Friday 7 June I went to Tent, a contemporary art space in Rotterdam with a focus on Rotterdam based art, to join the manifestation: Less is more, more or less.
The central theme of the manifestation was the collecting and de-collecting of art in public space and continues with an exhibition; case studies by the artists/architects; Sarah van Sonsbeeck, Saskia Noor van Imhoff, Yasser Ballemans, Lilith Ronner van Hooijdonk, The Force of Freedom, Witte van Hulzen & Sander Breure and is on show from 7 till 16 June.
While travelling by train to Rotterdam an article in Spits, a handout newspaper, got my attention. It was about the times of glory when the artist’s colony Ruigoord started by the Provo’s in July 1973 and how its transformed today. While in the past artists were living and working together in Ruigoord, the atmosphere today has changed; ‘now people are less collaborative’, I read in the article. This sentence keeps echoing in my head while I pass by the Starbucks, Albert Heijn To Go and all the other shops in the impressive new central station building, before I enter the city on my way to Tent through the noisy construction area in front.
Central station Rotterdam
The Witte de Withstraat shows a diversity of people and activities this morning and the weather is nice. At the entrance of Tent a warm welcome appears by employees and at 11 o’clock the program starts with the first part out of three. Opinions: What can we know?
At the introduction, Siebe Thissen, head art and public space at the Centre for Visual Art in Rotterdam and one of the initiators of the manifestation points at an article in BK which tells us that in Utrecht over the past 60 years, 313 works were realized in public space with funding and half of these works are disappeared. So 150 are missing, 21 are missing or stolen, 85 are demolished or removed and 44 are totally disappeared. This obviously shows that the city is moving and also the sculptures which inhabit the space. How are we dealing with this process of collecting and de-collecting?
The discussion about art in public space is obviously an actual political discussion based on financial decision making. The Historian Rutger Bregman entered the stage and pointed in his fast, easy and funny speech towards the pessimistic nature of the Dutch society, a nature rooted in paradise which is fueled by an overwhelming nostalgia and lacks future idealism. With his 25 years of age he represented the young generation, a spoiled generation which according to Bregman only wants to act when it looks good on their CV. We have to look at the future, but exactly here he forgets to add his ideas for the future. That the past is fading, well so be it, and he would even not mind a new sort of ‘Iconoclastic Fury’. A speaker like Bergman reminds me that it is an art to speak to an audience which needs more than only good presentation skills.
Philosopher and writer Omar Muñoz Cremers pointed at contemporary culture as imprisoned by its past, as if new technologies scared us and reversed our attention to the past. As an example he pointed at the website Tumblr where youngsters celebrate the aesthetics of the 60-ties, 70-ties and 80-ties. The internet which promised new possibilities for future perspectives now looks back and starts to play safe. We forget to ask the question; what exactly are the future perspectives for our urban landscapes and how is art in general going to relate to this?
Zadkine "The Destroyed City", Rotterdam
Art Historian Jan van Adrichem pointed at the diversity of art in public space and the social context being part of the public domain. That for example Zadkine’s sculpture "The Destroyed City", which represents a man without a heart, a memorial to the destruction of the centre of the city Rotterdam in 1940, has maintained a different status over the years. He gave the example of American citizens living in Rotterdam, placing flowers at the sculpture after the horrible 9/11 attacks. He compared the status of the sculpture with the Damsquare monument in Amsterdam and mentioned its role in city branding. He explained that the sculptures in the center of Rotterdam were placed in a line, to give them more attention. They are part of an increasingly, visually, overwhelming environment with commercial expressions.
In the discussion I missed in general the real future perspectives for art in public space. An innovative discussion which dared to go beyond art as an object, a piece on a chessboard, which seems depended from the political climate and the institutional permission to be protected, conserved or stay on its pedestal. That’s why the discussion stayed unfortunately a little official. I missed examples of art that avoids becoming the object of its own existence and especially a discussion about this attitude in art, because it concerns the themes of collecting and de-collecting.
Die Bocht at ‘Het Terbrechtseplein’ a project by Observatorium
As part of the program there were six field trips organized, I signed in for a project of Observatorium. It is an artists group formed by Geert van de Camp, Andre Dekker and Ruud Reutelingsperger, which creates relationships between art, landscape and society. As they state on their website: “We like our artworks to be a common good, to create a sense of place and to be used.” For this project we went to ‘Het Terbrechtseplein’ which is a large flyover where 150.000 vehicles pass by on a daily bases and it connects the city of Rotterdam in several directions.
‘Het Terbrechtseplein’ a project by Observatorium
Under the outdated flyovers, large water reservoirs were realised for periods of heavy rainfall and high levels of ground water. In the same time they tried to improve the urban area as gateway to the city. In one of the large reservoirs the biggest ‘exhibition space’ of Rotterdam is created by Observatorium in collaboration with Annemieke Diekman (landscape architect) and Centre for Visual Art in Rotterdam. The ‘grand hall’ is especially meant for sculptures from the public domain which had to be removed elsewhere.
