press release

This exhibition presents the results of a yearlong period of research undertaken by SUPERFLEX at the invitation of the Zeeuws Museum, The Netherlands. The presentation takes the form of an installation and an English three-part television series. Their research focussed on local identity in Zeeland and the role of the Zeeuws Museum within the local community in relation to the museum's collection.

SUPERFLEX explored the history and identity of Zeeland and were intrigued by Middelburg's illustrious historical relationship with the Dutch East India Company (VOC). In particular their attention was caught by the public auction in 1602 of the booty captured from the Portuguese ship, the San Jago. The haul of Chinese eggshell porcelain, silk, jewels and other luxurious objects was sold on the quayside in Middelburg for an unbelievable sum. This ushered in Middelburg's and the VOC's wealthiest period and one of the most illustrious periods in the history of the Netherlands.

This historic event formed the basis for a three-part television series filmed in Vietnam and broadcast on Vietnamese television. In the seventeenth century Vietnam had close links with China and was, with intervals, part of the Chinese Empire.

An important role in the series is given to a Chinese porcelain vase that may have come from the San Jago booty and is now in the collection of the Zeeuws Museum. In addition to the vase, other authentic objects from the museum collection were shipped to Vietnam to feature in the television series. The other objects in the series were produced locally, for example at a porcelain factory in Ho Chi Min City.

In the Zeeuws Museum the television series is permanently shown together with a large number of props, combined with authentic objects from the museum's collection. The entire installation, the television series and the props will remain in the collection after the exhibition. In this way the props are raised to the level of authentic museum objects and achieve an almost sacred value. Through a rite of passage, the status of the objects changes the minute they pass through the museum's doors.

For this exhibition SUPERFLEX has transplanted a historical event of local and national importance to the present day and has placed it in another (inter)national context. In these days of Somali piracy, the discussion around the download website The Pirate Bay and authenticity versus reproducibility, the exhibition touches upon many current issues. Another important theme is the current need that many people have for a national or even local identity.

The methods employed by the Dutch East India Company are wrapped up in a romantic heroism but also raise very critical questions. Furthermore, to what extent is a national identity relevant in our diverse and global culture?

SUPERFLEX is an artists' collective from Copenhagen (Denmark), comprising Bjørnstjerne Reuter Christiansen (1969), Jakob Fenger (1968) and Rasmus Nielsen (1969),

Their work is characterised by strong social commitment, political awareness, irony and a healthy dollop of humour.

They also explore and transgress the boundaries of copyright in relation to accessibility, authenticity and appropriation. The appropriation of a historical event within another context fits within this approach.

Curator Christie Arends (Zeeuws Museum)

only in german

Porcelain Pirates
Kurator: Christie Arends