2022, 10 x 7 x 4 meters, wood, glass, plexiglass, sound, banknotes and other materials.
A border can be a physical border, but it can also be a border where one leaves the existing behind and lets the thoughts free and tries to think the unthinkable.
Where in the past one had to exchange Belgian francs for French francs and vice versa, one can now exchange euros for new currencies.
Currency, of which the value is not based on gold or economic growth, but on more essential things.
We live in a time when many existing systems no longer seem to work or which even seem to work against us. In other words, a time that calls for radical, almost utopian ways of thinking, in order to seek solutions to the problems of our time.
One of those problems, which has occupied Voerman himself all his life, is the disappearance of rainforests and loss of biodiversity. Something that plays a major role in the project in Watou.
In the installation here in Watou, Voerman, together with representatives of 3 indigenous villages in North-East Suriname, introduce a new kind of money based on the vitality of local communities and the condition of the rainforests. The villages are: Bigi Ston, Pierre Kondre and Alfonsdorp.
For the project and also for my earlier project The Exchange from 2016, I worked closely together with philosopher Karim Benammar who has thought and written a lof about value, the financial market and philantropy.
A calculation model related to the needs and the state of the villages in Suriname of local health care, preservation of culture and language and protection of the forest, determines the exchange-value between the “Equator” and the euro.
For the villages in Suriname, preservation of culture and language is important. Both good education, which also includes teaching the local history and their original language, and health care, where also the original health care is provided through. herbs, etc. is something that is currently completely missing.
As these kinds of facilities become more and more developed, the exchange- value of the Equator will increase. If conditions deteriorate and the number of provisions decreases, more money is needed, the resale-value of the Equator decreases.
Within the project in Watou, the context of Suriname is compared with that of Watou and the Westhoek.
Although very different and miles apart, local problems are often global problems and vice versa. Where Watou used to have dozens of shops, cafes, etcetera, these can now be counted on two hands.
Hence, besides notes of the 3 villages, also 3 banknotes related to Watou are introduced. The latter designed by artist Pol Bonduelle who is born and based in Watou himself. A calculation model also applies to the value of Watou's banknotes. Watou's money was preceded by a small study in the form of a number of workshops.
Euros can be exchanged in this “border exchange office” and the alternative money can be spent again in Café Á La Frontière Belge or collected.
The final proceeds flow back entirely to the villages in Surinam.
The monetary unit will later also be introduced in Suriname itself.
Besides the fact that the money from the villages in Suriname generates attention with regard to the problems that play within the indigenous communities, it is also something that strengthens the identity of the villages.
Because questions arise such as “What exactly should be on the banknotes for each village?”, means that a discourse takes place within the villages themselves about the past, present and future.
But the project also questions colonial boundaries and brings renewed attention to the rights of the original inhabitants of the equatorial forests, the best guardians of that forest.
And of course, the role of the (white) artist himself within this project is also automatically questioned on a continuous basis and is part if the conversation.
This project in Watou is not a one-off project, but only the beginning of a long-term quest in the development of money and questions such as “what is value?”, “how can the financial system be better organized”, etc.
Collaborations like now, with philosopher Karim Benammar, activists Inge Pierre and Tony Pierre (Kaikoesie Foundation) and Erik Vos/Het Lab (design Surinamese banknotes) can be expanded with new additional collaborations.
For 20 euro's a set of all 9 Equators, numbered and signed, can be ordered within Europe.
For 25 dollars they can be ordered from outside Europe.
Do write and e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org in case you want to orde a set.