7 July 2012

Serge Verheugen - Lovegun

Steel, hardwood, 7 x 7 x 5 meter, 2002.

Fort Vijfhuizen is one in a series of a few dozen forts, making up an abandoned early 20th century line of defence around Amsterdam, Holland. The whole line is now on the UNESCO World Inheritance list, and new uses, like wine cellars or restaurants are being found for the old forts. This particular one will be an art-fort, with studios, exhibition spaces, artists in residence and a bar.
The fort, or rather the whole line, has never seen any action; when it was needed in the second world war, weaponry had evolved so far it could actually fly, who would ever have thought? So all the work had been for nothing. For nothing? Well, not entirely. The Germans, after wiping out the Dutch army, said thank you very much and converted the forts into munitions storage facilities and the like for their own use. They blew up the existing outdated Dutch guns and replaced them with new German ones. In the end, they were the only guns ever fired on the Dutch line; against the Dutch and their allies…

After decades without actual foreign invasions, a deserted concrete 7 ft high German gun-carriage now becomes the home of the latest in Dutch Defensive Thinking (DDT), the LOVEGUN.
The gun is made from a galvanised steel frame, clad with wood. The barrel is 16 ft long and is heart-shaped, just as the shield at the base of the barrel. It stands in a beautiful green marshy cow-field and is aimed at a new housing development in the distance. The public is encouraged to carve the names of themselves and their lovers in the wood of the LOVEGUN, thus charging the gun with love and supplying the ammunition that will finally bring action to the Dutch fort in the true DDT-fashion.

The site is fairly remote and often closed and is therefore a favourite hangout for local juveniles, who climb the fence and wonder around. The almost natural behaviour of carving texts, names and teenage-crushes into anything carve-able, is here being incorporated in the sculpture. The kids who would otherwise be called vandals, now become artists…


An all but forgotten chapter of the Spanish Civil War, tearing up the Iberian peninsula during the thirties of the twentieth century, deals with the exploits of the both genius and controversial engineer general Juan Ernesto De Dorssa. This rather sensitive soldier stemmed from a long line of aristocrat army officers. In his circles, serving your country in the formidable Spanish army, was considered to be both a duty and an honour. The De Dorssa family were keen shots and had a special bond with the heavy field artillery unit, and over generations had designed numerous improvements on the Spanish guns.

When he was forced into what in his view was a hopeless war, his conscience soon caught up with him. The idea of hurling high-explosive shells towards his countrymen and -women was absolutely out of the question. He began a series of experiments to develop new shells, that didn’t rely on distributing death and destruction, but used other means for disabling enemy forces. During WWI both sides had tested various types of gasses. Aim was to deploy big clouds of gas, thus enthralling big stretches of enemy lines, rendering large groups of soldiers unable to fight. Because the effect of these gasses was to cause nausea, burns, or worse, it made them unsuited for De Dorssa’s purposes, but the concept of leaving large groups temporarily unfit to fight, by means of one big salvo, fitted the general’s needs to a tee.

Maybe it was his Latin temperament, that drove him on to a revolutionary new path in ammunition development. The world of ESOTERICS became his studied subject for charging his new line of shells. Scents, hormones, pheromones, fireworks and various types of smoking tobacco were tested for their potency in battle. From experience, De Dorssa knew well the feeling of absolute joy and subsequent helplessness, that love and sexual arousal induced in people. And so after some small successes with his experimental fillings, the big breakthrough came with the use of APHRODISIACS.

Some decades earlier, the British lieutenant-engineer W.H.Livens had shaped old drums into a crude type of mortar, with which he could successfully hurl canisters filled with various substances, at enemy lines. Soon De Dorssa realised these so-called ‘Livens-projectors’ were very suitable for his experiments. These simple guns could deliver his Aphrodisiac-filled shells with a high degree of accuracy onto enemy lines.

General Juan De Dorssa worked with a small group of very loyal trustees on a secret gunning range. To this day the exact formulas remain unknown, but the outcome of his experiments have been well documented. “Don Juan”, as the general was known, became a mythical name in enemy cities.
The “baby boom” was a frequently observed phenomenon, nine months after even small De Dorssa attacks. The term “baby boom” even stems from this time, when it was used among foreign fighters to warn each other for an upcoming De Dorssa salvo.

Evil tongues claim the stories of this special type of shell, were the biggest persuader for especially artists from other nations to enlist in the Spanish Civil War.

Mind-blowing are the accounts of wild orgies in besieged cities. But a suddenly shifting wind could also blow the aphrodisiac-cloud back into friendly lines. With counterproductive consequences. The events during a memorable battle, lead by a De Dorssa salvo, are recorded by Earnest Hemingway, in a chapter of his novel ‘For whom the bell tolls’, which was unfortunately later edited out, due to the graphic nature of the account. The self-proclaimed model-heterosexual Hemingway, somewhat disgustedly, paints the picture of “…a horrible scene of fornicating soldiers, young and old, undistinguished by ranks…in a what seems to be insatiable mating-anxiety…draped over guns and onto trench walls…including the rusted points of barbed-wire fences into their masochistic love-games…For three days and nights we couldn’t sleep for the fearsome cries of ecstasy, coming from the trenches below…with all imaginable consequences…”

The before mentioned baby boom, often witnessed after a big battle or bombing, was long since attributed to the aphrodisiacal effect of fatty gunpowder fumes, but since the 9-11 attacks spawned exactly the same effect nine months after the event, there is now room for speculation. Rumour has it, that De Dorssa’s secret recipes have fallen into the hands of terrorists, the hippie-movement, military powers, party-organisers and even catholic groups…

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