In the summer of 1998 I visited the Beguinage of Sint Elisabeth a space, a place of
contemplation, built originally for a community of pious and celibate women and founded
in Flanders in the 13th century. Beguinages or Begynhof, are within walled spaces within
a city, where the gate is locked each evening and then unlocked each morning. I had a
key to let me in - the only sound that broke the silence was the swallows, flying freely
within and without. Inside the exhibition space I found a trapped swallow flying silently
and endlessly round and round. I opened the windows, and set the swallow free.
In the centre of the beguinage is a lawn with a huge tree giving shade in the heat of the
day. I took a leaf from the tree - an Acer Saccarinum witte esdoom (a sugar maple with
thorns) and pressed it in one of my books as a memento. On my return home I decided to
use this leaf as the template for the ‘catalogue’ of the exhibition ‘WITHOUT’ which was
held in the Sint Annazal Gallery in the Beguinage of Sint Elisabeth in 1999. I used a
drawn outline of the leaf that was then laser cut out – leaving an absence, literally ‘taking
the leaves out of my book.
Inside the upper gallery I installed a mechanical swallow that flew endlessly round and
round in the space and opened all the windows. The noise from the live swallows outside
was now absent as they had already migrated for the winter.
In the lower gallery space I installed two tables. One had the centre cut out. I suspended
all the leaves from each of the WITHOUT books from the ceiling over the void. This piece
was entitled ‘catch me if I fall’ (fall being the reference to leaves in autumn). The cut out
section was reattached with hinges to make a ‘dropped leaf’ table. The other table was
made from the cut out and had the publication/catalogue WITHOUT held down with a
The remaining 99 publication/catalogues WITHOUT, intended as a souvenir or memento
mori, were placed on shelves in a cupboard in the gallery space for visitors to take away.
On the inside of the cupboard door was a slide projection of the outside of the beguinage.
Sint Annazal Gallery,
Beguinage of Sint Elisabeth,