With Settlement, Torenbosch (1982) shows a series of handplaited palm leaf mats that have been transformed into grid-shaped maps.
The maps are the commencement of a larger series of work by Torenbosch that is based on the first pre-colonial theory of hyper-efficient overseas mapping, town planning and building, as proposed by Flemish/Dutch mathematician and engineer Simon Stevin (1548 – 1620). This mapping set the foundation for strategic settlements of trade that later became the blueprint for the Dutch overseas expansion.
In the late 16th century, Stevin proposed his idea of the ideal city: the settlement should start on paper with a rectangular outline, with squares and rectangles representing quarters that should be cut out and arranged in order to create the most efficient situation for trade and labour. He later became an advisor to the Dutch West and East India Companies and the private teacher of Maurice of Nassau, who gave him the
opportunity to develop a building plan that eventually secured the Dutch trading
monopolies around the world.
Within these works, Torenbosch has implemented Stevin’s theory of efficient mapping into plaited mats made from dried klapperboom leaves (palm leaves) produced in the Jabodetabek area (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi). The hand-plaited mats have been reshaped into Stevin’s conception of the earliest Batavia city plan by a digital laser-cutter, a machine normally used for the production of vector graphic
plotting and urban planning miniatures. Each object embodies a district conveying individual, formal eccentricities of that time, but as a group they present a generalized appearance of the city during the mid-17th century. Torenbosch’s work is concerned with abstract socio-economic and political phenomena,
and how these intangible relationships can be translated into the aesthetic realm. Using commonplace materials and functional objects, he questions the contemporary set of conventions regarding artistic representation and appropriation.