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Seraing - a city in transition

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Looking back at a collaborative artistic expedition

During the 7th-11th of May, first and second year iArts students, together with students from the scenography department at ZUYD University of Applied Sciences, took part in a five day excursion to the city of Seraing. The goal of this excursion was to research and gather impressions of the city.

Seraing is a provincial city of Liège in Belgium. The cities history is rooted in Industrial development that occurred in 1817 when John Cockerill, an English born Belgian entrepreneur, revolutionized the steel industry and established a company ‘John Cockerill and CIE’ with his family in Seraing. The company was one of the major iron and steel producers in western Europe throughout its existence. It was a major producer of derived products, including rail and railway locomotives, iron production equipment, and other large-scale iron and steel constructions.

Since the demand for the industry diminished, the factories were abandoned and the buildings became skeletons of the industrial life that once flowed through the city. Today, remnants of the cities industrial history are omnipresent. It is almost impossible to look around the city-scape without the view of a towering factory or industrial wasteland somewhere in sight.

The students worked in small groups on their desired research tracks and methodology of research. They were also provided with external input to contribute to their process and to the contextual understanding of the city. This consisted of a lecture on the ‘History of Seraing’ by Laurens Landeweerd, a day of artistic coaching by Josef Bischofs, a site-specific work session on ‘Journalistic Research’ by Petra Quaedvlieg and Hans Moleman and a presentation on the ‘Masterplan Seraing’ by Bénédicte Borckmans, Communication Manager of the Autonomous Municipal Agency of the city of Seraing.

Each group took very different approaches to get to know the city. Some groups went straight to interviewing and establishing relations with the inhabitants and continued to direct their attention locally to gain cultural insight on what it is like to live in the city with regards to its history and its current state. Alternatively, other groups took the opportunity for urban exploration and gathered an extensive archive and map on the in-active factory sites. On the final day of the excursion, each group had a unique perspective to share on the cities story and identity.

This project was coordinated and supervised by Felicitas Lenz, Saskia Valk, Ekkehard van Roosendaal and Anne Habermann.

Portrait of John Cockerill, made by first year student Torgeir Riise.

Urban exploration, photo courtesy by first year student Isobel Dyson.

Written by Holly Hudson Taylor
2nd year iArts student