The Carrier Bag Presentation

 On 17 March I was invited by Extra Academy to talk about my artistic practice in Het Bos, an art and culture organisation, community and workspace in Antwerp. Usually I present my work in duo shows or group shows with other artists, but here the invitation was not about my work but about my practice. There is a slight difference and to further complicate matters my practice is part of my work and the other way around as well. I consider art not to be limited to objects, it's an interaction, a practice, a meeting, a conversation, a sketch, an investigation, a research opening up new possibilities and far from restricted to material bounderies. 

One view of the room, with the flag 'Abortion is Health Care', the screen with photos of trees in botanical gardens and the set up with carrier bags.

This talk is based on The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula Le Guin, an essay that has become the mycelium network in my day to day artistic work, together with many other texts and books. Since the early 2000's I have been sewing my own carrier bags in order to find a more gender neutral and utterly practical sollution to replace 'handbags'. These wool and cotton bags are a collection of travels and experiences. When they would fall apart I made a new one whilst finetuning the design to fit my life. There are hidden pockets, metro card holders, pouches for pencils and a lining the same length of my outstretched arm.

The other view of the room with the presentation of practice, the garden plant and the flag 'Moss Lesbians, trans neutral cis'.

The presentation in the room is an intersectional set up of two screens, two cinema set -ups crossing each other with the screens meeting in the corner. The aim was to give a visual intersectional experience: sit on one side and you see one screen, sit in the cross section and you can see both. The audience in the 'regular' seats looked at my collection of photographs of botanical gardens, with a focus on trees. The audience in the garden chairs set on the stage looked at the photo presentation of my artistic practice. 


An intersectional view of the room with the two screens in sight.

I started the talk with how I grew up in an environment of cultural appropriation, my parents studied macrobiotics and I never knew what a 'normal' Flemish youth was like. I was 27 when I first entered a chip shop to buy fries, I grew up with miso soup and mochi instead. The photo I chose to go with this talk was taken in Japan when I two years old. I was dressed up in a traditional Japanese yukata, and if today I would wear a kimono in the supermarket in Antwerp people might think me strange but in this photo it is accepted because of 'tourism' and the general normalcy of white people who like to wear clothes from other cultures. While I grew up in an extreme kind of cultural appropriation, it has become more and more clear to me that culture in Europe, Belgium and Antwerp is so mixed up in cultures from others that we don't know what would be left if we stripped it all away. And where to start? With the Romans? Hasn't Antwerp always been a harbour city, a mix of cultures? My question is, what were we before we were colonial powers? And when did this start? What is left of this and can we ever untangle this or is this part of our identity?


The photo to start talking about cultural appropriation.

The other less visible but just as strange appropriation in the photo is the gendered clothing, wearing girl clothes was fitted onto me as much as the foreign culture. I grew up thinking children became woman or man overnight and it scared me terribly. From my environment I could tell I was 'girl' going to become 'woman' with a program attached to this gender. I had other plans and from early age I trained myself to remember 'me', to remind myself in the evening before falling asleep "Don't forget who you are. Never forget. You are not like this boy or girl." The overnight change didn't happen, but I did learn that it was easier to pretend, to play along, and it didn't even bother me that much. I liked dressing up in all kinds of manners, what bothered me was that when I made a painting it became part of the gendered art field, and I couldn't escape this general story of Art. I needed to make a different story where my art makes sense, where a portrait of a lesbian is made for lesbians and where a community garden is made with a multispecies community. Looking for answers I looked at nature, where making sense (literally, the senses) is at the heart of everything however strange it might look. In nature 'woman' can be everything, and so can 'man' and every other option, words often lack and labels are written in a puzzled binary; but really looking at plants, animals, fungi and more we can clearly see there is more freedom than a simple 'yes' or 'no'. My pronouns are she / her on the condition that this can mean everything, and very often I will use 'we' because I identify as part of natural ecosystem. We are gardening together.


The many carrier bags I hand made to find something to wear that is gender neutral.

To make this new, different, story I started to read into the gaps and folds of the old story. Virginia Woolf writes about how new words don't make sense in old languages and even would destroy sentences, she gets at the heart of this friction in the only surviving audio recording of her voice. Here's a quote of this text:

"In order to use new words properly you would have to invent a new language; and that, though no doubt we shall come to it, is not at the moment our business. Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth?"

Read the full text here on the wonderful website The Marginalian.

