From Gent to Ghent

From Gent to Ghent — 2013.

Wood, velvet, fake fur, wool, fishing hooks.
Approx. 500 × 250 cm (16 × 8 ft).

Site specific installation,
Omi International Arts Center,
Ghent, NY, USA, 2013.

In residency at Omi (Ghent, NY), by the means of maps-blankets, fur hats and pelts, I wanted to evoke the relationships between Gent (BE) and Ghent (USA) when the latter was founded in the 17th century, and express the paradox between the beauty and bravery of exploration as well as the violence of colonization and exploitation of the new territories.

Back then Europe had already started to conquer America, bringing along their conflicts — be they economical, religious, political and/or territorial — and engendering new ones in which the Native Indians were consequently brought in. While exploring America, the newcomers discovered a great number of beavers: the fur business became a big source of income and exchanges as well as of wars between America and Europe and between newcomers and Native Indians. It drastically changed the way of life of the latters as they fought for hunting territories and exchanged beaver pelts against wool blankets and metal tools brought in by the Europeans, who in turn fought against one another for territory and borders and to preserve their privileged relationships with some of the Native Indians tribes.

Native Indians and European settlers didn't have the same understanding of property rights.

“Wind, stream, bush, field, sea, beach, and riverside are open and free to everyone of every nation with which the Indians are not embroiled in open conflict. All those are free to enjoy and move about such places as though they were born there.” (Adriaen Van den Donck, 1644, in The Island at the Center of the World, by Russell Shorto)

And when Indians ceded a piece of land to settlers, they believed that, however, they still could use it and obtain the settlers protection when they were in conflict with other Indian tribes.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Installation, Omi International Arts Center, Ghent, NY.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Hats and animal skins representing the huge demand
for fur in Europe.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Pulled from the top, the fur pelts
seem extracted from the maps-blankets.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

The maps-blankets,
evoking landscape and disorder,
territories and conflicts.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Ghent (BE) borders, after 17th, 18th centuries
and present-day maps.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

North of Gent's borders.
Detail with hook.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Coast of New Jersey, New York State and Massachussetts,
after 17th, 18th and present-day maps.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

North of New Jersey coast,
New York Bay, and beginning of Long Island.
Detail.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Ghent locality (USA), after 19th centuries
and a present-day maps of Columbia County.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Detail with hook.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

The rivers and numerous beaver pounds
when Ghent (USA) was founded in 1740.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Detail with hooks.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

The Native Americans believed that the country was free and accessible to all,
on condition of not being in open conflict with them.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Territory with open and moving borders.
Detail.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Illnesses infected and sometimes decimated some of the Natives
Indians tribes in contact with the Europeans.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

The traded blankets were “marked”,
indicating number and sizes
of beaver pelts given in exchange.

Lucile Bertrand - From Gent to Ghent

Animal skins and colored threads.
Detail.