Newsletter Summer 2008
Summer 2008

Art in Focus: Red Calico

Contemporary artist Roy Villevoye, whose exhibition Detours is on show at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen this Summer, on his installation Red Calico (2000): ‘Since time immemorial the Asmat people of Papua, now a province of Indonesia, have walked around naked. In the course of the 20th century clothing was gradually introduced by visitors from abroad. To this day, items of clothing are highly valuable and costly items for the Asmat people. They can attain them only as gifts or by buying them from Indonesian settlers with money earned through arduous physical labour for them.

Roy Villevoye, Red Calico, installation, 2000
Roy Villevoye, Red Calico, installation, 2000

I was amazed at how the Asmat customised their own clothing: it has something remarkable and unique and entirely integrated within their culture. Do the rips and cuts relate to their traditional scarifications? Is it a form of showing-off or a protest against the (clothing) prescriptions of the Indonesians who now rule the area? Or is there something else going on?

I decided to collect several of these customised T-shirts. So that my choice would not be influenced by my own taste, I collected the T-shirts only on the first day of my visit to a village. As such, all the T-shirts displayed here are authentic and were customised for their own use without my intervention.’