The lesbian, non binary and trans portraits presented at BRAVE art space.


I'm a painter, but my business is to see the invisibilized fragments that didn't fit in the old language. In the old art history books I could find clues on what might have been unnoticed, like the child underneath the clothes, and I started to extend my practice with a critical reading of European art history. The Carrier Bag Theory generously tells about how art history was constructed, how the timeline like a spear or arrow pierced the pages of beginning - middle -end. I stepped aside and looked from a different perspective. I'm not inventing new words or languages, I'm questioning the motivation behind strange conclusions in art history.

The labyrinth

Many of you know the labrinth in the garden, a series of shrubs cut into a game of hide and seek. Every opening leads to a new choice: left or right? This is not at all like the labyrinths from the time of Ariadne and Theseus, classical labyrinths didn't offer any choices in left and right. There is only one way all the way to the end. The labyrinth leads to the Minoan monster in the middle, and if anything it is a metaphore of life and the inevitable fate coming sooner or later. When you look at the old labyrinths this is clear, but what is then the story of Ariadne? Why did she give the wool thread to Theseus? Obviously he could find his way back, there is only one way. Is the real story here that he is not alone, that she doesn't abandone him in this peril? Are they bound in fate? Because if he can get out, so can the Minotaur. That would make a different story, she would be much more than just a love interest. And it would make more sense towards the end, because the story continues: after he returns he leaves her for someone else. Has history erased Ariadne's true act of giving a thread?

The garden table, with plants, seeds, a piece of string and many plans.


Dulle Griet / Mad Meg

Many years ago I emailed the museum Mayer van den Bergh to notify the mistake in a title. The painting by Pieter Bruegel 'Dulle Griet' or 'Mad Meg' has a label that explains she's a mad woman stealing from hell. This title and explanation of the work was given by Karel van Mander in 1604, many years after Bruegel died and based on his own conclusions after he discovered the word 'dulle' ( mad) in the painting. While I walked past this painting in the museum I couldn't help wondering why a thief would steal a cast iron frying pan. These objects are very heavy and she's out of breath running up a hill with lots of other heavy objects. This painting is not making sense. Together with my friend art historian Suzanne Duff I sat down and we looked at this work properly. We read the painting outside of the given context and drew completely different conclusion. This work was about war, protecting belongings, taking up arms in haste, misconduct of people in charge and it all took place in a city with a harbour. Bruegel lived in Antwerp and moved to Brussels, Antwerp was a city where the boats would arrive and where the Spanish fought hard and conquered. This old woman with a bride's veil and soldier's clothes wasn't stealing, she was most probably a refugee. Bruegel was known for his strong opinions and he asked his wife to burn all his notes after his death so his family wouldn't get in trouble. We will probably never know how he intentioned this painting. But for sure no painter would make the mistake to depict a thief stealing a common iron frying pan together with more important heavy belongings. Since then a restauration of the painting revealed the word 'dulle' was not part of the original painting and the label by Karel van Mander is considered faulty. Unfortunately the Wikipedia page in Dutch hasn't been updated yet and still explains the misogynistic view of the earlier label.

The book table with many curious questions, inspiring writers and icons in the arts.

More of these curious notions followed, like the ceramic vase that was used to catch an octopus (drop the vase on a string into the sea, the octopus makes a home in this vase, 'fish' the vase up again) and the maritime Minoan vases that are possibly inspired by this way of fishing. At the end of the talk we watched the short film by Anne Reijniers and me: Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden. The whole event was an interesting experience, this was the first time I could use projections of photography in my work and I enjoyed making this set up. Thank you so much to everyone who helped to make this work. Many thanks to Het Bos and to Nico Dockx for Extra Academy.

The Sympoiesis Garden.

  An Art & Ecology project and research into gardening as artistic practice.

In September 2022 I started a one year research at the Royal Academy of Antwerp. For the duration of an Academic year I shift my practice towards organising a community garden together with the art students. We meet weekly to garden together in the historical garden of the Academy.  

Sympoiesis means 'making together', it comes from the book Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway. In the garden we work towards restoring ecology from a non-human-centred perspective based on the books of Donna Haraway, Anna L. Tsing, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Jamaica Kincaid and many more. We focus on diversity in plants, soil, critters, patches, views and techniques. We try to decolonize the garden practice and take up a multicultural and non-binary practice.  

