Jointly developed by M HKA and the KU Leuven, this long-term, interdisciplinary research project focuses on a specific, yet complex body of work; multifaceted and variably installable, unfinished and open-ended: Ship of Fools / The Dockers' Museum (2010-2013) by artist and theorist Allan Sekula (1951-2013). Informed by the research of the team members, the project continues to evolve in a succession of research outputs, such as this digital platform.

About the '/'

Sekula had a clear opinion on the interrelation between Ship of Fools and The Dockers' Museum: whenever he made The Dockers' Museum quantitatively prevail over Ship of Fools, then the title of the overall display should be The Dockers' Museum. Whenever the Ship of Fools photographs were greater in quantity than The Dockers' Museum objects, the exhibition should be entitled Ship of Fools.

When I [Hilde Van Gelder] mused in an interview at his home on the fifth of June 2013 –which sadly turned out to be the last one– that "the project started out with Ship of Fools, which it then still was indeed..." he immediately replied: "and which it could be again."

He wrote in reply to Bart De Baere's request about the relationship between the Ship of Fools photographs and The Dockers' Museum objects:

1.         sometimes my photos might be there and sometimes not

2.         the photos could be captions for the objects, or the objects could be captions for the photos [emphasis in original]

It was therefore decided in June 2013 to add a slash –with a space before and after it– to the project's overarching title. Ship of Fools and The Dockers' Museum are two separate compounds, but there is a well-oiled hinge between these two groups of works: in an open and variable way, they engage in a continuous dialogue.

Extract from Allan Sekula. Ship of Fools / The Dockers' Museum, edited by Hilde Van Gelder, 2015, Leuven University Press, p. 76.