Fiction and its layered construction are at the basis of Juliacks’ work, which takes the form of books, films, theatre, performance, installations, paintings and comics.  She creates narratives that unite, divide and perform themselves through the interweaving of mediums, cultures and time. Her stories touch upon social-cultural issues such as the denial of death, the quagmire of naturalization, and the construction of conflict, memory and belief.

The audience interacts with the work on several levels—literal, symbolic, visual, aural—sometimes simultaneously, at times sequentially, referencing not only the contemporary context but also artistic predecessors and archetypal elements. Suzanne Sanders, as art historian and curator/producer assists Juliacks in her curatorial process and provides contextual research and translations of archival resources.

The Antecedents / Transversal Scepters

Throughout the various expressions of this project, archival material is used as a zone of prison ether and referencing the cultural heritage of explosive Dutch economy in the early 1600’s, and creates an immersive installation and exhibition.  Using historical landmarks like the Haarlem weigh house (De Waag, KZOD) dating from the sixteenth century, archival material from the early 1600’s and original blueprints of the now demolished tuchthuis as a kind of complete set, a psycho transhistorical narrative film references the very first prisoners of the Haarlem Tuchthuis in the setting of the explosive economy of the early Dutch Republic, and their uprising.

The Tuchthuis

The ‘house of corrections,’ designed after the ideals of the humanist renaissance scholar Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert who published his seminal work ‘Boeventucht’ in 1584 in his hometown Haarlem, was unique as also being a workhouse for the poor. The scene is being explored through the historical figure of one the supposd ‘first prisoners of Haarlem’ called Jan Gilissen (or Jan Jeliszn) who, according to the Haarlem judicial records:

Jan Gillissen was a linen weaver by training, who embarked upon the career of self-appointed preacher, but his religious opinions are not revealed. He was banished three times and didn’t receive a prison sentence until his 4th arrest. In the tuchthuis he behaved quietly for almost two years, but toward the end of 1612, four other prisoners threw the first prison uprising, and Jan Gillissen followed suit-  he decided to work no longer and severely damaged his weaving loom. In January of the next year, when the judges visited the house to determine penalties for the obstinate, he had obtained a knife and stabbed a court servant in the neck. The judges condemned Jan Gillissen to death.” [1]

In the Noord-Holland Regional arrchives we found that several of Jan’s fellow inmates, Pieter Jacobsz, otherwise called Goeluck, Arijs Janss, Barthelmees Corneliss and Pieter Jacobsz of Delft, were being held responsible to have staged what might be the first ever documented prison uprising taking place during January, 1613, only ten days before Gillissen’s act of revolt.

This archival research trajectory has led us into a history of forced labor and imprisonment as punishment that began in Europe as a corollary of the privatization of early modern prisons through a booming textile industry particularly in Haarlem and Amsterdam, also leading to the first Dutch settlements in North America in 1615.

Situating the narrative at the beginning of the Dutch ‘Golden Age’ Juliacks will present a story prism through film, tapestries, comic and an immersive installation portraying the intersections of the historical Dutch prison uprising and a large scale historical prison strike during the fall of 2016 in the United States.  Although being part of an entirely different cultural and moral framework, US correction officials are not unlike Dutch seventeenth-century sources, stating that programs are currently “geared towards rehabilitation, preparing those incarcerated with skills they’ll need once they’re released” while prisoners claim to be victims of a failing system of criminal justice and institutionalized slavery, risking their lives by going on strike.[2]


Seeking further co-creational collaborations Transversal Scepters seeks to break new ground both artistically and curatorially by creating a Gesammtkunstwerk involving first and foremostly the production of a film project, woven tapestries, ceramics, audio and site-specific sculptural work and installations.

The results of the first period of historical and artistic research  will be presented during March 2017 in a dual exhibition taking place at Ornis A. Gallery March 4- April 1 in Amsterdam. and within the context of Haarlemse Lente, festival of contemporary art from 24-26 March in Haarlem. The latter presentation will be at the 17th century weigh house building, a historical witness to the spreading of ideas on ‘Boeventucht’ and the fates of Jan Gillissen and his fellow prisoners at the Spaarne.  Asking more questions than providing answers, parallels between the development of laws and punishment in early modern Europe and colonial America will be dramatized and fictionalized as a means to reflect upon contemporary social-cultural issues while also devising collective transmedia processes that imagine new laws and futures.

[1] From: The Prison Experience: Disciplinary Institutions and Their Inmates … by prof. Pieter Spierenburg [2]  Read more, for instance at  http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-national-strike-against-prison-slavery or see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RjCqn_F9ck


Juliacks – The Antecedentes /Transversal Scepters
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