ARCUS research residency

I'm incredibly grateful to have been accepted as an artistic researcher to ARCUS residency, one of the oldest residency organisations in Japan. Since 1994 they are hosting a year-round program with international artists. This summer I will visit the old school building in Ibaraki, travel to visit the beautiful gardens around Kyoto and Tokyo, and write about many of the connections between art and nature.

Here is a link to find out more about ARCUS:

Image courtesy of the website by ARCUS

Japan is a place with so much sense of aesthetics, care, social awareness, progressive innovations and conserving traditions; what role is there for contemporary artists? And how does ecology affect our practices? In 2023 I started the two-year project 'Making Sense', my artistic research on restoring ecology in the old Academy garden. This multispecies collective practice aims to create a community garden with students and the non-human garden residents like trees, birds, fungi and perennials. We're thinking together, it is the garden who makes us into gardeners. This summer I will learn about the gardens in Japan, where this artistic practice is centuries old and still very much alive. I look forward to open up my research into a more global perspective and create new string figures with artists in Japan and the garden in the Royal Academy of Antwerp.

This artistic residency is made possible with the support of Flanders.

I would like to thank the ARCUS committee to welcome me in Ibaraki and give me this opportunity. I'm very grateful for the support I got from the Royal Academy and the Artistic Research Department to extend my research into Japanese gardens and culture. Thank you Flanders Arts & Culture for your support, I have been granted the residency funding. I'm grateful to work as a visual artist and researcher in the field of art & ecology.

Me, in 1981 in Japan.

This is not the first time I visit Japan, when I was two years old I spent some time in Japan as a tourist. I don't remember anything, although it must have been a wonderful experience. The photo above is testimony of typical tourist behaviour where cultures are appropriated, I am not Japanese. But it is through traveling that I learned what it means to be the other, to learn what makes me so typical for being from Antwerp. Abroad I could learn what I could not learn here about my own culture. 

My past makes me prudent with taking on habits from other cultures. I grew up in a mix of styles unlike the 'usual' Belgian household. I was twenty-five years old when I first order French fries in a chip shop in Antwerp because my parents raised me on a macrobiotic diet that wasn't Japanese nor local. I don't know what a typical Flemish youth is, with spagetti bolognese and koffiekoeken (Danish pastry) and I don't know what it means to be from somewhere else. But I do know so many people grow up with these mixed cultures that it is our own lived experiences that make us from here. 

Glean magazine

 An long meandering talk with Els Roelandt fitted between the pages of Glean.

Detail with works by Yoko Enoki, Anat Maratkovich and me. Photo by Lieve Kleenen for GLEAN magazine, 2024.

A love for gardens seems to bring people together - even if our gardens are very different, and the same can be said of books, food and art. Perhaps art is unlike the other glues in our social structure, it seems Art with a capital A is elevated to a pedestal, and with all respect and wonder, that's not how I look at art. I'm glad to have met Els who also harbours a plurality of perspectives in her concept of art. Stepping down from artificial heights onto the ground, into the garden and down a tiny path made from old concrete stepping stones, this conversation with Els went to the tangible and earthly reality. It's where art meets the other, the animals, the critters, plants, fungi, and more.


Photo by Lieve Kleenen for GLEAN magazine, 2024

Detail from the text in GLEAN

Photo by Lieve Kleenen for GLEAN magazine, 2024


We met on a rainy day, with Lieve Kleeven taking beautiful photos while we talked over tea. Els Roelandt is passionate about lots of things I also care about, and it was a very nice conversation where I could easily forget that this was more than a casual meeting of friends. We talked about the importance of seeing the whole picture about the genocide and ecocide going on in Palestine, how the people and the land and the trees and the flowers all belong together. We talked bout what it was like to study in the nineties and how a young artist at the time had no support to set up a carreer. We talked about a book festival in the garden, and queer icons, about so much and yet it didn't feel as if the conversation was finished. The real talk was too long for the text between the pages of Glean Magazine, and I'm sad to say not everything I wanted to share could fit in there. But that's normal. While choosing what should stay and what could go - we decided to focus on painting & ecology - a decision we made because my paintings are not often shown in public and I am glad to share them in GLEAN. It was a nice choice, especially because my work is about LGBTQIA+ themes and this requires the right background information.


