs Van Vaerenbergh view the age-old form of the labyrinth as architecture in its essential form; a compositions of walls that define spaces.

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© Filip Dujardin

The installation measures 37.5 by 37.5 metres and consists of 1 kilometre of walls (186 ton), made out of steel plates that are 5 mm thick and 5 m high. Out of this structure, large elementary shapes are cut – a sphere, a cylinder, a cone… – to break down the logic of the labyrinth and create new spaces and unexpected perspectives. These Boolean transformations convert the walk through the labyrinth into a sequence of spatial and sculptural experiences.

Labyrinth-Installation-By-Gijs-Van-Vaerenbergh-08-Filip-Dujardin-759x517 Labyrinth Installation / Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

© Filip Dujardin

At the same time, the cut-outs function as ‘frames’ to the labyrinth. Throughout the monotonous succession of high corridors, the viewer is suddenly confronted with openings that reveal what is on the other side of the walls. Seen from some certain perspectives, the cut-outs are fragmentary, whereas from other viewpoints the entire cut-out shape is unveiled. Finally, the cut-outs also frame fragments of the environment, which become points of orientation throughout the walk.

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© Filip Dujardin

‘Labyrinth’ does not only generate a variety of spaces and visual perspectives to those that enter the installation, it also interacts with the context of C-mine in a different way: ascending the old mine shafts, one can witness the structure from above and look down upon the wandering visitors – a point of view that is generally reserved for the creator of a labyrinth.

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© Filip Dujardin

  • Combining these elements, the installation is illustrative to Gijs Van Vaerenbergh’s practice: as always, the duo incorporates tensions between part and whole, form and transparency, recognition and estrangement, design and result, drawing and execution… The goal is to create a certain layeredness and openness to interpretations.
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© Filip Dujardin

Gijs Van Vaerenbergh:

Gijs Van Vaerenbergh builds an experimental labyrinth at C-mine art centre (Genk, Belgium). Gijs Van Vaerenbergh – a collaboration of young Belgian architects and artists Pieterjan Gijs (1983) en Arnout Van Vaerenbergh (1983) – realized an experimental labyrinth to mark the tenth birthday of arts centre C-mine (Genk, Belgium). The installation ‘Labyrinth’ invites the spectator to walk through one kilometre of steel corridors. A series of Boolean transformations create spaces and perspectives that reinterpret the traditional labyrinth.

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© Filip Dujardin

To start with, we were invited by C-mine to create something for the 2015 summer exhibition. This led us to propose an installation shaped as a giant labyrinth. Most of our site-specific installations result from an in-depth analysis of the environment, which leads to an interesting dialogue between work and context: the work tells something about the context and vice versa. In the case of ‘Reading between the Lines’ – our most famous installation – the work spoke about the changing meaning of the typology of the church in the physical and cultural landscape. ‘Reading between the Lines’ really needed that context to be understood.

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© Filip Dujardin

It was only through the topography of the landscape that the different aspects were revealed: the perspective of the viewer transformed the work from a highly transparent and open image into a very massive and closed one. In any other context, the installation wouldn’t have worked. The central square at C-mine is a completely different environment. Here, we were confronted with an artificial, highly designed, large-scaled context that wasn’t very welcoming to make a similar installation.

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© Filip Dujardin

We therefore chose to build an installation that was directed inwards and dealt more strongly with space and one’s relation to it. We did so by looking for inspiration in a primal architectural typology: the labyrinth. In a way, this is an essential form of architecture, which is only composed of walls. A series of Boolean transformations, however, generates openings and perspectives on the environment, which gives the labyrinth a new meaning. Finally, the ascension of the mine shafts are included in the experience in order to create another interesting relationship with the environment.

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© Filip Dujardin


In 2001, the city of Genk bought the old Winterslag mining site of the company LRM. The question which role this monumental site could play for Genk, led to the ambition to transform it into a place that feeds the city with creative thinking. By now, C-mine attracts over 800.000 visitors a year, from citizens to tourists, from professionals to laymen. C-mine wants to be a meeting place for people who feel stimulated by diverse forms of innovation, whether it is in their professional life or in their leisure time. To achieve this, C-mine organizes activities within four areas: education, artistic creation and presentation, creative economy and creative recreation.

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© Filip Dujardin


Name: Labyrinth
Location: C-mine 10 Genk, Belgium
Coordinates: 50.981982, 5.490429
Type: Art Exhibition, Installation, Metal Working
Area: approx 1,406 sqm
Height: 5 m
Dimensions: 37.5 by 37.5 metres
Date: 10 July 2015 to 30 September 2015
Year: 2015

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: City of Genk
Artist: Gijs Van Vaerenbergh – Minckelersstraat 64, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
Engineer: Bollinger + Grohmann
Text Description: © Courtesy of Gijs Van Vaerenbergh
Images: © Gijs Van Vaerenbergh, Filip Dujardin

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Labyrinth Installation / Gijs Van Vaerenbergh
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