Look out the window. What you are seeing is called history
My solo show at Fred&Ferry Gallery was set up as a dialogue, or perhaps better, as a confrontation between two projects: Pierre Menards paradox and Familiestraat. In September 2014, I created Pierre Menard's paradox. For this, I built a copy of the Moroccan coffee house Tanger, situated diagonally opposite the exhibition space. The installation described the interior of the coffee house as a place of here and elsewhere, familiar and strange, as a paradox. For Familiestraat, I built an exact replica of my street in wood and cardboard in a large factory hall. Together with 250 local residents I re-enacted about 35 true events that happened in Familiestraat in the bizarre year 2020. In both projects, seemingly futile pieces of history were re-enacted with great care and precision by their original 'inhabitants'. Both projects take ordinary, everyday events as their starting point. They are pieces of history that are saved from being forgotten. Every event, no matter how small or trivial, contributes substantially to those few events that do get a place in our collective memory. Cees Nooteboom writes in his Berlin Notes: "History is a substance that is manufactured of its own accord; if you turn away from the staccato of the headlines and listen very carefully, you will hear the infinitely slow grinding of the wheels, between which nothing is ever lost."
2022, Familiestraat, installation, mixed media © Tomas Uyttendaele
Verstraeten embraces this unpredictability in his attempts to get as close as possible to the equally unruly human existence. It is also unavoidable, given his chosen material: his projects are not shaped by the performance of professional actors, but by the participation of ordinary people. They play no role, only themselves. Their true re-enactment of the everyday sharpens the perspective: as a spectator, you see a reality unfolding that you otherwise might have missed, because you might have been in the middle of it yourself.
— Eline Verstegen
2022, Familiestraat (verstoppertje, fikfakken en de stellingbouwers), scale models, wood, cardboard, paper © Tomas Uyttendaele
2022, Pierre Menard's paradox, installation, mixed media © Tomas Uyttendaele
Construction scenography: Luc Galle, Patrick da Silva
Assistance: Ils Ooms, Yuni Mahieu