The Intruder

Vincent Meessen



Collection: Collectie M HKA / Collectie Vlaamse Gemeenschap.

In Vincent Meessen’s video The Intruder, we witness an action by the artist across different neighbourhoods in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. We see the artist dressed from top to bottom in an outfit made from the white blossom of cotton plants, with his hands the only visible part of his body. We see the artist strolling around, holding a stick or staff, while observers in the street can be heard commenting on this strange alien presence: “Hey, what’s that damned thing?”. There is a play with whiteness – the white of the cotton, as writer T. J. Demos has noted on the work: “the figure presented a spectre of white skin under a white mask (ambiguously inverting Franz Fanon’s famous book title)”. And there is whiteness as well in the sense of the white oppressor. Though the outfit, made by a cooperative of women for the artist, is a largely ambiguous mass of whit the head seems to have a large beard, for some observers looking like Father Christmas, but also possessing a certain resemblance to that of King Leopold II, Belgian coloniser of the Congo. The use of cotton, gifted to the artist by one of the main local producers in Burkina Faso, is highly symbolic. Cotton, or “white gold” as it is sometimes referred to, was one of the resources deeply associated with the enterprise of European colonisers in different regions of Africa. Meessen’s ghostly apparition is simultaneously vulnerable and threatening, known and unknown, reflecting historically loaded tensions when exploring the Western experience of colonisation as that of Otherness.

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