Thomas Verstraeten's first solo exhibition 'Look out of the window. What you are seeing is called history.' at Fred&Ferry is set up as a dialogue, or perhaps better, as a confrontation between two projects: 'Pierre Menards paradox' and 'Familiestraat’.
In September 2014, Thomas Verstraeten made Pierre Menard's paradox. For this, he built a copy of the Moroccan coffee house Tanger, situated diagonally opposite, in the exhibition space. The installation described the interior of the coffee house in reverse, as a place of here and elsewhere, familiar and strange, as a paradox.
For Familiestraat, he built an exact replica of his street in wood and cardboard in a large factory hall. Then, together with 250 local residents, he re-enacted an annual review of true events that happened in the Familiestraat in the bizarre year 2020.
In both projects, seemingly futile pieces of history are re-enacted with great care and precision by their original 'inhabitants'. Both projects take ordinary, everyday events as their starting point. They are pieces of history that are saved from being forgotten. According to the artist, every event, no matter how small or trivial, contributes substantially to those few events that do get a place in our collective memory.
"History is a substance that is manufactured of its own accord; if you turn away from the staccato of the headlines and listen very carefully, you will hear the infinitely slow grinding of the wheels, between which nothing is ever lost," Nooteboom writes in his Berlin Notes.