Parts of a work by artist Koen Vanmechelen, divided up for members of the public and much sought-after not a year ago, have turned up dumped in a rubbish skip in Gullegem in West Flanders.
In Ypres last year, Flemish artist Koen Vanmechelen exhibited a work titled Coming World Remember Me, a commemoration of the First World War which ended a century earlier, consisting of a massive clay sphere and 600,000 smaller versions (photo), one for each life lost in the conflict, much of which took place in and around Ypres. He announced that when Armistice Day arrived in November, members of the public would be able to come to the Palinbeek park and take away one of the smaller spheres.
And so they did, many people far exceeding their quota of one sphere, carrying them off in plastic bags full. The smaller spheres had been made over the course of four years with the help of thousands of volunteers. At the time, Vanmechelen said he would have preferred the clay pieces to remain in the park where they might return to the earth. And he predicted that one day they might come together in remembrance of the war dead, after another 50 or 100 years. “Individually, the images don’t work as an artwork,” he said then. “That only works in a setting where they are together.”
Now, however, some of the spheres have found their way to a construction skip in the village of Gullegem, between Kortrijk and Ypres.
“I’m pretty shocked,” Vanmechelen told VRT News. “Each piece stands for someone who died for our freedom. I certainly never saw this result coming.”
The municipality of Wevelgem, of which Gullegem is a part, have gathered the dumped spheres and taken them to a place of safety while a new destination is sought. “That makes me think of a sort of rescue mission, such as also took place during the war,” the artist said. “Art is always a reflection of and a commentary on society, and what has happened here is also a sort of reflection of society.”
Despite the initial shock, Vanmechelen is pleased with the result overall. “If you look at the whole picture, this is just a small negative point. A lot of time and energy went into the work, and a great many positive things came out of it. In general people showed a great deal of respect. I’m still getting mails and photos every day of places where the images have turned up.”