– Exhausted 2023
One of the aspects that several Patchwwwork artists focus on is that of water – and more specifically the lack of it. As a typical farming community, Watou is highly dependent on water, an issue that manifests itself worldwide. As such there isn’t much water in plain view in the village and as Boel observes, farmers can only pump water from the Heidebeek for use on their land at set times. Another source of inspiration for Boel is the etymology of the place name Watou. In the Middle Ages it was spelt Watua and sometimes Watewe, Wathewa, Watuwa, Wateeuwe, Watue or Watuwe. Yet all spellings mean the same: marshy meadow. In Watou AD 2023 this hasn’t been the case for ages. The land has been drained, both literally and figuratively.
Sven Boel expresses all of this by selecting the simple shape of a (temporary) water well for his installation. Traditionally the water well holds an important place in a community. After all, the presence of water determines where people decide to settle down. In the summer of 2022, a number of those wells worldwide went dry, raising public awareness of the effects of climate change.
At first sight Boel’s well appears classic and is even reminiscent of a fairytale well where you can make a wish. However, something is off. The well is so high it is almost impossible to use. The depth and therefore also the height of the well are determined by the ground water level.
Because this is a temporary well, no chemical components are used in the construction for ecological reasons. Boel specifically wants to use an old method where the walls of the well are supported by wooden beams. The mortar for the stones is made of clay, straw and donkey or horse manure.
The duality of the visible and the invisible is an important concept for Boel. In this case the non-visible dug well is made visible by the round wall around it. Boel uses the dug-out soil to personally make the building blocks for the well. These are air-dried clay or loam bricks. Already as a child Boel likes to play with clay he dug out himself, thereby learning the importance of water to create an active substance. This is something he rediscovers when he goes to work as an artist and uses in his sculptures and performances from that moment on.
Sven Boel makes sculptures and performative work. He explores the (im)possibilities hidden in language. It is the back-and-forth movement that he wants to shape, between language, ‘reality’ and image. In doing so, he plays on mechanisms such as recognition, shift, association, …