I went to the exhibition Global Imaginations in the Meelfabriek (the Flour Mill) in Leiden to write a review for the Villa La Repubblica blog. You can read the review Metafoor voor de wereld here (in Dutch). It is rare in the Netherlands to have an international show like this in the first place, let alone in a monumental but run down venue which will be redeveloped soon. So the combination is unique. The exhibition was organized to celebrate the 440th anniversary of Leiden University under the auspices of the Lakenhal Museum. Let me take you on a tour.
The show starts just round the corner with a shack with calls for international tolerance and international advice for the Netherlands and its problems, generally caused by its affluence.
The project was accomplished by the Ghana Thinktank from the United States. It aims to advise the “first world” by common people from the “third world.”
In the open air are the late Chen Zhen’s Back to Fullness, Face to Emptiness – with chairs looking outward, with their backs to an excerpt of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man – and
Australian Brook Andrew’s Jumping Castle War Memorial, a kind of contemporary danse macabre, both great international monuments of our time.
In the former cleaning space
of the mill two interesting video’s by Brazilian Rivane Neuenschwander are on show, in one of which ants are eating the continents made of honey.
On my way to the former boiler house, a multi-storey building.
In its ground floor are American Mark Dion’s train of 3D prints of originals from the Leiden Museum of Natural History Naturalis, creating a kind of modern vanitas still life, a genre which was extremely popular in Dutch 17th century painting;
with my favourite Permian lizard Dimetrodon amongst others, like a unicoloured Greek god of fluorescent plastic instead of marble.
Up to the second floor where Beninese Georges Adéagbo is showing an installation improvising on the Lakenhal’s famous Last Judgement triptych by Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533). On the landing Adéagbo gives an introduction to his thoughts about the subject.
Adéagbo’s installations are usually composed of found objects, books and papers, here from Cotonou and Leiden. Adéagbo delivers what you expect from him, but it’s still interesting, as if it is a great gig of an improvising jazz musician and his band.
A view of the elevator shaft from the next floor,
where Beninese Romuald Hazoumè presents his Solidarité Béninoise pour les Occidentaux en Péril (Beninese Solidarity for Westerners in Danger), a fictitious NGO that collects money in Benin for poor whites because they are not supported by their kinsmen, which is quite hilarious.
From Hazoumè’s floor you have a nice view of Adéagbo’s installation.
On the next floor Lebanese/Palestinian Mona Hatoum has a small but subdued presentation. There are amongst others her silent but radical Do unto others…, a boomerang of stainless steel,
her carpet Shift and
Rubber Mat, which may remind you of intestines.
From Hatoum’s space you have again a great view of one of Adéagbo’s floor works (and what an enormous difference with Hatoum’s!).
Compared to the previous presentations Moroccan Batoul S’Himi’s World Under Pressure is a bit bland.
On the top floor of the boiler house all hell breaks loose in Chinese Tsang Kin-Wah’s The Fourth Seal (seen here in combination with graffiti in the building, which fits in quite well), alluding to the Book of Revelation.
Deterring and ominous texts are curling over the floor like snakes and after some time they cover you completely.
The addition of hellish sounds makes the experience complete.
Clearly, an awakening to reality is seriously needed.
It is time to look for some flower power. Indonesian Tintin Wulia offers relief with a plantation of beds of sunflowers in the shape of the continents called Nous ne notons pas les fleurs (We don’t notice the flowers) where visitors can contribute to moving the flower-landmasses from their Pangaean position to their present one.
Apparently not part of the exhibition: an artificial nest on the wall.
Also apparently not part of the exhibition: two pigeons on the wall.
Beninese Meschac Gaba’s Citoyen du Monde (Citizen of the World) flag (the show’s iconic logo, made up of all the world’s countries’ flags) flying over the sunflowers.
Under the mill’s former warehouse is this remnant, a kind of sturdy monument as is the whole Meelfabriek.
The Anglo-Argentinian duo Studio Orta have made a water purification installation in which water from the canal along the mill is purified and made potable, which was very welcome on the muggy afternoon i visited the place.
After this refreshment, up to the first floor of the multi-storey warehouse where
the definitive presentation of Ghana Thinktank is.
The Thinktank is trying to remind the Dutch audience of their historic heroes of tolerance.
In the same building, hanging from the roof of the warehouse down to the first floor, is the gigantic work Plastic Bags made of thousands of plastic bags, designed by Cameroonian Pascale Marthine Tayou. Climbing the warehouse, you can see more of it.
Back to Ghana Thinktank who have built a small replica of the Achterhuis of Anne Frank. They originally called it Anne Frank Mosque, but changed it to Monument to the Dutch after protests of narrow minded locals (narrow mindedness is a local tradition).
After another look at the monstrous hanging plastic bags basket up to the next floor
to see Dutch Marjolijn Dijkman’s presentation of
(and the plastic bags again)
objects, sculptures and a video that are based on magic objects from ethnographic museums, meant to predict or influence the future.
Except that it is partly too dark, it looks like a fine presentation.
On the next floor Dutch Femke Herregraven’s video game Taxodus is presented, covering the main global problems and their financing, and
American Taryn Simon’s search engine Image Atlas can be tried. You type a word and you see the first results for search engines of different countries in the world. I typed “world.”
On the same floor a good view of Dijkman’s pendulum work.
On the next floor
the Indian Raqs Media Collective’s video work Fever is on show, about the destruction of the world by greed and fossil fuels, making use of an old photograph of a 12th century temple relief of the Mahabharata epic.
Though the outcome of the video is predictable, it is quite impressive nevertheless.
I walked along the top of the Plastic Bags to the next floor
to see Dutch Andrea Stultien’s project to make the illustrations for a history book written by the Ugandan court dignitary Ham Mukasa around 1930, co-operating with Dutch and Ugandan artists and students. The project takes as a reference a list of illustrations made up by Mukasa of the potential pictures he wanted for his book.
It is both a moving and a sophisticated project and its presentation is quite elaborate and really more suitable for a separate exhibition in a museum or gallery.
After a short interlude
it’s up to the top floor of the building where Singaporean Simryn Gill gives you the opportunity to fold a paper boat from a page of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. What is the power of knowledge and how and why did it travel the world?
That is certainly a major question on top of this building, overlooking this traditional town of universal knowledge and historic collections and it is a good finish of this multidimensional show in which the building, art and knowledge play important additional roles.
it is a long way down
to get both feet
firmly back on the ground.
In the mean time,
project developers can’t wait to redevelop the whole lot to build amongst others chic apartments for young money earners. May knowledge of the world and wisdom stay, in spite of that!
See full review (in Dutch) with additional footage here.