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Unravelling Histories

Installation, Upstream Negotiations, Historisch Museum Amsterdam [2002]
On line database made in collaboration with Michael Murtaugh [2002-2004]
www.unravelling-histories.org

faithfront NG-2000-5.Z propriet heredetail
Mrs. Terwen's dress in Rijksmuseum | The Dress of Faith and Fidelity | The Dress of Proprietry and Longing | The Dress of Here, There and Other Dislocations (detail)

After the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, the internment camps in which many Europeans had been forced to live, were liberated. Most people living in the Dutch East Indies found themselves returning to an impoverished situation where goods were in short supply, and they had to make do with whatever was available. In need of new clothing, Jeanne van Leur-de Loos (Mrs. Terwen-de Loos), a Dutch citizen and art historian, purchased a bundle of silk RAF parachutists' maps at a flea market. The maps, depicting sections of Burma, French Indo-China, Siam, India and China, were then cut and sewn into a unique silk dress.

While on the one hand Mrs. Terwen-de Loos's silk kimono is a very private or intimate object belonging to an individual, its surface speaks of other broader histories and political circumstances. In essence, her dress can be understood as a site where various social texts intersect. Seeing the garment as a point of departure, De Geuzen has created Unravelling Histories, a two-fold project looking at related Dutch colonial narratives with the intention of tracking their traces and resonance in the present.

One part of Unravelling Histories could be seen at the Amsterdam Historical Museum. On view was the original silk dress of Mrs. Terwen-de Loos plus three replicas of the garment. The replicas are crafted from the same pattern as the original; however, the fabric is printed with other interrelated histories and stories.

Each dress is thematically titled: The Dress of Mrs. Terwen-de Loos, The Dress of Propriety and Longing, The Dress of Faith and Fidelity and The Dress of Here, There and Other Dislocations. While The Dress of Mrs. Terwen-de Loos is on loan from the Rijksmuseum and housed in a vitrine, the replicas are touchable and can be read like a streetmap.

The online environment, a repository for gathered data, has been designed in collaboration with Michael Murtaugh. Each dress or chapter, represents a thematic thread. Filled with related images, links, quotes, and resources, the databank serves as a space of association and a place where unexpected cross connections can take place.

Unravelling Histories is a project by De Geuzen in collaboration with Michael Murtaugh. It was developed for Upstream, an exhibition exploring the impact of the VOC's trade empire. Unravelling Histories was realized with the financial support of the Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst.
Digital prints: Textielmuseum Tilburg