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Art Dee Hehewerth FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018

Renee Turner: The Warp and Weft of Memory

Interview with Renee Turner

Dieuwertje Hehewerth: Dear Renee,

Perhaps it’s good to start by admitting that it was the title that drew me to the exhibition. Spending an off-afternoon updating myself on Amsterdam’s exhibitions, I read the words “The Warp and Weft of Memory” in the Amsterdam Art Calendar. My mind was imbued with thoughts about Filtered Recollections – due to Pandemic’s October theme – and so the title synced with my current preoccupations, leading my feet to Castrum Peregrini. I had no idea what the exhibition would be. But I had once spent a rainy afternoon there attending a talk, and the space was amazing – so what was there to lose?

My experience of Castrum Peregrini is colored by a person named Gisèle. A person who, from the moment of stepping through the door, becomes a household name: one I am embarrassed by not knowing about; one I slyly ask questions about until an approximate profile is commandeered. She was an artist, a traveler, and now patron of the arts, whose house, after her passing, has been dedicated to researching and encountering art.

A quick scan of the website tells me this is only part of the place’s story. But Gisèle’s story is the one that is currently on show: on the lips of the gallery attendant, on the cover of the recently written book, and on the floor of her studio where you have exhibited your research – a research that has been conducted through her left-behind clothes.

Printed publication, “The Warp and Weft of Memory” designed by Cristina Cochior, 2018

My visit led us into conversation, leading me to ask if I could continue this conversation, in the form of an interview, in relation to the topic that had brought me there: Filtered Recollections. So here we are.

Since visiting the exhibition, I’ve been looking at the online component of your project – reading the letters between yourself and Kate, between yourself and Frans-Willem; looking at your documentation of Gisèle’s clothes. I realize the research is about remembering a person you’ve never met, and I wonder how it has been for you to engage in this conversation? One where you ask questions but are never questioned back?

Renee Turner: I suppose in one way or another, history is that kind of encounter or dialogue – we speak to those people, things or events that cannot talk back. Fragments left behind are inevitably space for projection where the present and past are woven together.

DH: The more I engage with the project, the more it feels to be planted in – and growing from – Gisèle’s wardrobe, rather than being about it. Which leads me to ask, what is your relation with Gisèle now that the project is concluding? Is the project still about her memory, or has it grown in other directions?

screenshot detail, “Notes”, Development and Interface by Manufactura Independente, image © Stichting Castrum Peregrini

RT: One of the thoughts that was consoling to me was that while I was working on this project, Gisèle’s biography was being written by Annet Mooij. She covered that territory. As an artist, I’m not sure that’s where my area of expertise or interest is situated. From the beginning, I wanted to focus on the encounter with her wardrobe and the strangeness of going through her closet while not being a relative. We’ve all had the experience of going through a deceased loved one’s belongings and deciding what should be thrown out and what should be given to other family members or friends. But this was not the case – nonetheless, I was a woman going through another deceased woman’s closet. Her things reveal something about her as an individual, but also tell stories that many women would recognize.

DH: I find it really interesting how your research leaves the confines of Gisèle’s wardrobe in the form of letters – or emails posing as letters – as noted by Frans-Willem. This letter writing allows the research to expand – beyond yourself, beyond Gisèle – through musing on topics beyond her clothes. Is the letter as a form important to your research? Has this decision shaped it into a particular form?

screenshot detail, “Epistolary” with Kate Pullinger, image © Stichting Castrum Peregrini

RT: The choice for epistolary as a form arose for different reasons. Barring one letter, I chose not to read Gisèle’s correspondences. And she had loads of them – she not only kept the ones written to her, but also when her parents died, and later her husband, she inherited back the letters she had sent to them too. (To live longer means letters are returned to sender.) I knew if I immersed myself in her letters I would occupy both her “I” and “eye”. I wanted to write from my perspective – that’s why one section is called “notes”. To me, it was like taking field notes from her closet – I was journeying into her private space.

