The Healer
2021 - ongoing

Photographic series

The Healer
is a series of photographic works and sculptures exploring principles of air purification, ventilation, and quarantine as preventive measures around plague. The work draws on numerous stories and examples from history in which the air has been attributed a dubious role as a source of contamination.

Breathing in ‘sick air’, according to the miasma theory, would make you sick yourself. To protect themselves against contamination, the plague doctors wore their well-known beak-shaped masks against the stench in medieval towns and villages.

These herbs, such as juniper, bay leaf, sage, and thyme, were also used to be burned. This was done on large city fires to protect and purify entire inner cities, and on a smaller scale in houses. Burning sage on fire, or placing cloves or cinnamon sticks on the windowsills are some examples of protecting the home from contaminated air blowing in from the outside.

There are also stories of entire households being locked up in their homes after a family member was found to be infected with the plague. These houses were in their turn fumigated with fire and herbs and then boarded up, after which a long quarantine followed. Sometimes the clothing, belongings, or even the entire home of a deceased plague victim was burned for fear of further contamination.

Stories like these form the basis for an ongoing series of works. In this series of photographic works, videos, and sculptures, the oak truss constructions of medieval houses form the basis for an abstract narrative about preventive measures related to the plague. In an openly interpretable way, this series is about hope and healing, decay and destruction, and trying to get a grip on something as elusive and invisible as a disease.

In these self-built oak models, which I then systematically photograph, I incorporate all kinds of different herbs and organic materials. Oakwood, charcoal, smoke, fire, sage, juniper, and thyme are some elements that alternate in abstract compositions.

The Healer is part of the research project Genezende Gebouwen (Healing Buildings), (2020 - ongoing)

The Healer was presented in the exhibition Ashes | Ashes, R SPACE, Ljubljana (SLO)

Installation overview Open Studio during residency at Het Pompgemaal, Den Helder