Esther Planas

Copyright 2023

Going to Brussels for a residency and giving workshops of Escuela de Calor, was part of the invitation by the artist running De La Charge, who open their house and gallery space for me. It is true, that the time of the year was already not very much in sync with the warm spirit of the Mediterranean habitus. But as this Warmth/Calor was meant to test itself against more complex situations, this one seemed ideal. Crossing the invisible lines that make what is understood as the North of Europe and leaving the known places of the European South. Clearly, as the whole project is about finding the hidden power relations that submit us to the Anglo-Sphere since the "actions" and online archives started. The Anglo-Sphere, the global Norths, that do not include the European Souths because they are antagonist to the historic events that made those Norths strong and powerful. From the submitted Souths, we witness the developments of the world, in our delayed time and insignificant lives we have the chance to look around doubt, and de-school ourselves.

How the comments on immigrants from Southern Europe draws lines from here in the North
The Seven Men, book's is by John Berger the writer and Jean Mohr the photographer (ably assisted by the artist Sven Blomberg and the designer Richard Hollis) which tries to capture the reality of the migrant worker’s life. They focus, in words and pictures, on the movement of those migrant workers (’guest-workers’ as official German policy laughably calls them) who are drawn out of Southern Europe’s poverty into the cities and factories of booming Western Europe. These workers, in a sense, are even more disadvantaged than the majority of immigrant workers in Britain, for they have little right to establish residence or bring their families. They are pushed and pulled from Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Portugal, Spain, Southern Italy, into and out of West European industry entirely at the will of capital The sackings this year at Volkswagen will be felt most sharply, not in West Germany, but in the villages of Anatolia.....

Texts online research excerpts:
"Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s Soliloquy; A Defense of His Congo Rule”, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. It’s an easy read at 49 pages and Mark Twain is a popular author in American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them in the first place. Orwell’s Animal Farm, for example, serves to reinforce American anti-socialist propaganda about how egalitarian societies are doomed to turn into their dystopian opposites. But Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kinda supporter of working-class democracy from below—and that is never pointed out. We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but “King Leopold’s Soliloquy” isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom. From the point of view of the Department of Education, Africans have no history."

Informative Sources about Leopold's Congo:

Decolonial memory group Blog:

Twain's critical works
Since 1866, Twain had been lecturing to audiences across America and, occasionally, in Europe, usually on humorous topics at lyceums or after formal dinners. In his later years, though, he used his celebrity status to speak out forcefully on social and political issues. As a long-time critic of American and European imperialism, Twain wrote an essay in 1905, entitled "King Leopold's Soliloquy," to generate support for the American wing of the English Congo Reform Association.
The Harper Brothers firm, Twain's contracted publisher, refused to run the essay in their periodicals, Harper's Monthly and Harper's Weekly but allowed its publication in pamphlet form by the American Congo Reform Association. Combined with Harper's rejection of an earlier anti-imperialist essay, Twain concluded that he was being censored.

In the 1870s, explorations of the vast Congo region of Africa's interior enticed King Leopold II of Belgium to establish a committee of European investors to oversee the development of trade in the area. They claimed that treaties with native African tribes gave them the authority to govern the region.
In 1884-1885, the Belgium army defeated a combined British and Portuguese force to establish the Congo Free State, with Leopold as its ruler. He extended his control militarily during the 1890s.

Leopold's administration of the Congo was exceedingly harsh, relying on slave labor to work the land's highly profitable rubber, ivory, and palm oil industries. (In the cartoon, notice the "dividends" in Leopold's back pocket.) The African workers were often mutilated as punishment for minor offenses. It has been estimated that four to eight million Congo natives died as a result of the brutality of Leopold's regime. Protestant missionaries initially alerted the outside world to the atrocities, and the Congo Reform Association was formed in 1904.

While in England in 1907 to accept the honorary degree, Twain reiterated his complaints against the inhumanity of Leopold's reign in the Congo. Finally succumbing to worldwide pressure, the colony of the Belgium Congo was established in 1908 under the administrative oversight of the Belgium parliament. The king retained some authority, but it became constitutional rather than personal.

The New York Times excerpt about 20 July 1905 from 2005.

Reign of terror of King Leopold II of Belgiu

The Congo Free State, founded in 1885 as the personal fiefdom of Leopold II (pictured right) inspired Joseph Conrad’s imperial horror story, Heart of Darkness. Under Leopold’s rapacious rule, as many as 10 million people were killed, according to an estimate by historian Adam Hochschild. The vast sums paid for monuments, museums, and palaces in Belgium were considered extreme, and growing public protest contributed to the Belgian state taking over the Congolese territory in 1908. During the first world war, Belgium gained the lands of Rwanda and Burundi. While the murderous cruelty was over, economic exploitation of Congolese mineral wealth carried on as before. When independence arrived in 1960, hopes soared with the election of charismatic Patrice Lumumba as Congo’s first democratically elected leader. He was assassinated in 1961 by Congolese rebels and Belgian army officers on the orders of the CIA, with the tacit support of Belgium.

