Ulrike OTTINGER [english] > Exhibitions > Brussels Biennial

Brussels Biennial

Diamond Dance

World-wide links existed long before the word globalization was common currency. Of course journeys in King Solomon's days took years or even decades, but different cultures did meet, and goods, knowledge, technology and religious, philosophical or artistic ideas were exchanged and transferred.

Diamonds from India glittered even on King Solomon's throne, and migrated through the centuries from there. They were stolen, given away, sold, carried off as booty and found their way back on to priceless works of art. They decorated goblets and Saracen swards, Thora shrines and gospel books, they adorned altars and icon frames and garments, belonged to emperors, satraps, pirates or merchants, beautiful women, robbers and dictators.


Diamonds' migrations through the epochs and all their changing scenes of war, danger, triumph, concealment and annihilation, form a parallel with the itinerant people in my screenplay. I have been researching, collecting and taking photographs for this screenplay since the early eighties in 
the diamond centres of the world, in New York, Hong Kong, Bombay or Antwerp. I visited the diamond districts in these cities, with their diamond exchanges, shops and diamond clubs.

Pelicanstraat is for Antwerp what 47th Street, or formerly Canal Street, is for New York. A glance at the architecture of these places tells you a great deal. 47th Street has Art Deco buildings that use diamonds in their décor for façades, interiors or even elevators. It also has a building that looks as though it has been brought here from the Herengracht, Canal Street has a piece of Cubist architecture from Prague, and there is a tiled Portuguese house, a "Casa de Azulechos", in Bombay. They tell us about where the architects came from, and their desire to resurrect the old within the new, about the exciting story of people who have been linked world-wide for a long time, their migrations and their cultures, carried with them like heavy cases.

What do we take with us of our old culture when we have to 
go to a new country? What becomes more important, what is forgotten, what is diluted or strengthened, what is new in the old or old in the new?

Ulrike Ottinger