We Tell Stories, Story III- AND IT ALL WENT ON



Maarten Bel & Armain Schoonbroodt
Exhibition: 14/7 – 17/8
Social gathering: Friday 13/7 at 17.00

You are in an airplane, flying over the ocean. Looking at the world passing by, underneath the countless waves seem to stand still. Until you descend and the waves suddenly begin to move, randomly, the one around the other, like humans at a place in time.
It is something we all feel but never quite grasp – the ever changing constellation of the world around us; changing we know, but we will never be able to say this or that… is changing… now… before it is long gone. And even if we caught the moment, just now. Then again, one change never comes alone; so much is changing in the world, all the time, that we are never quite able to get to the whole of it. This way, it seems that change is taking place in such an unnoticeable way that it appears to us as a matter of course.
Yet, every period is a re-description; all that has passed is re-evaluated and all that is to come is not yet solidified.

¹· And It All Went On is an inquiry into the spirit of our age, an archaeological quest for our time. Maarten Bel gives it a go not to follow his time blindly, but to try to transcend from the spirit of our age. What does he see? Are we able to see it with our own eyes?



O V E R R A T I N G  N O W

By means of his work, artist Maarten Bel asks us to consider the notion of the spirit of the age. Are we aware of its existence? In addition, one might ask, what is the importance of knowing it? How does it shape the way we view the world? The following will offer a concise investigation into the way place and time influence our reality. I will focus here mainly on the latter.

— Armain Schoonbroodt

P L A C E  B O U N D

Reporter: “What do you think of Western civilisation?”
Gandhi: “I think it would be a good idea.”

Rationally, we know that the spatial position of a person will colour the way in which he or she views the world. For example, the existing ideas, norms and values within a country will affect one’s own knowledge and opinions. This is not surprising. However, we are not always aware of this, and do not realise the subtle and profound way in which this works. Surrounding ideas, norms and values do not just influence us; they also alter the way we view our surroundings. This is what Foucault means with discourse.
A discourse can be defined as the oral and written conversations and their meanings, of a group of people that share the same ideas. As Foucault analysed, discourses regulate what can be said and thought. Some things said or thought can be considered true or false within a specific discourse, but can also even be considered to fall outside the discourse: if there is no resemblance between a current statement and statements from the past, a statement can be ignored. What we don’t know, we don’t notice. Hence the knowledge we already possess also influences any new knowledge we gather. This way a discourse really creates our views and our knowledge.
By using the notion of discourse, we can explain why certain statements seem obvious, natural and universal, while in fact they are tied to a particular area. What for example civilisation entails for one person may appear to a person from a different place as quite the opposite. Not only are we often just unknowing with respect to discourse and the influence spatial position has on it, sometimes we go as far as to defend and spread values from our own discourse elsewhere in the world. An example is forcing a Western developed version of democracy upon non-Western countries.

T I M E  P U T  I N T O  P E R S P E C T I V E

In the same way as our views and our knowledge are influenced by our spatial position, they are also influenced by time. Current ideas, opinions and knowledge, which combined form the spirit of the age, influence the way we view the world now. This is as obvious as the way our spatial position has an influence, but we question it much less. Where for example there is a lot of attention to putting Western culture in perspective in the Humanities and the Social sciences, the notion of time is considered much less. Again because of the subtle workings of discourse, the influence of our position in time on our thinking is obscured. Because we live in this moment, the current norms and values seem to us to be the most obvious ones. We tend to see history as a process of progression regarding all aspects of life, but wait, why again?
Rooted in the Enlightenment and modernist theories of development, the idea of history as a linear process of progression has proven to be quite influential on our thinking. The more knowledge we gather, the more advanced human society will be, so people tend to think. To see history as a linear process of progression automatically means that the current times are considered superior over past times. Does it make sense to use the word ‘prehistory’ to describe a certain period in history? When we talk about ‘the rise of civilisation’, what does it mean to say that people be-fore that period of time were apparently uncivilised? Why does the word ‘primitive’ have a negative connotation when we are talking about early humans?
How current norms and values seem to us to be the most obvious ones, also compared to future times, is visible in the writings of renowned political philosopher Fukuyama, whose ideas still resonate in the American neoconservative political landscape. In a 1989 essay, he wrote:

‘What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing
of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such; that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.’

According to Fukuyama, Western liberal democracy is the best way of human cohabitation. It is better than ways of human cohabitation in the past and furthermore, never will there be any better way of cohabitation. To view history as an evolutionary, always progressing process with a clear direction, is not unique to Fukuyama. In the history of philosophy thinkers like Marx and Hegel occupied themselves with similar ideas.


The consequences of overvaluing our own times as compared to former and future times are visible in various ways, but regarding both the past as well as the future, it is affecting place: our environment. By following the tendency of viewing history as a process of progression it follows that the modern human is placed upon a pedestal. Different philosophers have analysed how this leads to an instrumentalisation of nature, because of the supposed superiority of humans over the rest of the natural world. In addition, an evident consequence of overrating our own times above future times can be seen in the total absence of concern for the interests of future generations, which are never taken into consideration by anyone, apart from ethicists. This explains our complete disregard for ecological concerns, giving future generations a hard time.
The previous gives us a better understanding of the way ideas are born. If we would have a more informed conception of the way our views and knowledge originate from discourse, it might lead us to having more humble views and making more modest claims regarding our own opinions, ideas and knowledge. Which could only improve human cohabitation.


Social gathering & Performance & Exhibition