Symposium: Cobra Reframed: Experiments with Modern Media in Belgium

Saturday 14 December 2019 from 13.30 until 18.00
VANDENHOVE Centre for Architecture and Art
Rozier 1, 9000 Gent.

The symposium will be held in English.
Entrance to the symposium is free. Please confirm your attendance via


13.30 Introduction

Prof. dr. Karen Kurczynski (University of Massachusetts)

The Polyvalence of Forms: Painting, Writing, and Signification in the Calligraphic Collaborations of Cobra

Stefanie Bodien (Freelance researcher and film programmer)

Cobra et le cinéma: La revue Cobra n° 3 (1949) et le "Petit festival du film expérimental et abstrait" à Liège (1951)
15.40 Coffee break

Dr. Marie Godet (curator of Dotremont and the Surrealists in the Belvue Museum)

Turning Surrealism Right Side Up: Dotremont’s Shaping of Cobra

Prof. dr. Steven Jacobs (Ghent University and Antwerp University)

Cobra and Cinema: Perséphone (1951) by Luc de Heusch
15.40 Closing Remarks


Independent researcher and freelance film programmer Stefanie Bodien examines the relationship between the Cobra-language and experimental cinema through the involvement of several Belgian Cobra-members in film festivals. The Cobra-journal dedicated a special issue to experimental film on the occasion of the Festival du film experimental et poétique (Knokke, 1949). Two years later, Jean Raine organized Le Petit festival du film expérimental et abstrait (Liège, 1951) that marked the end of the Cobra-movement.

Dr. Marie Godet, curator of the exhibition Dotremont and the Surrealists in the Belvue Museum (November 26, 2019 – February 9, 2020), will focus on the impact of surrealism on the Cobra movement through one of its leading figures: Christian Dotremont. Because of his difficulties to integrate in the Belgian surrealist group, Dotremont gradually built up Cobra as a reaction to surrealist art by painters such as René Magritte.

Art historian specialized in the relationship between film and the visual arts Prof. dr. Steven Jacobs will bring a close-reading of the only Cobra-film: Luc de Heusch’s Perséphone (1951). Also Raine, Alechinsky, and Dotremont worked on this film that tackles many of Cobra’s motives, such as the fascination for myths and totemistic figures and psychic automatism. Jacobs investigates how Perséphone presents itself as a mythopoetic film, resonating with both European and American contemporaneous avant-garde films.

Cobra-expert Prof. dr. Karen Kurczynski devotes her lecture to the influence of East Asian calligraphy and modern Asian art on artists such as Dotremont and Alechinsky. His fascination for the visual qualities of writing inspired Dotremont to create his peinture-mots and later logograms. Through the Japanese artist Shiryu Morita, Alechinsky came into contact with calligraphy, which resulted in his documentary film Calligraphie japonaise (1956).