Dante's Inferno

curated by Brigitte van der Sande

In 1300 the Italian Poet Dante Alighieri in 'The Divine Comedy' undertook an imaginary travel through the three reigns of the afterlife. Dante is as well main person as storyteller. On his way he is accompanied by the Latin Poet Vergilius, his lover Beatrice and the mystic Bernadrus de Clairvaux. They assist him at difficult times and finally lead him to the contemplation of God.

Almost seven centuries later artists Danny Devos, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, and Moniek Toebosch take the visitors of the Asperen Fortress again on a trip through hell, purgatory and paradise. The exhibition is not a literal interpretation of 'The Divine Comedy', although every visitor, just like Dante, has to bear first the horror of hell before being purified and finally being allowed to see the light in paradise. 

But every visitor has a different experience. An experience which, contrary to the medieval one, can be individual so that what is considered hell for one, can be paradise for another. Or the other way around. In the seven hundred years since Dante went on his travel, fixed ideas of hell, purgatory and paradise have become uncertain. Hell is not always dreadful, paradise not always the goal. With the detachment of original religious signification of the three realms, the individual representation comes foremost. Danny Devos, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, and Moniek Toebosch show their vision on one of the realms in the fortress.

Brigitte van der Sande, 1999.

Perpetrators of Death is a collection of Belgian murderers since 1959, my year of birth.
In this presentation over 200 frames are filling up a complete wall of the explosives' stockroom.
The lighting applied is the original lighting for the room, in the sense that no electric appliances were allowed into the stockroom itself. The lamps had to be arranged in an adjoining corridor, and were placed behind spaced windows to avoid any contact of heat, sparks etc to the explosives.
The setup of this installation is about 20 meters long.

We've seen the eyes of about 200 murderes in print, now it's time for the real thing. Two rooms are only illuminated by the light of eight television monitors.
On the screens are trailers and loops of titlings of movies: Hellraiser, Hellbound, Hell in the Pacific, Five for Hell, Hell's Angels on Wheels, To Hell and Back, Hell on Earth, La Jeune Fille et l'Enfer.

On wooden shelves are numerous glass jars with eyes inside of them. Calves' eyes, sometimes one, or two, or three, about 300 in total. All staring at the tv-screens, or at you, staring at the tv-screens.
The tv-monitors are placed on wooden pedestals which have survived for a whole year in the fortress.
Asperen Fortress is only opened to the public for a couple of months a year. In late september it closes to harbour a colony of bats. Its climatological circumstances are perfect and unique for this purpose. In winter the basement floor is permanently covered with sometimes up to 50 centimeters of water, and the temperature and humidity are almost constant all year. Even now in summer it is rather chilly in hell, and the humidity is about 95%, resulting in moulding and crystalling on the walls and puddles all over the floor in several rooms.
The wooden pedestals, I already made over a year ago, and placed them there so they would be covered with mould and fungus. Some other pieces are also rusted and worked upon by the climatological circumstances, adding to the dready atmosphere making your day in hell.

The Family are 24 knife-wielding machines, built in 1989. They depict the 24 members of the Manson Family, arrested at the Spahn Ranch on October 12th, 1969.
This presentation commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Tata/LaBianca murders in Los Angeles on August 9th and 10th, 1969, which turned the love cult into a terror cult, end ended the era of hippiedom, love and peace.
The machines are built of steel pipes and run on xerox print-machine electric motors. The shafts are connected to the knives' handles which pivot over bolts, transmitting the rotation into a swiveling motion. The entire group is divided over several sub-groups which are plugged into timers, all set to different intervals. Thus some machines are wielding around, and others might stand still, just to start off at any time. The randomness of still and motion makes the whole setup even more dangerous.
A large 'Charlie Painting' on the wall overlooks the installation with an evil grin.
The whole setup makes a thumping and grinding noise, the floor literally resonating under your feet. The small cubicles at the top of the machines carry a variety of books: Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, The Family by Ed Sanders, Child of Satan by Susan Atkins, Blood Family by William Zamora, The Killing of Sharon Tate by Lawrence Schiller, etc.

