Distant paradise
Views 7 June 2016


Taking as their starting point images that depict the tangible reality of man-made wastelands, Wilmes & Mascaux probe the transience (or the pretension) of a civilization whose abuse of the natural world does not speak in its favor. As part of their project, they have “scanned” the memory of chaotic landscapes in Mexico, Europe, Quebec, the U.S.A. and Australia. In margin of the world, these landscapes form entities folded up on themselves, given up, forgotten, lost, far from all, in rupture with time. Life is motionless, time stopped or temporarily suspended.

On site, surrounding sound details, descriptive narrations, video and photographic surveys have been collected. These “samples” are connected in installations. The interaction of sound, visual and narrative images create a new imaginary site. The project has been presented since 1995 in museums, galleries, video festivals, art fairs, in Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Quebec, Australia and the USA.

Wilmes & Mascaux met in Mexico City where they were living in the 1980s. Back in Brussels, where they currently work, they began their collaboration as a visual artist duo in the mid 1990s.


  • The sheriff drives by at the wheel of his F150. He slows, raises his Ray-Bans a fraction and hits the gas. The Border Patrol follows the Chevy with plastic sheeting. After the turn, two Chryslers form a roadblock. Cops appear out of nowhere and draw their guns. "KEEP QUIET – HANDS UP– DON'T MOVE"
  • An enormous American flag flutters in the wind in front of a long silver trailer on concrete blocks. Not a soul. Not a tree. The dry earth flies up and whirls. Tumbleweeds pile up against the dried-out carcass of a pickup. A skin-and-bones dog sprawls in the sun. A radio crackles Norteño music.
  • No man's land. Barbed wire fence. A road for the Border Patrol. More barbed wire – the I-10. Projects surrounded by walls. Sports grounds Barbed wire fences huge avenues highway access roads. Wastelands. Villas with yards. Miles of walls. The sirens are sounding alert level 3. The shield won't hold any longer. With each acid rain all inhabitants must retreat to underground shelters.
  • A protective wall around fifteen identical red-brick houses. They're organized in rows within a grid of roads and gardens. On the other side of Tennyson Drive a guard sitting in a plastic booth monitors fifteen more identical white plaster houses.
  • Trapped inside paperweights, tiny green figures wait at the controls of their flying saucers. Plastic, fluorescent rubber and fluffy coloured Ets overflow from open cardboard boxes. A huge rabbit with gigantic ears stands motionless in front of the barbed wire. You can find the Jack Rabbit at Exit 219 of the I-10. 60 miles south of Phoenix and 40 miles north of Tucson.
  • A mysterious dome of silence swallows all sound. Suffocates sound. Words resound, echoless… Two hundred people live in one square kilometre and all is quiet. A fence. A booth. Soldiers. Von Braun's V2. Missiles. A Nike Ajax. A few old Scud missiles painted with rust inhibitor and patched up with polyester. Three Patriot missiles. Some smaller ones. A battery to simulate war.
  • To the right of the road. A farmer in blue overalls crouches in the middle of a field. He aims his .22 at a mole hole. Ready to shoot.
  • Tijuana, 15 March. Mexican side. A couple of Guatemalans stand in front of the corrugated barrier. Watch the helicopters that circle over the border. US side. Regulars jump over the fence in a single bound. Crawl underneath like foxes. Zigzag in a crouch from one bush to another.