The course of History
“It is the lesson we never learn. When our leaders repeat the mistakes of the past, we will stay on the course of conflict. Or is warfare a natural component of our civilization doomed to be repeated endlessly?”
Michiels became interested in the effect wars have had on the land in Europe. How particular geography is now endowed with an unwelcome history. Michiels carefully chooses sites marked by great battles, historic losses in life and turning points for shaping destiny and our history. He has traveled to Waterloo to record where Napoleon fell to the Duke Of Wellington and to Bastogne where the Battle of the Bulge called a million men to wage battle.
On first sight these contemporary photographs are picturing peaceful idyllic landscapes: a lush misty green, a snowy field... However, the titles, which refer to the worst battlefields of Europe, will evoke a different experience to the viewer. Michiels challenge the viewers’ collective memory. New marks from farm machinery and strolling livestock replace, but refer to the marks of the fallen. The fog surrounding Monastery Hill at Monte Cassino could be seen as the smoke of the bombing barrage on the monastery.
Each photograph is a monochromatic image meditative in its stillness, reinforced by a strong horizon line that bisects the photograph. In others, Michiels eliminated the horizon and evocated a contemplative way of looking down to the “sacred” ground.
Bart Michiels (°1964, Diest) received his degree at the St. Lukas Instituut voor Beeldende Kunsten in Brussels. His work is held in the permanent collection of the Fotomuseum, Antwerp, Belgium, Le Musee’ de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX. He lives and works in New York, USA.