Climate change is only going to become more important, and many artists care about how they can help. In order to find an meaningful approach with ecology it is interesting to work from a pratice based on understanding: to really engage with soil, plants, birds, insects... 

Working with nature goes both ways, it will restore ecology in the garden and it will inspire new ways of thinking within an artistic practice. This change of perspective is a shift towards a multitude existing together, a thinking with. When we touch nature, nature touches us, and the trees, stones and compost become meaningful, together we make sense.

The historical garden of the Royal Academy is a protected area, with a landscape design from 1905 and to be able to open up this garden to work together is a meaningful and very important change in the whole ecology of the Academy. Now we have a place where we can interact and study with nature.

I am writing a detailed page on the continuation of the project: the changes in the gardens and what comes in to live with us on a separate page:

You can also follow the instagram profile:

During this year I keep my studio practice and continue to paint, draw, photograph, film, write and all the other things I like to do in a studio but it will be less vocal. The Gesamthof, A Lesbian Garden continues as well and is very much connected to this research, this tiny ecology is in a healthy condition and getting better all the time. The spill over effect of lots of plants in a small place means we can share seedlings and divide and share plants with the garden community to increase the diversity in the Academy gardens. 

Both projects, the Gesamthof and the Sympoiesis Garden, are pioneering in art & ecology, they are among the first and we invent new futures as we go along. There is a lot of groundwork to be done and we can do this because of the support and interest from both within and outside the Academy.


The historical garden of the Academy of Fine Arts is located in the cente of the city of Antwerp.

The communication started with anonymous notes left in various places in the Academy to keep expectations open.

The secret garden was a bare patch of ground and we built a natural pond for biodiversity.

We start small, it's not about reaching a deadline, this project is ongoing in its very nature.

We work from a multispecies perspective, this is not about beauty or produce in a human-centred design.

The plants and seeds are mostly leftovers from the Gesamthof and selected for the context in the Academy: a woodland patch or a secret garden.


Premiere Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden

 On 30 July 2022 Anne Reijniers and me screened our short film Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden at Morpho in Antwerp. For this event we organized an exhibition by the poet and writer Johanna M Pas, her work brings gender, nature, ecology and being wild together in her poetry. A pop-up stand of LGBTQI+ bookstand Kartonnen Dozen offered feminist literature related to the art nature project Gesamthof, the lesbian garden in the same location. 

We would like to thank everyone who helped to make this empowering and caring event, a big thank you to the wonderful public who came the create a very diverse community for the evening and thank you Johanna M Pas, Terre & Sym, Morpho, Extra City and The Sore Spot Singers. 

If new screenings are planned, they will be announced on this website. A very warm thank you from both Anne Reijniers and me.


Photo by Miles Fischer, Anne Reijniers and me at the projection on the wall in the cinema by Morpho

Setting up the cinema at Morpho, it turned out the option to add more chairs was a good idea.

The exhibition with poetry by Johanna M Pas in the beautiful old refter of the monastery.

The poem by Johanna M Pas is also translated by her.

Johanna M Pas writes about gender, identity, nature, ecology and feeling home.

Terre organised the pop-up bookstand by Kartonnen Dozen, the oldest lgbtqi+ bookshop in belgium.

Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden



Premiere short film (15', 2022)

Screening at MORPHO on 30 july at 21:30h, entrance via Extra City, Provinciestraat 112
Anne Reijniers & Eline De Clercq invite you to the premiere of their short film Gesamthof / A lesbian garden, an art - nature project in the monastery garden of Extra City and MORPHO. In this time document of the garden we follow a tour with Eline De Clercq and the MORPHO artists in residence. The garden provides an entry point to talk about diverse topics such as colonialism in botany, the ambiguity of naming, the social expectations of women and the search for a lesbian identity.
Anne Reijniers and Eline De Clercq are both artists and gardeners living in Antwerp. Anne Reijniers is part of the filmmakers collective 'Collectif Faire-Part' and participated in MORPHO's development residency in 2021. Eline De Clercq is a visual artist, painter and rents a studio at MORPHO in Ploegstraat since 2019 when she also started to work in the monastery garden.

