Kim Bouvy

Made in Europe

Commissioned work, exhibition, publication
Bureau Europa Maastricht for RECIPROCITY International Triennial of Design & Social Innovation, initiated by The Province of Liege/Culture and OPMA
2015
Exhibition 10 Oct 2015 - 17 Jan 2016

“When looking at these landscapes that have emerged here since industrial times, their character does not reveal itself lightly, I find. These massive spaces occupied by industrial complexes, often hidden inside enormous square boxes of steel and stone, are fenced off with a myriad of infrastructures made out of pipes, roads and private corridors. They do not seem willing to communicate their function, their origin nor their intentions for the future.
The history of industry is usually not recorded or well-kept and therefore difficult to research. Architecture guides rarely include this functional architecture due to the generic and unashamed uglyness of its design language. Maps record these spaces as grey areas, without any street names or numbers. Their streets are hard to navigate, signs are often missing. These are places that intentionally wish to remain invisible it seems.
It is this invisibility that I tried to grasp and portray, to not turn a blind eye, but to try to take a closer look at what is out there, in the present.” (KB, text excerpt installation Made in Europe)

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In the context of RECIPROCITY design liège 2015, Bureau Europa commissioned me to research the specific reciprocity between the (post-)industrial identities of Liège and Maastricht.
The exhibition, installed in the library of Bureau Europa, showed a selection of my photos that I combined with historical material and a digital slide installation with my images and texts taken between April and September 2015 in the area between Liège and Maastricht, following the river Meuse.

I invited designer Hannah Hiecke to make a satellite map of the same area that is presented as an inkjet print on a size of 4 by 2 meters. In conjunction, a leporello designed by Hiecke presented the map together with 10 images and texts by me that give insight into the context and specific local history of the depicted locations. The poster can be downloaded here

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Images from the slideshow
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About MADE IN EUROPE
Both cities, as part of the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion, are of considerable importance to the footnotes of European history: in 1817, the Dutch King, William 1st, sold the Prince-Bishop of Liège’s summer castle in Seraing to the sons of William Cockerill, an English industrial entrepreneur and skilled engineer. They then laid the foundations for the first coke blast furnace in Belgium in 1823, thus introducing the mass-production of iron and steel and sparking the Industrial Revolution on the European continent. These events were paralleled in Maastricht by Petrus Regout, who started his family-run steam-powered glassworks in the Boschstraat in 1834 that would extend rapidly into factories for glass, earthenware, nails and rifles. Both families consisted of pioneering industrialists and capitalists, both consolidating cross-border relations for the sake of their businesses.

Bouvy’s photographic ‘travelogue’ takes the river Meuse as her guide, looking at the successive landscapes that have emerged along the riverbanks from the time of the industrial revolution to the present. Starting at the Cockerill Castle in Seraing, where the now redundant furnaces owned by Indian steel giant ArcelorMittal stand silently next to worker communities, a new masterplan is being implemented. Between Herstal and Visé one can find off-highway shopping malls, waste incinerators and logistic hubs in development, followed by the picturesque landscape of the Plateau of Caestert and the ENCI limestone quarry and nature reserve in Maastricht. The route ends at Bureau Europa, a villa in the ‘Timber factory’ that was once part of the Sphinx empire of Regout and Sons and now part of a future ‘Factory of Culture’.

From this sequence of fragmented cross-border industrial and post-industrial landscapes, one can read the struggle of a society in flux, one that needs to constantly adapt to its rapidly changing economic and social conditions. Here the river Meuse acts as a timeless connector of ‘décors’ that are both generic and informed by local histories. The contemporary face of Europe emerges: an area in a state of industrial stagnation and disengagement. The once prominent industrial role of this region has been largely played out through an endless process of mergers. Operating within the international flows of capital, cheap resources, migrant worker populations and global economics, multinational companies no longer limit themselves to the local context of available resources and labour. Under these ‘liquid’ conditions, how can this part of the Meuse-Rhine Euregion – once closely connected by religion, culture and trade – shape, or rather reinvent, its post-industrial identity?

This project is commissioned by Bureau Europa and is part of the extra muros programme of RECIPROCITY design liège, International Triennial of Design & Social Innovation, initiated by The Province of Liege / Culture and OPMA.

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