But ... a mistake was made. In the text it seems as if Extra City and Morpho arrived late to the garden, and that is not true. Morpho vzw is new and at the time this organization went under a different name: Studio Start. This organization took up the responsibility to convert the monastery in Ploegstraat into studios for artists, in 2016. Studio Start was joined by the local artists' residency organization and renamed AAIR and later joined by Extra City, in 2020. Together they create a complex and multifunctional area for artists to be present in the city, to have a workspace, to show work, to create events, to perform, to meet other artists etc. The people working behind the scenes of Morpho vzw took up the important task to improve their role in how we want to see the art field. As a studio occupant I could feel the changes directly, I could see the diversity in the arts within the building and reflected in their program. This is really important. Art is not something falling out of the sky, it is made from the ground up by people who have a choice, and what we see in the art world is the result of many people deciding to use their voice in a certain way. Morpho has been doing a great job in providing below the market price art spaces to all kinds of artists and I cannot imagine an art scene in Antwerp without the artists being present within the city boundaries. 

But aside this mistake, I am incredibly glad to be given this opportunity, and I would like to thank Els and Lieve for this experience and for supporting my work. The magazine covers lots of interesting art and they make a difference in how we like to look at contemporary issues around us. Thank you so much for inviting me in and sharing my paintings and garden practices.


Photo Chantal Akerman, Collections Cinematek & Chantal Akerman Foundation, © Jane Stein

Interview by Els Roelandt

Photos in the photos: Lieve Kleenen

Part of GLEAN 5, May issue, this talk is published in Dutch

Hedera, a magazine on ecosexuality, transfeminism and queer ecology.

 Hedera is commonly known as ivy, the forgotten names include bindwood and lovestone, as they like to cling to stone walls. There are a lot of misconceptions about this plant, it has been accused of damaging walls and 'being invasive'. This is not very nice gossip by people who don't really know what ivy does and how they grow. In reality, this plant - within their natural habitat - is a very important source of nectar in winter and they are key for the survival of early wild bees. Birds like to eat the berries and make nests in the dense cover of the leaves. All of this to say that we really like the name of the new magazine launched last autumn: Hedera.

This new magazine offers a platform to talk and think about postnatural and transfeminist studies, in essays, fiction, poetry and other forms of conversations observations are shared. The Gesamthof, a lesbian garden is featured in this first issue, you will find the recipe and atlas printed with a beautiful design on the pages between articles on queer feminism.

We would like to thank Zoë De Luca Legge for reaching out to us and including our texts and images, by printing about the Gesamthof we have more evidence that we exist. With Hedera our garden is shared in a different kind of overspill, these are seeds of thoughts. It matters so much because this existence is temporary. Like so many queer projects, the lesbian garden will also disappear when the new owners of the location move in. Queer archiving is incredibly important because equal rights are an ongoing effort, these rights are precarious and need positive energy rooted in generations of activism. Every plant, critter, slug, fungus and other species matters in this more-than-human perspective on a lesbian garden. With Hedera we are entangled in the stories of others, printed on paper, touched by the green fingers of many writers and readers, and greeted by all our antennae and other feelers. Thank you so much! 

Hedera is curated and edited by Zoë De Luca legge, graphic design is by Paola Bombelli, translations and proofreading by Iris Legge, with contributions by Nicky Broeckhuysen, Seba Calfuqueo, Teresa Castro, Marina Cavadini, Eline De Clercq, Zoë De Luca Legge, Alice Fiorelli, Stefanie Hessler, Signe Johannessen, Michael Marder, Pony Express, Pia Riverola, Sacred Sadism, Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens, Caitlin Stobie, Cecilia Vacuña. The cover image is by Marina Cavadini, photo by Marina Cavadini and Brando Pizzon, 2019. Printed on recylced paper 'Cocoon Silk'. 


IG @hederazine

Gesamthof, the lesbian garden, can be visited via the kunsthal Extra City, in Antwerp.

The garden is part of the monastery garden in the care of Morpho vzw, an organization providing ateliers for artists and organising artistic residencies.

The garden is cared for by many human and other species, the support for this art-nature project comes from many entanglements both within the monastery site and local and far-from-local generous friends.

The Sympoiesis Garden, an artist's publication for Forum+

 An introduction to the poster as an artistic contribution. 