The film shows the Gesamthof, a lesbian garden - including trans people -  inspired by the books of Donna Haraway, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Jamaica Kincaid, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Ursula Leguin and many other thinkers who are working on togetherness in the Plantationocene. The Gesamthof puts thoughts into tangible practice: Haraway's queer kinship, speculative fabulations, situated knowledge and Tsing's explanation of a complex patchy capitalism and the human aspect into the restoration of post-industrial land as well as being part of the ecology. In the garden we see how compost works, what soil can do and how a pine tree is a great pioneer. In the film we document the garden and our place in it along the garden path. The tours that are given in the garden activate the stories that are shared between the human and nonhuman inhabitants. 

The temporary nature of the garden, the residents and the project, gives this short film an urgency. We don't know how long we can stay at this location, and climate change is happening now, both makes us feel like we have to keep working at a better understanding of what ecology means in a multilayered compost.

There is an entire page on the garden project, with old photos, new images and where you can read the garden recipe:

or follow on instagram for updates @wool_publishing

Film still from 'Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden 2022 on being useful.

Film still from 'Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden 2022 on how to begin.

Film still from 'Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden 2022 how to find plants.

Film still from 'Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden 2022 on new names for old plants.

Film still from 'Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden 2022 on the archeology of the soil.

Film still from 'Gesamthof / A Lesbian Garden 2022

View on the lesbian garden from the studio by Eline De Clercq





 We might think of gardening as a romantic past-time. Yet, gardening has been an important tool for colonialism and possession, but also emancipation. Eline De Clercq (°1979, BE) created a lesbian Gesamthof in the monastery garden of Kunsthal Extra City and Morpho. As plants are non-binary, the garden is a safe space for lesbians. She brings together a community of humans and non-humans to work together with care for their ecology. For this exhibition, Eline selected accessible medicinal plants from the garden to reveal class issues in an intersectional context. Medical care in most countries is still reserved for those who can afford it. This selection of plants thrive everywhere and are freely available in the wild, even in urban areas. Historically, they are used to heal female or othered bodies. Eline's curation culminates in the presence of Artemisia, which grows all over the globe and is used against illnesses like malaria. In some cultures, it is known to cure hormonal imbalance and induce natural abortions, but when doses incorrectly it is deadly poisonous. The plant is an illustration of the dangers female bodies go trough as a result of inequality and sexism, but also becomes a symbol of freedom. With the growing world-wide criminalisation of abortion and the endangered Roe vs. Wade court rule in the US today, Artemisia might even be a symbol for the fight for self-determination and equal rights in the 21st century.

Text by Zeynep Kubat



Artemisia is an installation of plants and fabrics in Sugar for the Pill: plants from the lesbian Gesamthof, 2022. Artemisia Vulgaris, Salvia Officinalis, Mentha Citrata. Wool fabric on a cotton rope with a depiction of the goddess Artimisia on one side and the leaf of the Artemisia plant on the other side in oil paint. Cotton fabric on the wall with text informing about the plant, the use, the religion and other abortifacient plants, with a danger warning all written in oil paint.


Sugar for the Pill is a group exhibition curated by Zeynep Kubat and my work was shown alongside the works of artists Margaux Schwarz, Laurie Charles, Chantal van Rijt, Lysandre Begijn, Saddie Choua, Aurélie Bayad, Carole Mousset, Lisa Ijeoma, Pélagie Gbaguidi.

Image: Axelle Degrave

Image: Axelle Degrave

Image: Axelle Degrave


Sugar for the Pill


Antwerp Art Weekend 2022 central exhibition Sugar for the Pill, curated by Zeynep Kubat.

Lesbian Portraits

These small portraits are an ongoing series of an inclusive lesbian representation in paintings with both real persons and imagined faces. The paintings are made to visualise the diversity of a lesbian identity, they are the endless possibilities of who identifies as lesbian. By choosing to paint only the face and not the background or clothes the portraits are atemporal and could represent people from all times and diverse cultures. The series is by no means an atlas of people, rather I ask myself what might be a lesbian face, and the ongoingness in the portrait series is a never ending answer on this question. In reality there is no way to know if a person is lesbian only by the face, an neither to know if they are heterosexual. But the acceptance of multiple realities matters. These portraits are about a lesbian identity including cis, neutral and trans persons.

B.R.A.V.E. Art space with curator Leïla Bounoua and colleague Luna during Lesbien·x·nes.


Part of the series has been in the group exhibition Lesbien·x·nes at B.R.A.V.E. Art Space in Brussels from 24 March 2022 till 30 april 2022. All portraits listed below are 30x20cm oil on canvas, made in 2021 - 2022.