No one would have believed – Niemand zou hebben geloofd – Personne n’aurait cru

Wendy Morris and Runo Lagomarsino

No one would have believed is an exhibition that brings art, popular culture and politics together. It focusses on the work by two contemporary artists, Wendy Morris and Runo Lagomarsino, that rethinks the legacy of colonialism and science fiction, departing from the work of Brazilian born artist Henrique Alvim Corrêa (1876-1910), best known for his astonishing illustrations for The War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells.

The exhibition is curated by Fernanda Pitta and Laurens Dhaenens.

Alvim Corrêa, who was living and working in Brussels, illustrated the limited luxury French edition of HG Wells’ novel that was published in Jette by L. Vandamme in 1906. The drawings gave a powerful image to the futuristic narrative that details the invasion of earth by a more technologically developed society, the Martians. Wells wrote The War of the Worlds at a time when the British Empire had already colonized most of Africa for its resources. Provocatively, the author saw an analogy between the science fiction and the history of colonialism, giving the book a strong political subtext. In the introduction, he briefly imagined how imperial Britain might one day come under attack from a race that is as mystifyingly cruel and technologically powerful as the British colonialists must have appeared to the Tasmanian aboriginals. Correa´s drawings visualize Wells´ dystopia, creating a repertoire of creatures, machines and landscapes that provoke because of their mix of cartoonish humor, fin-de-siècle terror and decadent sensuousness. Correa´s uncanny inventions are landmarks of Science-fiction imagery that have resonated vividly in Pop culture.

The work by Wendy Morris, a South African born artist, and Runo Lagomarsino, a Swedish born artist to exiled Argentinian parents, take Correa’s drawings as a point of departure to reflect on topics of colonialism, exploration/invasion, and the relationship between science and fiction. They invite the public to think about the persistence of colonial narratives and knowledge in our daily lives, and sheds light on the creative processes of historiography and science. Created during the COVID-19 crisis, the exhibition also addresses the “unbelievable” that is happening today, asking the public to consider the possibilities of a different present and another future – that are inextricably linked with a new vision of the past. In other words, it invites the public to create his, hers or theirs own science fiction.