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uitgave 38: ‘First Spoons, then a road’

beeld en tekst Jerry Veldhuizen, Heelweg - ontwerp DEBOKOFHETLOKET / Eva Blaak, Heelweg - verschijningsdatum november 2016 - formaat A5 - techniek digitaal drukwerk en cahiersteek - oplage 200 exemplaren - kosten 10,- - bestelformulier

Note to Extraordinary Voyages: First Spoons, then a Road.

The Pan-American Highway connects the north of Alaska with the southern parts of Argentina through a maze of roads and highways adding up to more than 30000 km. It’s interrupted by a relatively small area of rainforest, of about 150 km, they call The Darien Gap. De text of First Spoons, then a Road is a collage of several articles from old editions of National Geographic from the 60s, but the main story line is a report of an expedition through the Darien Gap, which aimed to set out a route for the missing piece of the Pan-American Highway.

As a child, even as a young adult, I had an elevated idea of mankind. Teachers had taught me the lessons from the past. And I saw clearly that peace was here to stay, that technological improvement was being used for the better, that religions were becoming more liberal. And more specifically: that the fantastic utopia of a united Europe would be a matter of time. I was of the conviction that man was learning from his mistakes and in a growing sense succeeded to live in harmony and peace. In short, I had great confidence in the intuitive goodwill of men.

One day this changed. Drastically. This may not be the place or the moment to dig into that, but I would almost state: someday we will make a book about that. For now it’s sufficient to say that I tramped my pink glasses furiously, but that I’ve been longing for that more positive version of myself ever since. Even more so, not too long ago I concluded that this ‘longing’ has unconsciously been motivating me in my work. When I started, I saw the landscapes that I painted as a metaphor for the impenetrability, or elusiveness of reality. But gradually they became more escapist. They’ve become places or situations you can yearn for. And this might be the reason why these old traveling reports from NG keep attracting me: they dream about progress without reservation. And they show an unrestrained optimism, among the writers as well as their subjects, that what ‘we’ do is the good thing. And that ‘we’ will be better off as a result of it.

But something else comes into the picture as well. Everything in the story of the expedition is drenched in a sense of superiority. The writer seems genuinely interested in the culture and habits of the locals, but he talks about them as if they were children. He romanticizes the derivations of the conquistadors, who in the sixteen hundreds went on a killing spree through the whole of Latin America. He places no side marks at the project he's involved in, he shows no concerns for the ecological disaster that would be the result of building a highway through a rain forest. No thoughts at all about a possible culture shock within the local population. With these arguments in mind, these articles from NG are very much connected to an aspect of ‘Western’ approach that has had a major effect on the world in the past 15 years: arrogance. You might say, a bit simplistically, that western ‘optimism’ is one of the main causes of the banking crisis and the ongoing chaos in the Middle East.

I wanted to see what would happen when I would place a report, like the above described, next to my paintings. The articles that I have used touch upon a lot of themes within my work. They shed a light on layers in it, that might not necessarily be visible to the average viewer but are essential to me as a creator. Furthermore it is important to note that none of the paintings were made especially for the book, or with the text in mind.

Jerry Veldhuizen