Arcadia often refers to a place of rustic innocence and simple, quiet pleasure. It evokes the idea of an idyllic pastoral dream where life is both happy and wholesome. This idea often implies that the past, another past, is a better alternative to the present. It is often associated with nostalgia and the idea that our distant past is a model to which we should aspire. As such, it never encompasses the brutal events, colonisation, war, discrimination, social inequality, racism, xenophobia, patriarchal values and so on, that were part of the creation of our idyllic past. Memory has an amazing ability to blur, transform, erase what we don’t want to know or remember while illuminating the savoury part of our past.
Nostalgia is the unholy sister of Arcadia. First-born and full of its prerogatives, not to be trusted but powerful enough to be respected. Its murky past buried and carefully curated into an empty “memory” of bygone bliss fondly remembered and longed for, creates a glossy and sanitised picture. This image doesn’t bear witness to reality and anybody dissenting with its values will be made to disappear and join the hidden skeletons in the closet, the concealed “Barbe Bleue” bodies that had to go in order to allow for these snapshots of seemingly harmless innocence.
This series refers to this forgetful embellishing process that we love so much as it allows us to never question ourselves and have a rosy tinted vision of our past. The works appear to conform to this process of artful beautification but the vintage quality of these snapshots is undermined by a diffuse feeling that there is much more that meets the eye in these works, a notion that fills us with unease and interrogation.
In that respect, Arcadia is intrinsically linked to our colonial past and our ongoing refusal to see its consequences lingering in our contemporary societies. Yet, it also reveals that the World, man, and life have a supernatural origin and history, that this history is significant and that we need to refer to it as a way of making sense of the times we are living in.