Within the usually somber dioramas of Nazi bunkers turned museum on the Atlantic Wall, mannequin officers stand with women’s hairstyles instead of their usual caps and helmets. This surreal scene belies the complex relationships linking present day conflict to wars of the past that Ghost of a Girl puts into play. Each of the hairstyles has been meticulously styled on those of women whose lives have been impacted on by international and civil wars from recent years. These include an Afghan judge, a Kurdish fighter, a Finnish pop singer who was a child refugee from the Gulf War, a Syrian actress and a Nigerian who fled Boko Haram.
While bringing women’s frequently unacknowledged experiences to attention, the intervention draws out lines of influence between historic and present day conflict as a powerful statement that undermines a Eurocentric vision of the World Wars and mediates relationships of power within globalization that are recurrent from the past, including gender, colonialism and economy. Heidi Voet’s intervention sees the officers symbolically take off their hats for these women as a sign of respect.
The work was commissioned for the exhibition Private Tag in Domein Raversyde, Atlantik Wall, Ostend, Belgium