But sometimes this felt too diary-like and hermetic. The correspondence with Kate Pullinger, who is a fiction writer, and Frans-Willem Korsten, who is Professor of Literature, opened things up again. These letters, or electronic mails (AKA emails), were sent while on my voyage into Gisèle’s closet, and like any correspondence written while journeying, they tell something about travels past and present, daily banalities and also something about the sender and the recipient.

screenshot of Semantic Mediawiki designed and developed by Andre Castro and Cristina Cochior, which feeds into the interface of, image © Stichting Castrum Peregrini

Next to writing with Frans-Willem and Kate Pullinger, another way I broke out of my own insular thinking was having others involved who shaped and informed the narration. The backend of the site, which is a Semantic Mediawiki, was worked on extensively, and designed, by Andre Castro and Cristina Cochior. The database, containing around a thousand items, is much like Gisèle’s archiving: it has its own idiosyncratic logic. The frontend interface and development was designed by Manufactura Independente, who made the different registers legible. I also worked with Cesare Davolio who did the illustrations for the notes. He created an almost dream-like space through his drawings.

screenshot detail of an illustration by Cesare Davolio for “Semantics Matter”

DH: This letter-writing, paired with the focus on clothes, makes the research focus on, and work through, ephemeral forms. They are objects that have a transitory quality – a quality of carrying and covering – of existing as an in between. I’m curious if you see these relations? And more directly in relation to the project, what it is about these ephemeral objects/forms that catch your attention? What have you learned by exploring these mediums as a way to remember and engage?

RT: It is precisely the ephemerality that fascinates me. Like the body, Gisèle’s clothes will turn to dust, photographs taken to preserve memories will fade, or lose relevance, simply because those represented are no longer remembered. But there are always echoes. I thought often of Virginia Woolf’s line in To the Lighthouse where she says: “how once hands were busy with hooks and buttons; how once the looking-glass had held a face; had held a world hollowed out in which a figure turned.” I think by going into the intimate space of her closet, I imagined her figure. And I say imagined, because there is always an element of fiction in remembering, especially with things you have never known.

screenshot detail, “Semantic Tapestry”, Development and Interface by Manufactura Independente, image © Stichting Castrum Peregrini

DH: For me, the interesting thing about the exhibition has been how it dives into history, only be projected back into the present/future. But I’m curious what is it about the research that you really enjoy? Is there some unexpected part of the process that you learned greatly from, but is so obscure – or seemingly insignificant – that nobody thinks to ask?

RT: I think there are almost too many surprises I encountered to focus on one. Perhaps a list:

*Gisèle was a complex figure – her history is plural and contradictory – in 100 years one can live many lives, and it is a life that will be re-written by many. Lives are full of sediment to be excavated by future archeologists.

*She wore corseted dresses as a young woman, tattered and worn clothes during the war, went braless on the beach while wearing a kaftan in the seventies, and she wrapped herself in a warm woolen sweater in her twilight years.

*Her closet is representative of many women, but her cataloging is unique, obsessive if not pathological. I wondered if she suffered from some form of hypergraphia. She has closet inventories going back for decades.

Detail of Gisèle’s wardrobe inventories, “Semantic Tapestry”, image © Stichting Castrum Peregrini

*One of the challenges of representing textile digitally is how to show its tactility. The revelation for me was the simple act of folding the clothes on video. You hear the sound and the weight of the cloth. This is how touch came into the project. Go to the Semantic Tapestry and look under Theme: Folding.

Screenshot “Semantic Tapestry”, Theme: Folding, Development and Interfacffe by Manufactura Independente


*When I look in Gisèle’s mirror, I expect to see her posing in front of it as she so often did before, but instead I only see myself.

