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Emmeline de Mooij

Visitors can come
with a guest mattress

This bunker is all about hospitality. Thanks to Emmeline de Mooij. She made three mattress covers to show that those in need of shelter, have come to the right place. Everything is coming together beautifully in Middelburg this summer, as far as she is concerned. To begin with, the theme of Façade 2022, ‘freedom from fear’. Furthermore, the capital of Zeeland is a ‘shelter city’, one of seven cities in the Netherlands that shelter human rights activists. And then of course, there is the artist herself, who almost wedges caring as a weapon in her work.

Caring as a weapon. That sounds like feminist activist art.

“Not always. I also have a collective with Margreet Sweerts: FHP, the Feminist Handwork Party. Perhaps the term activist is more appropriate to that. With the FHP we organize workshops in public libraries and in public places. The aim is to give greater appreciation to the work that has traditionally been done by women in textile production. In the workshops, we provide techniques for repairing clothing and we record the history of women’s work. There is another element, we call it the ‘embodied way of speaking’. Talking to each other while you are busy with your hands – knitting, embroidery – is a pleasant, relaxed way of speaking in which silence is allowed. Nowadays, you no longer learn how to darn socks at school anymore. Many women want to stay away from that handicraft because it was formerly used by church and state to silence women. People don’t want to be associated with the role of that stooped, quiet woman sitting at home. We want to be aware of that. On the other hand, it is precisely this craftsmanship that is important in our time. Things break, things have to be maintained, that’s a part of life that gets too little appreciation.” “With my work I mainly find myself in the world of art, where I don’t wish to get involved in the public debate right away. I am fascinated by the history of craftsmanship. In recent years, I have been working with textiles a lot: quilting and patchwork. These techniques are related to the ingenuity of the fore-mothers who were able to make something from scraps and bits of cloth.”

You are currently working on the series ‘The Logeermatras’, also known as ‘The Guest Mattress’.

Just before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, hospitality in Europe was under pressure due to the large influx of refugees that have presented themselves. Those people were not welcome. And because we had to be sequestered at that time, we couldn’t receive any guests. With my work I pay tribute to that lost hospitality. If you have a spare mattress at hand, you are open to unexpected visitors. I also refer to the series of mattresses as ‘hiding-place art’. Hopefully, the work will inspire gentle acts of resistance: hospitality, sleep and recovery. Incidentally, my work concerns covers that go around a mattress; I have modified those covers using patchwork and quilting techniques. I already have seven. Together with the three for Middelburg, there will be ten. In this work I focus on trust in compassion. In this way, I hope to inspire visitors of Façade 2022 to embrace hospitality, and to take away the fear of the unknown other.”

Zeeland’s goddess Nehelennia appears in the explanation of the work. What is her relationship with the work in the bunker?

I’ve read Annine van der Meer’s book about Nehalennia. In it, Nehalennia is referred to as “she who leads,” and as “she who dwells in the low-lying marsh by the sea.” She was often depicted with one foot on the prow of a ship, and holding the ship’s helm in her hand: she protects travelers on land and at sea. The ancient pagan worship of mother goddesses is often threefold. This is also the case with Nehalennia. You have the young woman depicted with a waxing moon, the mature woman with a full moon, and the old woman with a waning moon. I have depicted this threefoldness for Middelburg in three mattress covers that are displayed on the wall of the bunker on ‘the Molenwater’.”

Emmeline de Mooij (Delft, 1978) lives and works in Amsterdam. In 1999, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. From 1998 to 2002, she studied Fashion Design  at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. In 2009 and 2010, she attended the Photo Global Programme at the School of Visual Arts in New York and from 2011 to 2014 she was selected for the Bard MFA program at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts in Annandale-On-Hudson N.Y. She has organised solo exhibitions at the Andriesse Eyck Gallery in Amsterdam and at Centraal Museum in Utrecht, among others.

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