Exchange

A border can be a physical border, but it can also be a border where one leaves the existing behind and lets the thoughts free and tries to think the unthinkable.

Where in the past you had to exchange Belgian francs for French francs and vice versa, you can now exchange euros for new currencies.

Currency, where the value is not based on gold, debt or whatever you want, on nothing, but on more essential things.

We live in a time when many existing systems no longer seem to work or seem to work against us. A time, therefore, that calls for radical, almost utopian ways of thinking, to seek solutions to the problems of our time. One of those problems, which Voerman himself has been dealing with all his life, is the disappearance of rainforests and loss of biodiversity. Something that plays a major role in the project in Watou.

In the installation here in Watou, Voerman, together with representatives of 3 indigenous villages in North-East Suriname, introduce a new kind of money based on the vitality of local communities and the condition of the rainforests. The villages are: Bigi Ston, Pierre Kondre and Alfonsdorp.

Rob Voerman worked closely together with Foundation Kaikoesie who represents a group of indigenous villages in Marowijne, Surinam. (https://stichtingkaikoesie.wordpress.com/)

Voerman also worked together with philosopher Karim Benammar, who functioned as an advisor and sparring-partner. Karim has written a lot about money, value, philantropy, etc. Karim Benammar, PhD , is a philosopher specialising in transformative thinking. He gives lectures and workshops for companies and organisations. Benammar studied philosophy in England, the United States and Japan, taught at Kobe University and directed research at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. He is the author of Abundance (2005) and Reframing – The Art of Thinking Differently (2012). (https://karimbenammar.com/)

For the "Equator" calculation model related to the needs and the state of the villages in Suriname of local health care, preservation of culture and language and protection of the forest, determines the trade-in value between the “Equator” and the euro. For the villages in Suriname, preservation of culture and language is important. Good education, which also includes teaching the local history and their original language, and health care, where the original health care is provided through. herbs, etc. is something that is currently completely missing. As these kinds of facilities become more and more realised, the trade-in value of the Equator will increase. If conditions deteriorate and the number of provisions decreases, more money is needed and the resale value of the Equator decreases.

Within the project in Watou, the context of Suriname is compared with that of Watou and the Westhoek. Because although very different and miles apart, local problems are often global problems and vice versa.

Hence, in addition to notes of the 3 villages, also 3 notes related to Watou are introduced. The latter designed by artist Pol Bonduelle from Watou himself. A calculation model also applies to the value of Watou's banknotes. Watou's money was preceded by a small study in the form of a number of workshops, in which the question was asked "What was and is Watou and what can Watou become?".

Euros can be exchanged in this “border exchange office” and the alternative money can be spent again in Café La Frontière Belge or collected.

The final proceeds flow back in their entirety to the villages.

The monetary unit is later also introduced in Suriname itself.

Besides the fact that the money from the villages in Suriname generates attention with regard to the problems that play within the indigenous communities, it is also something that strengthens the identity of the villages. Because questions such as what should be on the bills for each village means that a discourse takes place within the villages themselves about the past, present and future.

But it also questions the colonial boundaries and brings renewed attention to the rights of the original inhabitants of the equatorial forests, the best guardians of that forest.

Watou

Watou is a village in the Belgian province of West Flanders and a borough of the city of Poperinge. The village has just under 1900 inhabitants and is located near the border with France. The “Poeziezomer Watou” (Poetry-summer Watou)  was artistically organized for 28 years (from 1980 to 2008) by Gwy Mandelinck - himself a poet - and his wife Agnes Hondekyn. Over the course of two summer months, it formed a unique dialogue between international visual art and poetry. In 2022 the Kunstenzomer, as it is now called, will enter its 41st. year with mainly site-specific works.

Like many villages in Europe, more and more shops, café’s, schools and other facilities, have disappeared over the years. Where it used to have dozens of cafes and shops, you can now count it on two hands.

Voerman's project is also partly related to this fact.

The exchange-rate of the currency for Watou, is related to the amount of facilities and own inhabitants within the village. If the number of facilities decreases, the exchange-value also decreases.

Watou's banknotes are designed by artist Pol Bonduelle, born and raised in Watou.

Voerman is building his art installation / border exchange office next to “Café Á la Frontière Belge”, which is almost right on the border between Belgium and France.