One History - Seven stories

BACKSTORY In 2018, the Colonies of Humanitarianism will have existed for 200 years. The goal is for the Colonies to have achieved World Heritage status by that year. Together they will make a case for preserving and propagating the story and heritage of the Colonies of Humanitarianism. Each of the seven Colonies all have a unique role. The relationship between the locations, the great number of lives that have been affected, the unprecedented scale of land reclamation and the impressive level of organisation that went into it, all make this story and experience a worthwhile one. Under the title 'One history - seven stories', the Society of Benevolence, the National Prison Museum, Kempens Landscape and 'de Ommerschans' Association have joined hands to create a coherent public disclosure of the unique story of the Colonies of Humanitarianism. The four locations are thus being raised to a higher level and, for the purpose of improved visibility and increased awareness of the story, are investing heavily in marketing and communication at the international level. A pitch was organised from this collaboration for creative design agencies to submit proposals. Tinker Imagineers in Utrecht devised an original concept and was awarded the contract. BRIEF The assignment was “to design a joint public audiovisual presentation at four locations, each with their own conditions regarding form and space and each with their own outro which links with the historical development of the specific location”. CHALLENGE 1. SPATIAL The production must do justice to four very different locations. In the new colony centre in Frederiksoord, which is still being developed. In Ommerschans in a visitor centre still to be completed, in the barn of a former colony farm. In the Prison Museum in Veenhuizen and a newly designed visitor centre in Merksplas. 2. FORM The largest part of the story of the Colonies of Humanitarianism is relatively unknown history. In order to impress the importance and scale of the Colonies onto a wide audience, it has been decided to tell the story coherently and chronologically. To convey the factual information effectively, a form that is both historically accurate and contemporarily appealing had to be found. 3. CONTENT The locations vary greatly in their nature: from the first free colony in Frederiksoord, where colonists lived until well into the twentieth century, to the penal colony in Ommerschans that disappeared, the asylum for orphans and vagrants that later turned into a prison in Veenhuizen, to the closed colony in Merksplas which was completely rebuilt as a Belgian prestige project in the late nineteenth century. As true for the locations, the stories of the people who lived and worked there also vary greatly. These stories range from successful escapes from poverty through education and work to bitter stories of debt, forced labour and punishment. SOLUTION 1. SPATIAL In order to present a story at four different locations in the same innovative way, a special projection surface was conceived. The projection surface for the film is inspired by the landscape of the Colonies. The straight lines of the orthogonal system of clearing for agriculture at all the locations are clearly visible. The projection surface, or the film's medium, consists of three levels. On top of a base layer is a second layer of orthogonal lines which divide the surface into rectangles. On top are placed one large and three smaller areas. Using video mapping, the full potential of the medium is achieved: sometimes the story is told on the four higher planes, then again on one. Or the entire medium is used as a large projection surface, and then the orthogonal lines play an important role in the film. The dynamics of this type of 'mapping' give the visitors a truly unique experience. 2. FORM Because in the early nineteenth century, no photos or film existed, paintings and prints form the basis of the film. In animated landscapes, interiors and societies from the early nineteenth century, actor Dragan Bakema as Johannes van den Bosch, the driving force behind the Colonies of Humanitarianism, draws the audience into his world and ideas. At the end of the film and the outros, archival images and aerial photography of the different locations are also used. 3.1 CONTENT: STORYTELLING The interaction between Ideas, People and Landscape is the basis of the film. The story of the Colonies of Humanitarianism begins with Johannes van den Bosch's utopian vision. His ideas about poverty, land ownership and education form the basis for the establishment of the Society of Benevolence in 1818. Johannes van den Bosch saw a solution to the poverty that plagued Europe: with the right resources and commitment, one can not only improve the land, but even humans. His belief in progress and manufacturability found broad social resonance. Using crowdfunding that was avant-garde for its time, Johannes van den Bosch was able to collect enough money in a few months to build the first colony in the same year. The poor must clear and cultivate the land themselves and earn their own livelihood and thus, hopefully become good, hard-working citizens. However, as it often goes with a utopia: reality is rather more stubborn. Not everyone can or wants to work and coercion and punishment become an integral part of the Colonies. The Colonies also cost more than they yield, and this jeopardises the key promise made by the Society of Benevolence; this type of poverty relief would actually pay for itself and eventually put an end to poverty. Soon this goal seems further away than ever. 3.2 CONTENT: BESPOKE OUTRO’S The main film ends when the seven colonies' paths separate. In 1830, Belgium declared its independence and in 1859, the closed Colonies were taken over by the government. The stories of the various locations are too diverse to summarise in a single film. Therefore, each location receives its own outro or ending that addresses the subsequent history of that location. The films give the visitor a glimpse into the history of the free colonies in Frederiksoord, Wilhelminaoord, Willemsoord and Wortel and the closed colonies of Veenhuizen, Ommerschans and Merksplas. At the locations of Frederiksoord and Ommerschans, you see the full version with an outro created just for that location. A shorter version with its own ending is made for the location in Merksplas, Belgium, with a Flemish voiceover. A shortened version with a location-specific ending can also be seen in Veenhuizen, which better suits the needs and the visitors of the Prison Museum. REALISATION The production is installed in Museum de Koloniehof in Frederiksoord, the Prison Museum in Veenhuizen (both already open to the public), the brand new visitor centre for Colony 5-7 in Merksplas (open from 3 June) and the visitor centre in the Ommerschans (open from the summer 2017).