Gisèle’s mirror, 2018

Art FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018 Tuisku "Snow" Kolu

A Portrait From Memory

Art by Tuisku “Snow” Kolu

Sketching portraits can sometimes feel like an intimate act. You become familiar with the curves, wrinkles, and freckles on the face of a stranger, a passerby. For a moment, you know their face better than your own. You see the story of their life, their memories etched into their skin – from laugh lines around their eyes to the years of stress carved into their forehead.

To them, they’ve simply passed an oddly ogling stranger. To you, a face with a fascinating story immediately begins to be warped by your memory.

Get sketching materials before it fades. Before your attempted replica becomes a false representation of what gave you such a heavy feeling of life.

Art Contributing Writers FOOD POLITICS - September 2018 Tuisku "Snow" Kolu

The Real Cost of Industrial Agriculture

The Hungry Ghost

Written by Elizabeth Knight

It has been found that industrial agriculture produces only 30% of our food while using 70% of our resources. While on the other hand, small-scale farmers produce 70% of our food while using only 25% of our resources. This article will show that not only is the dominant method of food production pushed by our culture not efficient, but it actually has many hidden costs.

The Cost of Emissions

While conversations grow around greenhouse gas emissions and the damage that fossil fuels do to our environment, there are still some major players that aren’t being discussed enough. Namely, Industrial Agriculture. In a report done by GRAIN, an international non-profit that supports small farmers, around 44-55 % of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to industrial agriculture.

Emissions come from several steps in food production. From the fertilizers and pesticides used to control crops. From machinery used to farm the land. From the cost of processing and packaging to transport and cooling of products. From the waste of products due to poor food waste management policies, both by governments as well as by grocery stores, restaurants, and consumers.

Then, of course, there is the growing awareness of how many greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat industry. Not only from the farms themselves but also from the destruction of forests and swampland either to house the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), or to grow monocultures, like corn and soy, that are used to feed them.  

All of this adds up to quite a lot of fossil fuel use, most of which is not actually necessary, and some of which is detrimental, not only to the environment, but also to society.

How Industrial Agriculture Contributes to the Climate Crisis by Klimakollektivet


The Costs of Synthetic Fertilizer

The system of Industrial food production is based on specialization, or the establishment of monocultures. Monocultures are when huge areas of land are used to grow only one product, such as corn, wheat, or soy. This system is established because it is easier. A grower uses large farm equipment to plant one type of crop. Then this one crop is fertilized with synthetic, or chemical, fertilizers and maintained with the use of pesticides. While this may serve a short-term goal of producing said crop easier, there are several problems with an industrial approach to the natural ecosystem.

One of the first problems is the cost of fertilizing these types of manufactured ecosystems. The production of synthetic fertilizers relies heavily on the use of fossil fuels, as an ingredient of the fertilizer and as a resource needed to produce the fertilizer. The production of nitrogen fertilizers, for instance, accounts for 3-4% of the global use of fossil fuels. When NO2 fertilizers are put out they immediately release greenhouse gases, as it’s not possible for the soil to absorb all of it at once. This layer of nitrogen fertilizers also prevents the soil from absorbing any other GHGs.

Another side effect of synthetic fertilizer use is the run-off effect. The fertilizer that the soil can’t absorb, which is much of it, runs into nearby waterways. These fertilizers then keep on fertilizing, and in so doing create an imbalance in the growth of algae and seaweeds. This unnatural growth leads to a chain of events which cause oxygen deprivation in the water, killing off any animals who need oxygen to survive. These are appropriately called Dead Zones, and are entirely man-made phenomena.

The industrial agricultural process involves the use of pesticides. Unfortunately, these pesticides don’t only kill the insects which would harm the crops, they kill everything. Every small insect and animal that lives in that area – from the birds, bees, and worms – dies, creating a lifeless environment. This lack of biodiversity means that the soil doesn’t have a good mix of nutrients in it.

