Von Schlumbach's Xylotheque
Installation in Museum 't Coopmanshûs, Franeker, Holland, 1992
Installatie in Museum 't Coopmanshûs, Franeker, 1992

I was invited to make an installation in a museum in the northern town of Franeker, where once had been a university. There is a room in the museum with circa 45 painted portraits of former professors, hanging in three rows above each other. A cabinet with glass doors between the professors contains a 200 years old "Xylotheque" from the former department of biology. It consists of about 144 wooden boxes in the form of books. Each box contains information about one kind of tree: a piece of wood, a twig, a leaf, a flower, seeds, pollen, a nut and even a piece of charcoal. Each box was made, as far as possible, of wood from the tree involved.

The curator asked me to merge my art with this collection. She had seen my exhibition of destroyed drawings and it were the aspects of destruction and hidden information that struck her. I had told her the secret that I also had destroyed the Bhagavad Gita. She had read that book better than I did.
Instead of preparing the installation and working on it, I bought 2 kilos of postage stamps, still glued on converts and cards. In my youth I collected stamps and they form a strong visual memory for me. I used to make long lines of all kinds of queens, kings and presidents in different colours and with different numbers. Still now I love to take stamps off from the converts in water, to smell the wet paper, to dry them and to order them. And so I did. I got thousands of the same and I almost got mad, but it became like a pathological obsession and I had to finish the job.
All the time I had the 45 professors and the 144 tree-boxes in my mind and so in the end I made a series of 144 small jar drawings as series of stamps for the exhibition. I fixed them in wooden frames and put them between the wooden boxes of the Betula Alba, the Quercus Robur, the Platanus Occidentalis and the 141 other trees. The watercolours were standing oblique. I had taken the same amount of jars with destroyed drawings with the idea to incorporate them in the installation, but in the end I used them to support the watercolours.
It was a nice idea to know that they were supported by the jars that made the watercolours possible. Only at the lowest shelf it was possible to catch a glimpse of them.