— Delphine Bedel

Photography: Micronation – Notes on Tourism

Exhibition 03 March – 26 Mei 2007
Het Torentje, Almelo

Artist Talk 17.00, Leescafé de Meridiaan

Tourism and leisure play a large role in our personal ways of life and imagination today. The great impact of tourism on world industry is a phenomenon that reflects shifting cultural, economic, social, and historical realities. In tourism, visual representation – the production of meaning through images – takes center stage.

From amusement parks and monuments, to camping and beach resorts, Delphine Bedel engages in her work with different layers of representation, including architecture of leisure and cultural artifacts. For her exhibition in Het Torentje, she presents her new project Micronation, Notes on Tourism.

For this project, Bedel visited two popular miniature parks, Miniaturk in Istanbul and Madurodam in The Hague. Since the 1930’s, public miniature parks have been constructed all over the world, as children’s attractions (Dos Pequenitos, 1940, Portugal), charity and war memorials (Madurodam, 1952, the Netherlands), and tourist and commercial sites (Mini-Europe, 1989, Brussels); their meanings and identities eventually change over time.

These theme parks contain miniature monuments constructed by anonymous historians and skilled craftsmen. A choice of historical buildings, city, or country is reproduced as a small-scale, constructed view of the past fraught with omissions and blind spots, defining a secure world of “sameness”, a commodification of space, meanings and identity. What is the relationship between images and truth? Between experience and spectatorship? Between architecture and identity?

Madurodam is a model city in which famous buildings, monuments, an airport and harbors of the Netherlands are reproduced in miniatures. With similar remarkable details and a scale of 1 to 25, the recent Miniaturk built in Istanbul presents models reflecting Turkey’s cultural heritage from antiquity to nowadays, from Hagia Sophia, to Artemis Temple, to the Bosphorus Bridge.

Like the now-popular online game Micronation, in which individuals create their own models of imagined countries or nations, these parks are often personal or private initiatives. An idealized and fragmented interpretation of national and cultural heritage assumes the appearance of reality, and even directly relates to it: in the successful online game Second Life, Sweden recently opened an embassy, and Madurodam has an elected mayor. Miniature parks and online games are becoming part of our collective imaginary.

In her installation, Bedel’s tourist snapshots, by focusing only on architectural details of the scale-models, engage the viewer’s perception and sense of experience. Her photographs address the constructed cultural, anthropological, and political aspects of reality, and the limits of representation. Her project is also anchored in the history of Het Torentje – the tower, part of the former Nijverdale Ten Cate textile factory, is a memory of the industrial architecture of the city that wasn’t preserved. This textile industry also established strong bonds with Turkey in the past, and Almelo has therefore a twin city in West Anatolia. Far and near, past and present, constructed space and reality unfold their continuous and complex relation in Bedel’s work.

Bedel’s transient and straightforward images enhance the realism and craft of the miniature monuments. The architectures are removed further from their geographical context(s) in her photographs, a delocalization of meaning engaging the viewer and the artist in a peculiar reality check.

Like children in a miniature park, perception and imagination are at play; multiple perspectives and polyvocality are requested to make sense of our shifting and fragmentary representations of the world. “The moment you have doubts, everything is possible” (Jean Rouch).

Thanks to the Gemeentearchief Almelo.

Het Torentje, Almelo
Opening Saturday 3 March17.00-20.00
Egbert Gorterstraat (150m from the station)