This lack of nutrients creates an addiction to, you guessed it, synthetic fertilizers, which contributes to creating the problem in the first place. Like with all addictions, the saddest part is that a tolerance is developed, so more and more fertilizers are required to get the same results. A huge cornfield essentially creates a huge patch of land that is functioning in a way that is entirely alien to how life on earth functions. In other words, this is not a naturally occurring system, and cannot be sustained in the long run.

The Costs of Monocultures

The next step in the fossil fuel heavy journey of food comes with the global dependency on import-export culture. If each region is growing one or two things, which must be shipped around the world to other regions which are growing a different one or two things, a dangerous system is created where no region has food sovereignty.  This is dangerous for a multitude of reasons.

First of all, it means that if something should happen to a particular crop, those growers are completely devastated. We all know the proverb about putting all your eggs in one basket, and that’s essentially what industrial agriculture is pushing. We’ve seen examples of how dangerous this can be in several instances since the onset of monoculture. From, the tragic Potato Famine in Ireland, to the citrus blights which occurred all over the Eastern Americas in the 1980’s. When growers rely on one crop they make themselves considerably more vulnerable.

Secondly, this means that in order for any one region to support itself it is dependent on imports from other regions. The cost of this creates food that is absolutely soaked in fossil fuels. From the cost of processing foods to make them last longer to the cost of packaging and refrigerating them for long journeys, it certainly adds up.  

Another cost is the loss of biodiversity in ways which also affect culture. When small growers must compete with huge operations it makes it much more difficult. This means that every year, around the world, small family farmers are kicked off of their land and displaced. Often these farmers must move to more metropolitan areas and then become purely consumers instead of producers of food. Farmer Displacement can also lead to the splitting up of families, a loss of sense of place or self and cultural identity.  

In the past decades, the world has gone from eating a varied diet, which changed according to region and season, to eating a much more narrow range of plants and animals. In every species of plant or animal that we eat we have reduced the varieties considerable. This means that all sorts of culture and heritage have been lost to monoculture farming. In so doing we have lost our autonomy. When we no longer know where our food really comes from and we cannot decide what we want to eat, we suffer. Both culturally and nutritionally. This year there have been studies citing the loss of nutritional value for crops grown in monoculture and using synthetic fertilizers. Below is a small example of how many species we’ve lost in only 100 years.

The Final Bill

There are plenty of arguments from industrial agriculture lobbyists stating that this method of production is necessary for feeding the world, for feeding our growing population. However, this method of production is short-sighted and unsustainable. It boasts higher yields at lower costs, and yet it still leaves one in eight to go hungry.

The current system of food production doesn’t include in its true costs: high greenhouse gas emissions, loss of soil health, loss of healthy ecosystems, addiction to resource intensive fertilizers and pesticides, loss of biodiversity and loss of food sovereignty.  

In conclusion, it’s time for us to genuinely consider the cost of how we eat. We should demand that our policymakers make policy that is based on science and not funded by multinational corporations that concern themselves more with profits than with consequences. We cannot continue to bend the earth to our industrial ideals. It’s not sustainable and we see more and more research to support this. The Industrial Agricultural system is a relatively new system, and it’s best for us to stop this system before we completely lose the resources to do so. There are viable answers to feeding the world to be found in all sorts of food sovereignty movements, from organizations like Grain to Via Campesina to The African Center for Biosafety. Let’s all educate ourselves about industrial agriculture and the real costs of what we eat so that we can make informed decisions and protect the world we share.  

Art MADNESS - July & August 2018 Tuisku "Snow" Kolu

Cycling Creativity

Written by Tuisku “Snow” Kolu

Creativity can be a kind of madness, taking over your motive and drive whenever or wherever it pleases. This can be problematic when you’re on the road and have limited supplies to express yourself. But the Creative needs to be fed. Limited supplies doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for the Creative, but rather reforms its drive to find a way to express itself. Hence you find yourself painting with a messy brush that is falling apart onto a piece of bark ripped from a tree. For now, your mind can be still from the need to create, but not for long.