At the origin of this project lies the new announcement of the immediate and overall demolition of Doel. The small, 700-year old polder village, near Antwerp was once a popular bathing town but over the years it got closed in by the ever-expanding Antwerp harbor and Belgium’s largest nuclear power plant site. Finding itself between the hammer and the anvil, the village has been under constant threat of demolition. As early as the 1960’s inhabitants were asked to relocate and several waves of migration followed.
Doel’s history can be found emblematic for today’s global economic tendencies, and its human casualties, but it hasn’t escaped local arbitrariness. Due to poor government policy, lacking any kind of expropriation policy, today the village is still there. It is largely owned by a company called Maatschappij Linkeroever, with the harbor, the Flemish government and the neighboring villages Beveren and Zwijndrecht as its important stockholders. Although the number of inhabitants has decreased by 90 %, there are still a few militants left, resisting government pressure and demanding an appropriate expropriation policy. Their case has been brought before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Awaiting a final decision, the Maatschappij Linkeroever protects the village, that has become attractive to many vandals, graffiti taggers and squatters. Nearly in ruins, the houses are being cut of from the outside world and its windows and doors are being sealed by wooden panels. Still, light enters through the small cracks in the beams, or wholes in the houses’ fragile construction, and an outside image is still be visible at the inside. The houses were potential camera obscuras.
Being a photographer, I found it very interesting to work with this given situation. Moreover the pinhole camera is one of the oldest photographic techniques, and thus lends itself very good to a discourse of loss and authenticity. That the measures taken against the further survival of this village, allows to document it’s actual situation, off course ads an ironic touch.
What I concretely do, is enter the houses and further transform its rooms into large cameras. I put photo-sensitive paper on walls and other surfaces, and let the light enter through a small pinhole that I make in the beams sealing the windows. In a way, the photographic procedure reveals the latent image and prints it on the wall; the house documents its own (disappearing) view.
Text by: Tanja Boon