Power, Lust, and Zinc

The industrial landscape and the myth of Moresnet

4 September till 12 December 2021

The land on which we live contains great wealth. South Limburg's borders, communities and landscapes were, and are, being drawn and designed by the mineral wealth that happens to lie beneath our feet. The element and material called zinc has a dull and grey appearance. However, a brilliant history full of coincidences and lasting influences lies beneath the surface

Zinc is a silent witness of the developments that demonstrate how much influence one individual can have on the history of a metropolis, a great industry, an empire. The metal was the crux of diplomatic struggles, ground political disputes, the European ambition for unification, the earliest examples of product placement, the fears and hopes of a community. In short: the exhibition brings together an almost mythical collection of stories. 

For this exhibition, Bureau Europa has collaborated with many partners and institutions in the Meuse-Rhine Euregion. The expo therefore not only tells the stories from the past, but also connects them to the present. A modern-day perspective sheds light on our borders, use of materials, and industrial innovations. 

The ambassadress with the golden hair Fanny Mosselman, daughter of the director of the largest zinc company in Europa, Vieille Montagne, used her connections well in 19th-century Paris. The result was a landscape of zinc covering the French capital's rooftops. She was a familiar sight at the fashionable salons and she had passionate affairs with people in high places. She was able to enter the inner circle of emperor Napoleon III, whom we today remember best for his grand renovation of Paris, envisioned by the Baron Haussmann. All the famous boulevars with their stately appartment palaces that we automatically picture when we think of Paris were built during his reign - complete with a zinc roof. The zinc itself, it goes without saying, came from Fanny's father's mines, in the little Belgian village of Kelmis.

The fourth country at the Three-Country Point Zinc was considered the most important building material of the future. Most zinc was won at the ancient zinc mines in Kelmis, today in Belgium. The ground was so rich, that border disputes arose between the two neighbouring countries who wouldn't dream of the other having even a tiny morsel of it. When the borders of Europe are re-drawn after Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, a new country is designed around the zinc mine at the Three-Country Point: a diplomatic emergency solution if ever there was one. The microstate Neutral Moresnet, however, although intended, quickly developed its own identity and dreams of independence. It even designed its own language!

The zinc violet Today, there isn't much in that little strip of Belgium between Liege and Kelmis that reminds you of the once fabled zinc industry. Neutral Moresnet is no longer, the mines are closed, the factories moved away. Landscapes have been restored, but with a zinc legacy: the soil in the Euregion is poisoned by heavy metals. A disaster for a lot of plant life, but it is also the only habitat for a unique little flower, the zinc violet. New nature arises thanks to old industry. At the same time, people fear the return of this industry and a repeat of the entire history. What does this mean for our future? 

In the exhibition Power, Lust, and Zinc, we bring together historical documents and modern installations to tell a layered story. With a scenography by Dear Hunter, and works by photographers Irmel Kamp and Filippo Ciriani, art by Ulrike Rehm and Beate Reinheimer (RaR), published by Thomas Eyck. 

Guided tours (in Dutch) will be held on:

  • Saturday 18 September, 1pm
  • Saturday 2 October, 1pm
  • Saturday 23 October, 1pm
  • Saturday 27 November, 3pm
  • Sunday 12 December, 1pm

Please register via info@bureau-europa.nl 


Curator Remco Beckers | SupervisiON Floor van Spaendonck | Scenography Remy Kroese en Marlies Vermeulen (Dear Hunter) | Spatial design Dear Hunter, Joëlle Martin & Frida Stillman | Graphic design Janneke Janssen en Lyanne Polderman | Production Ilona van den Brekel | Research assistant Joachim Meeusen | Texts Remco Beckers | Translation JLC Coburn | PR Yongbloed | Construction Reinier van der Meer, Fran Hoebergen, Charlotte Koenen, Daniël de Jong, Emanuel Riksen | Video edit Ron Ramaekers 

With collaboration and works by Brouwers Zink | Filippo Ciriani | Stefan Cools | Einstein Telescope | Thomas Eyck | Gemeente Maastricht | IKOB, Eupen (B) | Irmel Kamp | Maison de la Métallurgie et de l’Industrie, Luik (B) | Museum Vieille Montagne, Kelmis (B) | Museum Zinkhütter Hof, Stolberg (D) | NedZink | Ulrike Rehm & Beate Reinheimer (RaR) | Rijksarchief te Eupen (B) | Rijksarchief te Luik (B) | De Zinkmeesters

Special thanks to Roger Baltus | Beeld & Geluid | John Brouwers | Tom Cremer | Fred Dijs | Arjen van Gerwen | Brenda Guesnet | Dionne Hendriks | Els Herrebout | Ernst Homburg | Dirk van de Leemput | Pascal Lefèbvre | Nikhef | Martine Oudenhoven | Agnes Paulissen | Fam. Pauquet | Arnaud Péters | Elena Marcos | Omayra Mingels | Joes Minis | Servé Minis| Joachim Moreau | Johannes Mussehl | Céline Ruess | Martijn Rumpen | Universala Esperanto Asocio | Very Contemporary | Jarno van Wely | Sebastian Wenzler | Roel van de Wetering

Bureau Europa is generously supported by the City of Maastricht, the Province of Limburg, and the Stimulation Fund for the Creative Industries.

Brouwers Zink, NedZink, and De Zinkmeesters have enthusiastically contributed to this exhibition with materials, know-how, and assembly.

Opening of Power, Lust, and Zinc on Saturday 4 September (photos: Moniek Wegdam)

Impression of Power, Lust, and Zinc (photos: Willemijn Doelman)

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