Internal Colonization

In January 2010, Ruchama Noorda installed INTERNAL COLONIZATION on one floor of a recently squatted C17th townhouse in The Hague, then home to Walden Affairs, a project space set up like Thoreau’s cabin in the woods on Walden Pond as “a sanctuary for experiments, production and reflection”. Noorda’s installation, in turn, took its title from a book published in 1901 by another Dutch admirer of Thoreau, Frederik van Eeden shortly after he founded the Walden colony in Bussum. Van Eeden’s Internal Colonization advocated the formation of an international network of cooperatives based on common land ownership and resource-sharing as a gradualist strategy for expunging capitalism from within.

I gave the exhibition that title because I felt that if I lived inside the space while building up the installation it could have the same effect on me – a personal internal colonization. So, I stayed there for the week before the opening, reading van Eeden’s book and other texts by Rudolf Steiner and Rabindranath Tagore on breaks, and at night lying in my sleeping bag on the floor with the dream portal painted on the wall behind my head. I covered the inside of both chimneys with charcoal and stuffed the hearths with other van Eeden texts together with vending machine snack wrappings, burnt matches, scrunched up pages torn from the financial sections of newspapers and the charcoal I’d used to colour the chimney interiors.

On one wall, I stuck a photo of a friend posed as a neo-classical corn goddess with hammered out eyes holding a sheath of wheat on top of ripped out pages from the financial papers. Above the doors and on the other walls I wrote and crossed out revolutionary-era triptych slogans that had lost all meaning or gained terrible associations over time. On the wall above one fireplace I installed a pair of mini speakers with a recording of a spoken text on the connection between the smell of paper money, the scent of blood and the hormone oxytocin that, according to the text, causes people to trust strangers for no reason.

In one room, I made a working snare out of twigs and string and looped it round a copy of Rabindranath Tagore’s The School of the Parrot, a satire on the colonial educational system in which an ‘ignorant’ bird is placed inside a golden cage and fed pages from books until it dies. On the windowsill above, a phoenix-firebird with a coat of matchbook feathers, and a copy of van Eeden’s book lying open on its back like unfurled wings looked down on the trap.

Ruchama Noorda, As Above, So Below 🙃, 2022

Internal Colonizationinstallation (accompanied by two thematically related video works by Johanna Billing and Joost Conijn), Walden Affairs, curated by Mischa Poppe and Joost Niewenburg, the Hague, the Netherlands, January 17–January 24, 2010.

Photography by: M. Feyen