Wouter Vanderstede and Peter Simon
– Food First 2023
Wouter Vanderstede & Peter Simon set out to make the work of the farmers around Watou visible. During their stay in Watou in the summer of 2022, the many tractor movements and impressive working hours of the farmers make a profound impression on them.
The duo ask themselves whether the diligent work of the farmers can be translated into art. And whether the chasm between labour and art can thus be bridged. The farmers work in a different reality than the festival, one that is hardly visible to each other. A tracker system in their tractors has made their work visible to the visitors and villagers.
The unique thing about farmers is that as they work the soil, they drive over every metre of land they own. As a result, their tracking patterns not only consist of lines, as is the case with other users of the public space. The work of the farmers ultimately results in areas. Throughout the peak season they gradually colour those areas. The farmers’ labour colours the surroundings. The artists want to document and visualise this spectacle.
Vanderstede & Simon find four farming families that are willing to take part in their project. A GPS tracker is installed in the tractor of every participating farmer. The movement patterns are forwarded and recorded. Every farmer has a unique ‘signature’. In the eventual visualisation, the geographical background is left out, creating a more abstract image. The movement patterns of every farmer are displayed side by side on screens, like in a control room.
Every day the farmers’ activities are mapped out and the floorplan is filled in a bit more. Time indications render the impressive working hours.
Vanderstede & Simon hope that after watching the video footage, visitors will observe the farmers’ activities more closely because they can obviously also be followed in real life.
With the participation of Patrick, Wietse and Jelle Debaene, Johan and Chiel Decalf, Chiel and Patrick Lemahieu-Ameloot, Jasper and Marc Igodt.
– Attic Attack 2023
During their stay in Watou Vanderstede & Simon collect countless objects. They lay the groundwork for a space-filling installation in the attic of the Festivalhuis. There they endeavour to create a poetic world that responds to the hidden qualities of the attic space. To build the installation they enter into a dialogue with the children of the neighbourhood branch of Kunstacademie Poperinge. So the connection with the village originates from interaction with the specific space, the locally sourced materials and the villagers.
Visitors move through the installations along scattered islands with fragile constructions. The installation aims to put the unique character and beauty of the found objects in the spotlight. Placing things in relation to each other magnifies their unique formal and material characteristics and brings them into focus.
The constructions are fragile, full of tension. At first sight they may appear somewhat chaotic but by carefully walking through them, the visitor discovers the lines, the different subspaces and the relations that exist between them. The connections between things are not unambiguous but very open. Sometimes they are formal, sometimes narrative or poetic. This invites the spectators to build their own stories or make ‘poetry’ with images.
Vanderstede & Simon regard the attic of the Festivalhuis as a fantastic and intriguing location for their installation. They key into the history and the various traces of use in the property. The work is built around the subtle peculiarities of the building and the shape and materiality of the objects they found.
This project was realised in collaboration with Valentine De Meester and pupils of Kunst-academie Poperinge, neighbourhood branch Watou, Guido Doolaeghe, Jan Vancoillie, Pol Cauwelier, Marleen Baelde and ’t Graafschap.
Through this project Vanderstede & Simon make so-called micro scars in the village landscape visible. Duplicating them onto T-shirts makes them wearable. This is their way of posing a number of social questions about whether or not to commercialise the landscape.
Scars bear testimony to pain or growth and are a sign of evolution and dynamics. They are the result of accidents, errors, innovation, growth, age, pressure… Sometimes they evoke strong emotions. Other times they are just there, barely visible and free of emotion.
Metaphorically speaking they can also be referred to as ‘scars in the landscape’. Based on this concept, Vanderstede & Simon formally surveyed and documented the landscape in and around Watou. In doing so they were primarily interested in rather insignificant imperfections of change.
The micro scars are transposed to T-shirts using a printing technique they developed themselves. They make a print of the small town history of Watou while documenting the story behind the scar. Each of these T-shirts is unique. The printing process often left behind trace amounts of organic matter: pebbles, some dirt or moss… that was removed from the landscape. In locations where a print is taken, the residue of the printing techniques remains visible. Consequently, the location has changed as well.
In the next phase they ask the essential question whether this can or should be commercialised. They copy and reproduce the scars further through more classic screen printing techniques. But are the insignificant micro scars interesting enough to be worn? Is commercialising them appropriate? And does wearing it as a T-shirt diminish the work?
Vanderstede 1976, BE
Simon 1983, BE
Peter Simon and Wouter Vanderstede start from the materiality and uniqueness of the place: they respond to traces of use of buildings, use finds from the site, make prints of soil textures or visualise spatial patterns of residents. As a duo, they make in situ installations. They are fragile space-filling bricolages you can step into to discover microscopic worlds.