'Burdened City'
Project info

The photo series 'Burdened City' consists of several photographs of the city of Utrecht. The inspiration for this photo series was found in an exposition in Utrecht's city hall that provided a space in which artists explored the theme of refugee.

The photographs in my series are constructed from images of the city on which textures of walls, panels or soil are superimposed. The textures come from photographs I shot in Africa, Asia, and South America. A portrait of someone - man, woman, or child - from those regions is put within the order of layers. Together these images form the series 'Burdened City'.

This notion refers back to the age-old legend from Central Europe, which tells the story of a bridge that was built over the Greek river Arachtos. The construction of the bridge disrupted the status quo and led to societal unrest. Prophets of doom, who only thrive in times of misfortune, seized the opportunity. They incited irrational fear among the population, as they warned about the revenge of the river, pointing towards signs of disruption of the entire existing order. The population eventually became convinced by the tales that they spread. Their falsehoods were accepted as true.

Then it was time for the second step. To escape from misery, the prophets of doom suggested, a sacrifice needed to be made. A living human being had to be bricked into one of the 
bridge piers to save society from its doom.

Our society is in transition as well; the familiar withers away. The influx of refugees, amongst others, has resulted in irrational fears in our rationalised world. Prophets of doom fan the flames; they point towards a panacea, find a scapegoat, as if again an offering needs to be made.

The people in this photo series are barely visible. This requires the observer to make an effort to find and see them, because only when we are seen and recognised, we can live.

© Sjaak Verboom, 2017 Photo's: Inktjetprint on Hanemuhle Fine Art-paper or Epson Lustre paper. Limited edition.