Off by Heart and Out of Breath
A wandergram for a lecture
In the context of the exhibition Off by Heart and Out of Breath at Argos Centre of Art and Media, Brussels, Wendy Morris has published a silva rerum for her Huguenot ancestors. In her search for traces of these religious refugees she could find brief histories of them after they arrived at the Cape of Good Hope but no traces of them leading up to their departure from Europe. She could find no letters exchanged between relatives, no documentation of lands or property lost, no narratives of escape handed down through the generations. Three hundred years after her forebears fled France for southern Africa Morris had made the journey the other way and was living not far from the villages they had once occupied. To remedy the absence of narratives and a sense of discontinuity with this history Morris set off on a project of recuperation. She walked a circle around these villages and then a line from northern France to the Dutch harbour of Vlissingen. Along the way she started to compile a silva rerum and she took as her model 17th century Polish examples of a family chronicle added to by successive generations. Off by Heart and Out of Breath – a Silva Rerum is a ‘living book’ that merges traces of the past with experiences in the present and invites entries in the future.
Wendy Morris is a Belgian-based visual artist and animated filmmaker. Her work explores fictional, documentary and autobiographical genres and is frequently concerned with colonial migrations and histories of religious dissent. A South African artist, born in Namibia, the focus of her work has been on the two-way traffic between Europe and Southern Africa. Integral to her practice are her notebooks, letters, diaries, and her walking journals.
This wandergram for a lecture was presented as a public talk at ARGOS in April 2016.