In the artist’s words: The dream of a 1000 shipwrecks
by Patricia Kaersenhout
“‘Fuck off to your island!’ That’s what they said to me when I was a child, and later as an adult. But which island? Where is it, and how do I get there?”
“The work consists of 144 pages from academic books written from a Western modernist perspective. I tore the pages from the books, adapted them and rearranged them around the theme of the sea and ships. This was my attempt to desanctify the so-called ‘Western knowledge’ that ignores the voices of my ancestors.”
“Two texts by William Shakespeare run through the works.”
The first comes from Hamlet:
What a piece of work is a man! how Noble in
Reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving
how expresse and admirable? in Action, how like an Angel!
in apprehension, how like a God!
The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
When Hamlet poses the question directly to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in his speech he is engaging with a deeply existential matter. He is saying, ‘A man is in fact nothing more than a heap of dust; he is insignificant.’
The second extract, from The Tempest, is spoken by Prospero:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
“In The Tempest, Shakespeare portrays the Caliban character as a ferocious, terrifying ‘beast’, and as Prospero’s slave. Shakespeare presents Caliban as a lesser creature. Prospero symbolizes the Western power that dominates an island and its inhabitants, while Caliban represents the island dweller who is dominated by the Westerner. Caliban represents the indigenous islander who cannot escape the cruelty of their master.
Shakespeare reinforces the notion that Caliban embodies the image constructed by contemporary Western civilization of the people of the Caribbean islands as monsters and deformed creatures. But by speaking, Caliban is transformed into a person with thoughts, and with human emotions.
At the end of the play, Caliban transcends his master. With this, Shakespeare turns the enslaved person into the victor. The author wanted the reader to see Caliban in a new light at the close of the play.”
The Dream of a 1000 Shipwrecks is currently on view as part of Tomorrow is a Different Day, the new collection display of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. This is the full version of the artist text excerpted in the display.