Installation LE RHIN DÉTOURNÉ    



    Strasbourg

Concept   A fourteen-day performative, from March 12 until March 21 in 1991, at the French-German border in Strasbourg, marks the boundary between past and present and sets the scope for this project. Each day I drop a bottle from the Pont de l'Europe into the River Rhine with a message for the future. The transparency of the river always provides only a partial and more or less distorted view, at every point in time and from each different standpoint reflecting a new adventure. In this project, I investigate this concept of transparency and link it to the windows of Strasbourg and the development of a European Community.

The city of Strasbourg is very much divided between the old and the new neighbourhoods, patched up in a somewhat artificial way. First, there is the old part that constitutes the heart of the city. Here, one can see all sorts of windows from earlier days. Windows in which past glided by and settled itself in the corners and the paint, in the parts that have been revised numerous times in the course of their history, in the plaster and the conflated paint. Not a single window looks the same. They show themselves as scattered sketches and every window tells its own story, its own life history about beauty and scars. But all of them are closed off, one cannot see through them. The windows provide no reflection; they do not take your image into account. What they have to say they tell by the rusted bars and the weather beaten stone. They tell of lived life and of death. Their inside has become their outside.

The modern part of town provides space for the building of the European Community whose windows all look the same, fabricated according to a recipe that prescribes efficiency. Time has not yet streamed through and their skins are young and smooth and tell of youth and erratic dynamics. Everything here is a reflection on what is happening now and today. The windows greedily, avariciously grab reality and open themselves for each and every new experience, and invite you to join.
  The flags and flying colours mirror themselves in these openings proud as peacocks, lightheadedly reflecting the illusions, dreams and recklessness. Inside and outside are intermingled in a dynamic unity. But were it not for the old, sealed windows, we would reach through the modern openings towards the flying colours and would find ourselves lost in a painful mirage and a phantasmagoria.

Taking a series of photographs of the old windows is a fairly straightforward job, but it is not an easy task to shoot the modern windows of the building of the European Community. The fortress is kept under strict surveillance and any unusual move in the immediate vicinity of the building is regarded as highly suspicious. How then to take photos of all those transparent windows? I only know of two ways to tackle the problem: either to be sneaky and hide behind a bush or a tree, things that are not present there, or to be bold and do it in the open. I choose the latter option - actually having no choice - and simply stand there with my camera in the open, shooting as much of windows as quickly as I can. Shortly after having put in a second role of film, things go wrong. Someone had glanced out of his window, and to his horror, looked strait in the face [and camera] of a young woman. There they come, the men from security, grabbing my camera, pulling out the film, taking me into custody and putting me under a stiff cross-examination.

I do not understand the commotion. Do I look like some terrorist? I am only taking some photos of beautiful windows reflecting the flying colours .. They can search me - and they do .. After quite some time talking and trying to convince them it is all harmless, they are still unsure, so they contact others, make phone calls, check my antecedents, et cetera. Finally, I can leave, but have to remain available for further investigation. That night I go back searching for that first film that I threw away the moment the security guards came rushing towards me. It is still there.
 

Timeline   21|5 - 2|6 1991
  Le Rhin détourné, installation Ein Souvenir, Ancienne Coopérative des Bouchers, Strasbourg (F). Dimensions 236.2 x 39.4 x 118.1in / 600 x 100 x 300cm.

Photo-collage of the windows of Strasbourg Document.
Dimensions 39.4 x 47.2in / 100 x 120cm.

Vol de Nuit
, an interactive installation of wings attached to canvas peep-show and electric mat. Dimensions width approximately 78.7in / 200cm.
 

    12|3 - 21|3 1991
  Performance Les Lettres du Rhin, Park du Rhin, Strasbourg (F) (solo)