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.
Installation, Omi International Arts Center, Ghent, NY.
Hats and animal skins representing the huge demand
for fur in Europe.
Pulled from the top, the fur pelts
seem extracted from the maps-blankets.
evoking landscape and disorder,
territories and conflicts.
Ghent (BE) borders, after 17th, 18th centuries
and present-day maps.
North of Gent's borders.
Detail with hook.
Coast of New Jersey, New York State and Massachussetts,
after 17th, 18th and present-day maps.
North of New Jersey coast,
New York Bay, and beginning of Long Island.
Ghent locality (USA), after 19th centuries
and a present-day maps of Columbia County.
Detail with hook.
The rivers and numerous beaver pounds
when Ghent (USA) was founded in 1740.
Detail with hooks.
The Native Americans believed that the country was free and accessible to all,
on condition of not being in open conflict with them.
Territory with open and moving borders.
Illnesses infected and sometimes decimated some of the Natives
Indians tribes in contact with the Europeans.
The traded blankets were “marked”,
indicating number and sizes
of beaver pelts given in exchange.
Animal skins and colored threads.