Message from Quarantine Island, nr 1, Mels Dees

Mels Dees, Terschelling, March 26, 2020

So, here we are.
Only three weeks ago we arrived on this small island just north of Holland, for a short holiday. In hindsight, it looks like a different era, a different world far, far away from here. Yes, some people had been infected in our country then, but it did not look very serious. Now, virtually all tourists have left the island, the entire country is in virtual lockdown, international travel has come to a standstill and a quiet panic has descended on us all, like invisible snow.

empty beach Terschelling
Empty beach, Terschelling

After the two weeks’ holiday we had originally planned were over, we decided to stay on the island a bit longer. Our hometown of Eindhoven, where we also have our studios, is quite close to some of the hotbeds of the Dutch epidemic, and we felt that we were safer and could do more work if we stayed put. We couldn’t stay in the same cottage, so we moved to a new place, a few kilometers away, close to the beach.

at least 125 m distance between us
At least 125 m apart….

The holiday cottage is in a small park, and we are the only guests. But it is light and warm, and there are no distractions at all – apart from the terrific surroundings. We both are working now – drawing, designing stuff on the computer etc. I had some plans for our trip – finish writing some articles, make new work. I managed to bring our private blog more or less up to date (have a look at – there’s also a lot about SPAR and Saint Petersburg). But after the virus intervened I changed plans.

Mels at work on the Nature cube, Marielle practising her calligraphy

Marielle came up with an invitation to contribute to the Nature Art Cube project at the Geumgang Biennale in Korea. The idea was to create a work about Nature, measuring no more than 12 x 12 x 12 cm. Nature is central to both our art practices (in a very different way) and it was nice to work on such small a scale again. By the way: the call for work is still open – till the end of April, I believe (

Terschelling Corona Times
Marielle’s contribution to ArtNatureCube
Ecce Homo
Mels’ contribution to ArtNatureCube

My main plan for our time on Quarantine Island (we plan to stay till April 16 or maybe even longer) will be to expand and rework the Reconstructivism book I did a few years ago at SPAR. Publish a new or reconstructed page every few days and, if necessary, have it translated at SPAR. Maybe in a format that is easy to print so everybody can make his own book – and other artists could even publish a response page if they feel like it. For example:

New Page for Reconstructivism – no translation necessary

I have to find out how to publish in a format that could be printed in a reasonable quality, but that will follow later. In the mean time, our pristine island is partially invaded by images from our past residency in SPB.

  1. Liza Ordinartceva

    Wow, Mels, thanks for sharing! This island looks like a perfect isolation place right now, not only, but especially for art projects! But how is it connected to the mainland? By bridge or ferry? Are you there with a car? How many locals normally leave there? All good with necessity supplies, I hope?

  2. Mels Dees

    Hey Liza! How are you? In Holland we get the official data about the Corona situation in Russia (nothing to worry about, mr. P. will take care of you all for the next decade or two) but that does not take away all of our fears and suspicions… Marielle’s blog (to be published presently) may answer some of your own questions.
    I’ll provide some unadorned facts:
    Terschelling is about er… 20 km from the mainland. The ferry takes almost 2 hours to get there, and yes, we took our car with us. But we rented bicycles to do our shopping and explore the island. I think there are only 5.000 people actually living here – however, in summer there must be tens of thousands of tourists. We visit Terschelling regularly, but only in spring or autumn, when it is relatively quiet. But there are some supermarkets, a nice lighthouse, a flotsam museum and miles and miles of dunes, woods and beaches.

    1. Liza Ordinartceva

      We are as fine as we could be in currect situation 🙂 Most of us, I guess, are in expectation mode trying to prepare oneselves for the inevitable changes.

      Looking forward to Marielle’s post!

  3. Avatar photo
    Anastasia Patsey

    Thanks for sharing an insight on your creative quarantine, Mels! The place looks amazing. I think you’re lucky to be self isolating at such a beautiful location. It’s precious to have the opportunity to go outside. Did you make the second photo from a drone? Say hi to Mariëlle!

  4. Avatar photo
    Anastasia Patsey

    Also the last image — is it a digital collage or a photo of your fridge? 🙂

  5. Mels Dees

    Hey Anastasia,

    yes, we feel we’re quite lucky – very little worries, lots of fresh air and little risk of catching the big C. But we realize it won’t last forever. We think that within a week or two the Dutch government may decide to remove all visitors from the islands – just because the medical infrastructure is not up to the Corona pandemic. However, things seem to be looking up: the number of patients in the Netherlands is not growing as fast as it used to do.
    And yes, I took one of the pictures with a drone – a different one from the drone I used in SPB – I crashed that one in Australia. But very often it is far too windy here to fly drones or kites or whatever.
    The last picture is indeed a collage – we took all our fridge magnets to Holland, as a prize. You must have noticed we left the fridge in P-10.
    We both wish all of you good luck in SPB and hope the white nights will dispel all thoughts of viruses…

    1. Avatar photo
      Anastasia Patsey

      Dear Mels,
      I hope everything will be fine and your island may stay an island of peace in this craziness. Looking forward to the pages and sneak peaks from your book!


    Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
    Appreciate it

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