bal des îfs
Site conditional project made for the exhibition What My Body Knew And Forgot To Tell Me. The work unfolds like a speculative fabulation (D.J. Harraway) inspired by the history of Kunstenhuis Harelbeke and its interiors in Rococo style. It is in this former trader-house that we encounter a figure that could have just stepped out of the decorated walls. A moving image, the artist camouflaged as a tree, draws inspiration from the encounter between Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour at the Bal Des îfs (1745 Versailles) while being disguised as a tree. De Pompadour would contribute in the popularity of the Rococo style, characterized by its use of natural elements as playful and seductive. Through embodying a tree I question the cultural significance of representation and its role in defining our belonging to the world. What does it mean to be human in the Anthropocene where nature is shaped by mankind and affected by our cultural gaze?
We have a chameleonlike urge to adapt, blend in with our surroundings, likewise we have the capacity to grow into our build environment and familiarize ourselves with it (N. Leach). Just like camouflage is a way of ‘becoming with’, smell is a physical experience of that which in no longer physical. It can be present even when its source is already absent. Through smell we are confronted with another that enters our porous body (A. Tsing). In the installation I use the smoke of tobacco leaves, a reference to the past of the Kunstenhuis as a tobacco and pipe museum. In many cultures smoke is used to purify a house before moving in, to get rid of bad spirits like in the Indian Vasthu ceremony. This play of senses and spatial narratives is an invitation to reimagine our surrounding.