We went to Genk, in Belgian Limburg, this afternoon or, more precisely, to Waterschei, to visit the ninth edition of the roving biennial contemporary art exhibition, Manifesta, which this time is being held in the atmospheric pithead buildings of a former coal mine. (I shall write a separate post about those atmospherics.) The exhibition’s general theme, ‘Deep into the Modern’, gave its curators the possibility of assembling an eclectic mix of pieces in different mediums, many of them making specific reference to their surroundings or to the industrial process more generally ( Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave is here – an oblique genuflection to the 1966 Zwartberg tragedy – and there is also a very good separate historical exhibition about the evolution of the artistic depiction of coalmining). I liked Manuel Duran’s Miners’ Heads (a parade of busts of all shapes and sizes carved out of various materials) and who could not be moved by Symbolon 1952 (picture), described thus: ‘Spyros Roumeliotis and Polyxeni Papoutsi tore their only image in two; he took the image of his wife to Limburg and she kept the image of her husband in Greece. They stitched the portrait back together when they were reunited.’ But my favourite piece was Sounds from Beneath, by Mikhail Karikis and Uriel Orlow, described thus: ‘Karikis worked with a former miners’ choir from Snowdown Colliery in Kent (closed in 1987). He asked the group of retired miners to recall and ovaclize the sounds of underground activity in the mine. The subsequent soundpiece is sung by the miners and captured in the video created in collaboration with Uriel Orlow.’ You can see and hear the piece here. Screened in the echoing disused mine buildings of Waterschei it was extraordinarily evocative.