Bitter  Sweet  Colony : Memoirs  from  a  dystopia  gone  wrong           (Eindhoven-Veenhuizen, 2013)

 

Veenhuizen is a village in North Netherlands, founded at the beginning of the 19th century as an inner colony for poor people. It turned into a prison village and until the 1980s free entrance was forbidden. Today the economic growth of this small community is based on this dystopic past. The main touristic attraction of the village consists of former prison buildings and the equivalent souvenir trade. Today the village counts about 1200 inhabitants, but there is also an additional population of around 1000 people inside the two existing prison complexes. These internal “miniature states” are clearly marked by water ditches that make them stand as heterogeneous islands inside the idyllic landscape.

On many of the houses of the village one can find signs with didactic phrases which were connected with the status of the inhabitants and which were addressed to the imprisoned villagers, as part of the reforming procedure. These signs today have become part of the touristic branding of the village. Some of those have been destroyed over the years. I picked five of them and restored them not in a literal way, but as an expression of my personal way of making sense of the place and as gestures between me, the prisoners, the visitors.