Vi estas ĉi tie: Hejmo / 2013 / ”I wanted to render palpable what we are risking to lose”

”I wanted to render palpable what we are risking to lose”

de Redakcio Laste modifita: 2013-06-16 13:47
In an imaginary future, described in the exposition ”Domo de eŭropa historio en ekzilo” in Brussels, the European Union will have collapsed by the year 2018, as a result of the financial crisis and the rise of nationalism. Libera Folio interviewed the author of the exposition, Thomas Bellinck, in order to find out more about the ideas behind the exposition — and why he used Esperanto in it.
”I wanted to render palpable what we are risking to lose”

Thomas Bellinck preparing the exposition. © Danny Willems

Versio en Esperanto

Libera Folio: Have you imagined and created in detail a fictional history of the future, one that visitors are supposed to discover step by step? Some aspects of the exhibition seem to suggest this. If that is so, could you tell us something more about this imagined history?

Thomas Bellinck: — There is indeed an imagined future history that provides an undercurrent for what is shown in the museum. However, this fictional history remains very much implicit. By using suggestive terms like "The Second Interbellum" rather than by expressly listing fictitious dates and events, we try to evoke the Europe that came into being after the implosion of the former EU. Most of the exhibition balances on a fine line between credible fiction and, at times, an almost unbelievable reality. Too explicit forecasts would ultimately end in science fiction, which is much more innocuous and leaves less to the imagination of the visitor. In any case, it is not necessarily our aim to make predictions: we use the future to uncover the present.

Is Esperanto somehow a visible part of this imagined Europe in 2060, as shown in your exhibition?

— Esperanto definitely plays a part in the shattered Europe of 2060, albeit on a rather modest scale. "The Friends of a Reunited Europe," who have put together the exhibition and look after it, use an evolved form of the language in their struggle to attain some new form of European unity.

Why is the exhibition so short-lived? Will it remain documented in some way?

— The museum is part of a series of "Tok Toc Knock"-festivals, organised by KVS, the Royal Flemish Theatre in Brussels. From the beginning on it was conceived as a temporary exhibition. However, we are currently examining the possibility of reopening the museum for another run in September and October. Apart from the rather practical causes, the limited duration is also due to the acute necessity of the exhibition's theme. As a theatre director I see the museum as a living entity, as a story that needs to be told today. Who knows what stories we'll need tomorrow

How did you decide to use Esperanto? Do you know any Esperanto? If not, how did you produce the texts in the language, did you perhaps resort to Google Translate?

— On a more narrative level, Esperanto seemed the ideal utopian means of communication for the future "Friends of a Reunited Europe," who may have lived through an Esperantic Renaissance. As far as the character of the exhibition is concerned, I was looking for an atmosphere to support the distance created by the futuristic time frame, an atmosphere that would at the same time feel familiar and unfamiliar. I wanted visitors to enter a world where they would feel like strangers in their own country. For people like me who do not speak Esperanto, the language has this distinctive quality. Since in the museum the Esperanto functions as an artistic form rather than an intended means of communication and I was looking for a futuristic variant, I decided to use Google Translate. I then edited the rather warped result to make it look more consistent and coined some new words which would be even more comprehensible to a non-Esperanto speaking audience.

What is your personal opinion on the future of the European Union? Does the exhibition reflect your personal expectations in that regard?

— The vision of the future of the EU as it is presented in the museum is a very bleak one. After the EU's implosion around 2018 most of the former member states revert to their inward-looking, nation-statelike habits. War once again becomes a real possibility. Ofcourse, I decided to present the worst-case scenario. That does not necessarily mean I wish or expect things to go down that road. But I absolutely wanted to make visitors aware of the dangers we are facing today, at these times of profound crisis, of growing nationalism, separatism, Euroscepticism and xenophobia. I wanted to render palpable what we are risking to lose.

What do you think about Esperanto? Are you aware that, especially in Belgium, Esperanto has often been linked with dystopic and utopistic ideas, like your own exhibition, or Neutral Moresnet?

— Throughout the process I grew very much intrigued by Esperanto. It's utopic character was, ofcourse, what convinced me to use the language in the first place. But whereas at first I was mainly attracted by its funny, somewhat artificial appearance, I was surprised to discover that Esperanto is actually still evolving. From a test tube baby its passionate speakers have managed to transform it into a living and breathing entity. In the meantime several Esperantists have come to visit the museum, so every day I am learning more and more about the language's fascinating history and development.
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