Paper has a memory too…
A project about militairy textiles, re-use and their transformation into blank paper. A serene and minimalistic installation by 3 artists: Bia Maas, Els Rijerse and Barbara Houwers.
Exhibition GEEFT ACHT in the Waterlinie museum.
As (individual) artists we were invited by the curator Elganan Jelsma of the project Geeft Acht! to submit an idea for the exhibition. Soon we found each other in the idea of doing something with the making of paper from cotton T-shirts: The recycling of military clothing – maybe – worn during peacekeeping missions. Cotton was a prerequisite for making it into paper, according to the old craft. We received 10 kilos of shirts in camouflage print (from an unclear material) and cut them in thousands of pieces. Months later, we succeeded in making paper pulp through a process of research, painstaking work, setbacks, heavy work and with the help of a professional paper mill in Eerbeek. During the heat wave of 2018 we were able to create beautiful sheets of paper measuring 40 – 60 cm. Our concept of incorporating the worn shirts and their loaded history into an empty piece of paper (a blank page) has become stronger all through the summer of traditional labour. We have given the T-shirts a second life.
In addition to the concept of the ‘blank page’ a second idea arose: we wanted to use the dates that we encountered in the labels of the T-shirts: dates referring to peace missions after the 2nd World War. Research on the internet gave us a lot of information and provided us with questions and images. You will inevitably start to think who would have worn the shirts, what actions they had taken and what happened… In various forms the labels are reflected in our project.
The installation and presentation
During a number of months ideas have come and gone, until we knew that the paper should be a silent tribute to the military. They are blank pages where the viewer can add their own story, memory or image. The entire installation may become a quiet place… a kind of space for contemplation. A comprehensive thinking and brainstorming process eventually became a good design with which we used a blacksmith. (Just in time for the deadline). In addition, we show the development process of the two concepts with the third idea: A photo and collage series. It reinforces the story of the transformation of the material into the final images and tells our story.