Pancho Westendarp's drawings, videos and sculpture seek to analyze relationships between time, space and memory.
Westendarp’s work subverts societal constructions of time by reformulating these time representations in ways that don’t standardize human experience under the same circumstances. He says, “Developing our own way of measuring time means creating our own notion of history and developing new rituals where time can be practical and playful, where faith and mechanics can interact, where procedures can become purposeless and where movement is not understood by distance traveled but by the change of a state of mind.”
Defined as an area of land under the jurisdiction of a ruler or state and delineated by legal and cartographic means using laws, maps, surveys, logbooks, photographs, etc. a territory is governed by a set of rules that allow for what activities are allowed in that space and establishes a framework for ownership of that space. While “categorization of space is practical and useful”, says Westendarp, it never automatically creates or reveals a sense of place or more importantly a belongingness to that place.
Humans inherently add or attach meanings and identities to unfamiliar phenomena, in this case, a landscape, to help them understand it, navigate it and eventually to have a sense of ownership and control of it. Westendarp contends that, “this idea of ownership of a place by claiming it as a territory is an illusion…” and that this type of contractual ownership is not a true ownership at all. To truly own a space, Westendarp says, “To become part of a place, means to be part of the natural system inherent to that place.”
On a personal level, when each of us encounters a space unfamiliar to us we automatically, without thinking or noticing, impose structures and categories to help us navigate that space. Our personal imposition of the familiar onto the unfamiliar reveals much about our inner selves. If we remove these structures and categories from their intended purposes we are left with a personal inner territory without a person. Westendarp likens this inner territory to a ghost. So that the intellectual tools or mental images we use to navigate, identify and own space are like, “ghosts with no territory.” Westendarp thinks of these ghosts with no territory as images in an intermediate state that are rich with metaphorical potential. His work uses these images as metaphors for how we establish, define and own a territory; develop a sense of place and understand the essence of belonging.
For Westendarp, memory is not a file of recollections but a series of events from our past that relate to each other and that can help us to understand our present. In this sense our past is always connecting with our present and, in the same way, our future is completed by our past. The decisions we make based on previous experiences determine part of our future. In general, we keep track of the highlights of our lives, birthdays, graduations, births, deaths, etc. because they have stronger effects on the quality of our lives. It is the mundane, over-looked seemingly unrelated events that happen in between these larger events that Westendarp uses to question social constructs of marking time and meaning in our lives. He says, “We recall time and set marks in our past to track down our history, but in between these points, there are several events that pass unperceived because they don’t seem to belong to a chain of actions and consequences that links directly with an important moment.”