Dekeyzer Chantilly

At the request of the Charles V 2000 organizing committee, Carl De Keyzer (°1958), Magnum photographer from Ghent, has produced a series of photographs which will be presented in exhibition and book form.

Photographs expose structures. Photographs link elements, inspire new stories and pose new questions. Transience, history, tradition, historical awareness: these are the focal points that help evoke the vestiges of Charles V’s world and the old EVROPA.

The title of this project is EVROPA. Carl De Keyzer spent 1998-99 travelling throughout much of Western Europe. He portrays life in the cities and provincial towns and made a point of looking for examples of how the sixteenthcentury had left its mark. Tangible reminders of the past are dotted around the townscape, but they are also found in all kinds of stage-managed events, mass spectacles and commemorations. The report’s itinerary leads through the European territory of the vast empire acquired by Charles V in the sixteenth century. Charles V ruled over the Netherlands, he was King of Spain and Germany, King of Naples and he ruled in Milan (Italy). Complex family and marriage ties meant that his power and influence extended across the Hapsburg kingdom (Germany, Austria), Hungary and Bohemia. During his reign, the ‘conversion’ of the New World underwent uninterrupted expansion. Thus Mexico and Peru were added to the territory conquered by Spain. Carl De Keyzer took Charles V’s itinerary as his guide. His photographs provide a meticulous account of all the Emperor’s journeys – the man was almost constantly on the move for forty years. A selection of these photographs was made for a new and visual itinerary. Given that little concrete evidence has survived, and such an inventorization of the sixteenth-century would in any case not be very meaningful, Carl De Keyzer opted for a personal and subjective approach to the subject, interpreting it in the broad sense, so as to arrive at a contemporary travel account with visual reflections of (how people today view) the past.

Carl De Keyzer succeeds like no other in capturing the transience of power and greatness, of glamour and bombast in a poignant and subversive way, be it somewhere to the East of Eden or in the many antechambers of churches and religions – to quote just two examples from his oeuvre. The Charles V commemoration sets out to stimulate reflection about the past. What remains of the legacy the powerful Hapsburg Empire left us five hundred years ago? What has become of the places that were once symbols of a world power? How do people today see that great past? "At the end of the millennium European countries are very much more aware of their past and their cultural identity," Carl De Keyzer explains. "We feel the need to stand out and to acquire a distinctive image. There is hardly a historic city centre anywhere that has not been restored. The city and its past are used as bait for tourism and to boost local pride. Despite the ideal of European unification, the city has once again become the paradigm of our identity." Notwithstanding this tendency to want to stand out, some things remain unchanged. According to Carl De Keyzer, certain forms of behaviour, recreation and customs typical of the sixteenth century have crossed borders. "After travelling in Spain for a while, I came to the conclusion that there is still a great deal of Spanish blood circulating in Flanders. I found some reactions and social conventions almost palpably recognizable. I often had that feeling in Germany, too. A legacy of Charles V?"

All exhibitions
Become a Friend of S.M.A.K.
made by