EXPO 600,000 SCULPTURES - 600,000 NAMES

In the pavilion where once was the start of the no man’s land visitors can find a glass sculpture in which the 600,000 personalized dog tags are being displayed. On the reinforced glass of the sculpture the quote The future depends on forgotten memories by artist Koen Vanmechelen reminds us of the necessity to remember. Each new generation is co-responsible for the cherishing the universal striving for peace.

On the way out of the pavilion, visitors encounter another large work of Koen Vanmechelen. This sculpture, a bronze egg with a glass crack, is symbolically protected by a nest of bronze chicken claws. The sculpture is the carrier of a usb-stick that on which the databe with all the godfathers and godmothers is saved, connected to the victims on the Name's List.

At the heart of the land art installation, surrounded by the 600,000 sculptures, was the central platform on which the large sculpture Coming World by Koen Vanmechelen is presented. In the top layer of the platform the map of the world as it is today was etched. On the platform a giant concrete egg is a metaphor for a world that is constantly evolving and expanding. The sculpture Coming World shows an egg that is on the point of hatching, as a precursor to the birth of a new mankind. Around this work you could find the small sculptures, made by the smaller children in all the different workshops. Coming World and the small sculptures will move to a new location on the domain in 2019.

Taken together, all the statues represented Pangea, the super-continent of pre-history. The statues fanned out around the platform as a massive human shield in the zone of the no man’s land. They formed a symbolical boundary on the site where hundred years ago inhumane suffering took place and this for four years long.  

From the viewing platform, which offered a spectacular aerial view over the installation, could be seen how the land art installation merged with the history of the landscape and the surrounding nature. At the same time it remained, just like the front zone hundred years ago, a strange intervention in this peaceful environment: it evoked the hallucinatory history of this place and makes us reflect on how inhumanely society can derail, then and now.

A visit to the installation could be extended with the Ode to the War Poets walking route that runs through the area of The Bluff. For this tour curator of poetry Willy Tibergien, founder and honorary director of the Poetry Centre in Ghent, selected ten poems out of the recent publication Dode Paarden Dode Dichters/Dead Horses Dead Poets by the Flemish poet Willie Verhegghe. At different rest points along the wooden walkway that runs through the Bluff, you could read or listen to the poems inspired by the works of well-known and less well-known War Poets. This walking route brought rest and room for reflection for all its visitors.

The land art installation ComingWorldRememberMe was an accessible and respectful reminder of the inhumane suffering that millions of people underwent hundred years ago due to a worldwide armed conflict. Each statue in this participatory installation was a peaceful statement of all the partners of the project and of the ten-thousands of godfathers and godmothers that actively participated.