The Sympoiesis Garden  

On gardening together as an artistic practice 

The edition of Fall 2023 Forum+ holds a poster between her pages, it is a map into the The Sympoiesis Garden, the artistic research project on starting up a community garden in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. We have made this poster together: Maren Rommerskirchen, Kristina Fekete, Lotte De Voeght and me Eline De Clercq for this edition of Forum+ on the art school as an ecosystem. The poster captures a moment in the making off this garden by more than human species who all play a role in the ecosystem of the Academy. The Sympoiesis Garden is a project in the care of the research group Art & Ecology, and the ideas and methodology fit within the mycelium of an old and new network by artists who engage with nature. This poster is a map into the garden, a path into the research, a string figure in gardening and a S.F. for artistic practices we’re happy to share with the readers of Forum+. 







In September 2022, Eline De Clercq started a community garden together with students and artists at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. The Sympoiesis Garden is a three-year artistic research project on art and ecology and functions as a non-formal learning environment about climate change, gender norms, decolonisation and intersectionalism. The text for the poster is written similar to a garden, with patches of words and a path for the reader to enter the project.   



Keywords: art and ecology, community garden, climate change, intersectional practices   



Eline De Clercq (she / her) is a visual artist working at the intersection of gender, lesbian identity and ecology. Eline uses gardening as part of a wide artistic practice. In the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp she initiated the artistic research The Sympoiesis Garden. 

Format: B2 (500 x 707 mm), folded into B5

Made possible by Track Report



A String Figure Patch

  The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp presents Ecosystems, an exhibition on ecology and art. 20 October - 9 November 2023

With the exhibition ‘Ecosystems. Science – Art – Activism’ at the Lange Zaal, we bring historical and contemporary 'eco-art' into the school walls, not only as a source of inspiration, but also as food for critical thought, and as a stimulus for future artistic practices. We present printed matter from the Earth-, Land- and Eco-Art Era of the 1960s-1980s, as well as environmental work of Patricia Johanson, one of the first female artists making in situ works based on science and ecology. Further in the exhibition the ‘Portable Orchard’ by the eco-art pioneers The Harrisons is brought to life again in collabortation with students. We also look to the contemporary artistic research field at our Academy. Works of the artists Tim Theo Deceuninck, Mirja Busch, Jarek Lustych, Sascha Herrmann, Dries Segers, Eline De Clercq, Saskia Van der Gucht, Kristof Timmerman, Peter Lemmens and Jeroen Cluckers are on show. (Text by Roel Arekesteijn, ARTICULATE, 2023)


set up of the String Figure Patch within the exhibition Ecosystems


Garden Table, String Figure Patch, Artists publication

Eline De Clercq & Saskia Van der Gucht, a collaboration in artistic researches.



During ARTICULATE, the garden community of the Academy will have a garden table set up in the exhibition in the Lange Zaal. In 2022, Eline De Clercq started a community garden in the Academy’s old garden, where weekly sessions are organised with students and artists. This artistic research project on art and ecology functions as an informal learning environment about climate change, gender norms, decolonisation and intersectionalism.  

On the garden table you will find working texts, books, seeds, tools and more: a gathering of objects and ideas on what it means to work with nature within an artistic practice. On a small side table is the artist edition poster about last year's research 'The Sympoiesis Garden' printed with Track Report: a map of the start of this garden project with patches of words and a path for the reader to follow.    


On the floor in the middle of a string figure patch is a presentation of the work On Sand, three ceramic biotope dishes were made during a collaborative research project with Saskia Van der Gucht (researcher at Sint Lucas Antwerpen) and Eline De Clercq. These containers holds sand carried by the wind to Antwerp more than 10,000 years ago, during the most recent glacial time. With the help of archaeologists, the artists were able to retrieve this sand from the dig site in Antwerp’s Leftbank area, right at the heart of the PFAS pollution, buried under layers of land and history. The material holds aspects of care, habitation, touch and invisibility. In the clay receptacle the sand is once again given the opportunity to become a habitat for plants and animals. It’s not a reconstruction of the original fauna and flora, it’s a curiosity-fuelled ‘what if’ situation: the artists want to look after and care for the sand like a miniature nature reserve.  



You can visit the community garden via the Academy's main entrance at Mutsaardstraat. 

IG @royalacademyantwerpgarden