Maarten Vanden Eynde

The Gadget

2017
Cotton thread, wooden bobbins, acrylic glass cylinder, aluminium frame
140 x 150 x 200 cm

Most of the uranium used in the first atom bombs came from the Shinkolobwe mine in Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo. It was processed in the southern United States and transported to Antwerp by the Belgian businessman Edgar Sengier, the director of Union Minière. A similar route was taken by cotton: slaves coming predominantly from the kingdom of Kongo planted and picked cotton in the southern United States which was then transported to the major weaving mills and bobbin lace industry in Belgium and the rest of Northern Europe. An odd encounter between the highly feminine activity of making bobbin lace and the particularly masculine occupation of making bombs is woven into the tangle of threads in The Gadget.

Ironically, also at the very end, both the history of cotton and uranium are intertwined. At the dawn of the WWII, Japan was one of the mayor cotton producers and traders in the world, even surpassing the UK. Dropping Little Boy on Hiroshima and Fat Man on Nagasaki, the second and third atomic bomb manufactured by the United States as part of the same Manhattan Project that produced The Gadget, heralded a definite end to the cotton empire of Japan.

The Gadget is made in collaboration with Rita Van Cotthem, a highly skilled bobbin lace expert, who spend more than 1000 hours in it's creation. The 300+ wooden bobbins are all unique pairs, making reference to the many hands that facilitated the creation of the first atomic bomb. They are shaped like bullets or bombs and are seemingly radiating in mid air, adding to explosive force of the installation.