Congo's first democratically elected prime minister was abducted and killed in a cold war operation run by British intelligence, according to remarks said to have been made by the woman who was leading the MI6 station in the central African country at the time. A Labour peer has claimed that Baroness Park of Monmouth admitted to him a few months before she died in March 2010 that she arranged Patrice Lumumba'skilling in 1961 because of fears he would ally the newly democratic country with the Soviet Union.

In 1958 there were still Human Zoos in Belgium:
Zoo humain, Bruxelles, 1958. Cette année-là, à l’occasion de l’exposition universelle, la Belgique expose des Congolais dans un village reconstitué. C’était il y a 60 ans à peine. Quelques décennies plus tôt, la France faisait la même chose.

The complicity of the rulers of the world USA and UK keep always appearing in the background.
The same happened to La República Española. MI6 flying Franco and all involved in making our country a subservient domesticated place in what was considered the preamble of Africa, which was known to begging just after crossing the Pyrenees.The echoes of Monarchs and Fascists alike doing in peoples of all kinds in order to extract and control their resources as in Congo or their geographic situation logistic and other business possibilities.

Text on the journal published with Stephane Carpinelli:

This project had from the starting point an element of an expedition to a difficult territory and turned out to be full of adverse conditions, including persistent bad weather.

As it was impossible to walk around at all and was so wet, grey and cold, it was such an anti-climax that the only thing to do and the only thing that had remained was the conversations with my host at De La Charge, Stephane Carpinelli about Escuela de Calor and its very essence, about its possibility of happening, and how it had become clear that not North would ever be able to actually sustain an Escuela de Calor situation.

Only Southern warmth, only open spaces in urban areas of Mediterranean weather could become the sites that a work like this requires.

After, the walks, the cold, the rain, the talks, the thinking, etc … the gallery space was only used as our field tent in the desert of rain, our refuge or camp base; we inhabit it, expend time meditating and discussing, having hot tea, and cakes … notes where taken, drawings made, objects arranged so that we will discuss, sometimes passionately defensive about what really matters to us and why.

Our opinions were very different and we argued quite a lot.

But conversation-based situations and my position as a mediator meant to just leave doors open.

The idea of Philosophy as the place left for Art to feel free, and the Idea of The fixed Object that holds materially all the possible meanings was deeply questioned and discussed.

Stephane could not really understand my work (because he wanted to understand, he was taken by the opposed spirit necessary for the experience)

Objects "trouvés" on the few small derives made as short escapes between pouring skies and dry short lapses of time.

Brussels, fragments, discoveries, spirits, history, topics, ghosts ……

The implication of Belgium Royal Family (King Leopold II) and its colonising industries and policies, its genocide of Africans and exploitation of its resources, transformed in its delicate dark Belgium chocolate, were raising from everywhere at every corner and haunting every step. Even from online-posts found about the genocide at the hands of Leopold II, which had been so hidden for so long.

From Tintin au Congo, shown with no shame in book-shops, from images, African masks and fetiches sold this time by the immigrants who had safely managed to stay in unknown lands.
At the flea market and old antique shops where Congo is still for sale.

Free Association exercises that Stephane will channel wile “finding” the polemic The Lion King fabric versus a Venus made of laminates, books about Swords.

We finally arranged all the bits, various leftovers, and objects of dilemma and heated polemics in the cold manner of the structuralist anthropologist.

As it was, we open it to anyone to visit, but the event was not very much like an art opening.

It occurred to me, that somehow the premonition of failure had been transformed onto a found certainty: Escuela de Calor can only be explained as a concept as a real thing that only happens far from here.

Esther Planas

See no evil, hear no evil... 2013
Hear no evil, see no evil ... 2013
Calor at Cafe Bar.... rain and note
les puces de Bruxelles
business support amulets
pain spoils trafic
White and Black Mask punishments
Guilt displaced and re-directed
found protected defended
thrown down polemics &rain&tea
small news, notes on conflicts.....
Talking of which
the visitor
tea and spirits
from the street night
Tintin as post-colonial sinn
CongoSale(still at it)noone cares
Surreal moment (lashes & blood)
Energies and Voices
Boasting White Powers
B not caring post-colonial traumas
deep escuela
Atomic Centre of Europe
Forest wild humid
yes Tourist of neo nuclear alien
the piece of fake roman foot
Cutoff fake Roman foot
Fake Roman Imperialist dreams
the alien
haunting ghosts
Tintin, I can't love you anymore
more melanges colonialscapitalits
Leopold this !!
les melanges des detritus
open wounds road
Heart of White Darkness, Brussels Human Zoo 1958
The whole time here!!!! Sick!
we will revenge !!
baby Elephant stuffed sadness
yes! horrifying !
yes! insulting!
Yeeesss!! Vomitive
colonial cartographies inside
Monster Museum
magic soul
power to us !
dry dry space non place for art
fabrics topics double meanings
tea, cup, time, notes...
my portrait by Stephane Carpinelli
Steph anti escuela de calor
Yes Modern Art is a Bluff White Masks eternal return
Black Mask revenge !