The Birth(+)Fact(x)Death(-)Calendar is a database wich I've been keeping since 1985, and collects data about the history of humans, as its title says births, facts and deaths, from artists, politicians, movie stars, assassins, serial killers, writers, filmmakers, mass-murderers and comedians. Also human errors and catastrophies are listed.
The Birth(+)Fact(x)Death(-)Calendar now contains over 6000 records, all searchable by name, place, date, you name it, we've got it.
Listings for today can be found at: www.birthfactdeathcalendar.net

The circular main corridor is a complete installation itself. It's a huge mass of furniture, cubbards, chairs, seats, tables and lamps, all bolted together with wood and screws to an immovable immense 'Thing'.
At several places items are fixed to the 'Thing', items referring to hell in the real world, in the culture around us, in books, in movies, in records, in cds,...

The Beast of Jersey, or Ted Paisnel. He wrote a short story wherein a giant chicken would roam the island of Jersey, lure children to secluded spots and attack them with its murderous claws.
My Beast of Jersey is another machine built sometime around 1987 if I'm right, where the beast is a large wooden box with two extremely large chicken feet sticking out of it.
The room is quite dark. As soon as you set foot out of the corridor three strong headlights switch on, both lightening up the Box, and blinding your eyes. With a painful howling sound a motor spins up a wheel connected to metal bars to which the chicken feet are tied. They jerk forward and upward and backward, they motion you to come closer, come closer to hold you close and mangle the tiny child in you as kind but perverted as can be.

Joseph Kallinger aka The Shoemaker is not unknown amongst True Crime lovers from Hell. If any serial killer ever came close to creating hell on earth it would have been Joseph.
This piece especially remembers the event where Joseph murdered his 9-year-old son Joey, helped by his other son, 11-year-old Mike, they went to the inundated basement of an abandoned house, telling Joey they would be taking some kinky pictures, tied little Joey to a ladder and then threw the ladder into the water in the basement. Joey drowned and became Charlie, the floating head that kept popping up in Joseph's psychotic mind, and haunts him until this day.
A slide with Kallinger's picture is projected onto the surface of an inondated room of the Asperen Fortress. The light shines onto the floor of the room -people are throwing money in it as a kind of penance- and reflects on the surface of the water, projecting the image onto the wall. From a hidden source, you can hear a telephoned interview with Joseph Kallinger where he discusses the murder of his son and other crimes he committed.

Hell is all over present in 'heavy metal' music. In this room, 300 pigs' ears are hanging from wires on the ceiling. Just like eyes have been watching you watching hell movies on tv-monitors, here ears are listening to you listening to heavy metal tracks like:

  • Motorhead: Hellraiser 
  • AC/DC: Hell's Bells 
  • Deicide: This is Hell We're in 
  • Judas Priest: Burn in Hell 
  • Cronos: 7 Gates of Hell 
  • Megadeth: Lungs of Hell 
  • Pantera: Cowboys from Hell 
  • Slayer: Hell Awaits 
  • Suicide Commando: See You in Hell 
  • Cronos: Lost and Found 
  • Depp Jones: Welcome to Hell 
  • Power Trio: Guitar from Hell 
  • Coil: The Hellbound Heart 

All this over two speakers, while at the same time, over two other speakers blurts:

  • Hell No: Reformer 
  • Hellhammer: Satanic Rites 
  • Hellnation: No Means No 
  • Helloween: Future World 
  • Hellsau: Vain 
  • Hellbastard: Black Force 
  • Helstar: Benediction 
  • Hellnation: Elite 
  • Hellkrusher: Dead Zone 
  • Hellhammer: Maniac 
  • Electric Hellfire Club: Incubus 
  • Hellbastard: Deadlock 
  • Hellkrusher: Sick 
  • Hellsau: Bliss 

Tuesday 1st of June 1999 -> Tuesday 31st of August 1999 in Fort Asperen, Langendijk, Asperen, Netherlands.

Included works: Daders van Dodingen, Jockel - Bett des J├Ągers, The Family, The Beast of Jersey,

Related bibliography:
  • Naar hemel en hel in Fort Asperen || NRC Handelsblad
  • Hel van Asperen verleidt met dood en verderf || De Volkskrant
  • Het Vagevuur van Asperen || Vrij Nederland
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