The Models & The Porters
How do young people view their careers? Is working a dream come true for them or something more of a necessary evil? In The Models, filmmaker Sarah Vanagt looks at the aspirations of the young people of Brussels just before they take the plunge into the job market. The installation, together with her earlier film, The Porters, can be seen at K1.
In early 2023, Sarah Vanagt took walks with twenty young women and men from Molenbeek and Schaerbeek. The starting point was the Petit Sablon, a small park embellished with sculptures referring to the old crafts of Brussels. What followed are intimate conversations about the place that work holds in the lives of the young people involved. It’s about expectations and ambitions, role patterns and models. About personal visions of the future and a society that is changing rapidly.
Sarah Vanagt: My father – who is now 80 years old – once told me that on his 18th birthday his father took him on a day trip to Brussels. They themselves lived at the Belgian coast. From Central Station, they walked towards the Petit Sablon, the 19th-century park lined with a series of copper-green sculptures, each depicting one of the various 16th-century Brussels trades and crafts: the skin oiler, the glazier, the brine fishmonger, the cobbler, and so on. Once they were there, my grandfather is said to have told my father: “Right, now pick your profession”. This ‘tour’ that my 18-year-old father took gave me the idea of making a film featuring a number of young Brussels residents currently making their own career choices. And, just like my grandfather, I wanted to use the Petit Sablon park as a place for doing some thinking, with the 48 bronze craftsmen looking over the shoulders of the young walkers and – who knows? – even whispering new thoughts and other ways of thinking to them. I see the installation of The Models as a sketch, an invitation to go for a walk around the Petit Sablon with your son, daughter, father, mother or friend and, together, to imagine 48 or more new silhouettes there.
In The Porters, young people in Brussels, with many different backgrounds and horizons, sit together on benches in parks. On their phones they watch the oldest preserved film footage of the Congo: silent documentary images shot by a Belgian military attaché, Armand Hutereau, during a colonial expedition in the northeast of Congo between 1911 and 1913. The aim of the trip was to collect as many objects as possible for the new Congo Museum in Tervuren (Belgium). The word ‘collect’ is a typical colonial euphemism and in the French-speaking discourse of the time even the word ‘récolter’ (to harvest) is used. In The Porters, groups of Brussels youth play a game based on the objects that were brought to Belgium. They listen to the songs of the porters, the countless anonymous men who carried the more than 8,000 objects on their bare shoulders. From the heart of Brussels' parks, the kids palm the spoils.