On the other side a small pool is created surrounded with green. In the water pool a scaled imitation of the flyover is made by Observatorium, unable to reach yet but pointing at a possible future where these large concrete highways in the sky could function as a park or deliver a ‘mountain’ view over the city when the highways are losing its current function. This situation is scheduled to change in about 15 years and will give new opportunities for the whole area.
For now it is clear to me that this impressive site functions mainly as a metaphor and generator for future possibilities under the enthusiastic lead of Observatorium. The sculpture in the water is not more than a marker, if you ask me, which asks attention for this laboratory function on site. For the future I am curious how this project will survive and develop when power structures are going to mention in the visualization and planning of the area. We see local governments who involve artists in areas of decay, but the role of artists in well developed areas is a different one. In other words ‘Het Terbrechtseplein’ project I think is very nice, but I would like to see the same laboratory and freedom for thoughts for the ‘Grand shopping mall’ inside the central station of Rotterdam.
In my opinion the future of art in the public domain should depend on broad ideological questions of today’s society and intervene with ‘share holders’ as visual opposition in the core of society.
Last but not least a talk show was organized where the participating young artists were interviewed about their case studies concerning the theme collecting and de-collecting by Sacha Bronwasser writer/speaker on art and film and Hans van Houwelingen known for his versatile and critical look at art in public space, public life and cultural politics. Sacha Bronwasser started with a compliment in direction of the curator for the selection of the artists, a compliment which I personally have doubts with.
Where the architects Lilith Ronner van Hooijdonk agreed on the fact that collected art in public space is sometimes outdated, their solution would be to bury the art for times to come.
Yasser Ballemans, artist, wants to celebrate the victory of art and suggests dressing up as public sculptures in a carnival parade would be a good idea. Witte van Hulzen & Sander Breure compare art in public spaces with public parks, they laugh, but like real artists they decide to dictate the rules of perception for its visitors by their architecture. Artist Saskia Noor van Imhoff is stuck by the choice between the artistic gesture of form or its visual martial statistics. Where artist Sarah van Sonsbeeck suggests that looking, in remembrance of the removed artwork, at the sky is a fancy thing to do.
The Force of Freedom-INSERT DELETE SELECT UPDATE-2013- photo Janssen Adriaans
The most promising ideas came in my opinion from The Force of Freedom, who stated that the collection of public art could use an update and suggested a collection in an open source data base. Public sculptures which could be ‘open sourced’, updated, transformed, reused but also deleted.
The audience was laughing by this idea; I admit it sounds funny but in my opinion it could lead to new thinking about serious future possibilities. How otherwise to activate the political potential of individual voices when it comes to the visual outcome of real public space and art? Where it sounds radical it points at initiatives which we already witness today, where governments redraw their hands of the art in public space civilians take over and create foundations to adopt works. Maybe there are small municipalities without large budgets who would love to adopt unwanted sculptures from an open database.
Think about the example Historian Jan van Adrichem gave about the changing status of Zadkine’s sculpture "The Destroyed City", where the 9/11 attacks gave new meaning to the monument. We could consider this as an update and it shows that a changing surrounding could update and add to a message from the past.
A visitor of the fieldtrip to Joep van Lieshout told me that his sculptures in public space are rented out for a certain period of time, so it includes a delete function. When you look at Observatorium’s project at ‘Het Terbrechtseplein’, it invites you to think about this area, a place where gathered expertise (open source) can possibly lead to future innovations.
Here I sense new ideas for the future of art in the public domain. This isn't a time for populist talks as Historian Rutger Bregman did, we can also live without the dusty talks by officials about selection criteria and lists. Hans van Houwelingen stated several interesting things during Less is more, more or less for which I am thankful, for example that there is nothing wrong with being an expert in a certain field and art should become more powerful. It is as far as I am concerned our serious task to achieve this together, to open up our daily surrounding, share expertise and reclaim it visually.
Etienne Boulanger’s Single Room Hotel in Berlin. Boulanger created a temporary sleeping accommodation of 32 square meters within four sides of an advertising billboard.
Etienne Boulanger (1976 - 2008).
As a nomadic artist, he wandered through the cities which are the symbols for the "metropolization" process such as like Berlin, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo or New York. He located gaps, fallow lands, and residual spaces in order to take over the place using a clever masking strategy. His works, set up on site, do not represent nor reproduce objects. The temporary interventions and the clandestine occupation of these places, are meant to cast a critical look on our environment. Through active discretion, he exchanged ideas with the other users of these spaces.
Kevin van Braak
A fragment of To Pee in Public and Private Places / Mear en Espacios Públicos y Privados by Itziar Okariz
Territory - Openings-exhibition AVL-Mundo, 8 June – 29 September 2013
Artists: Itziar Okariz (SP), Philippe Meste (FR), Erik van Lieshout, Kevin van Braak, en Atelier Van Lieshout.
The Butterfly Effect is a video performance by Edwin Stolk.
The title refers to the chaos theory where the Butterfly Effect incorporates the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place can result in large differences to a later state.
The Butterfly Effect is about the possibilities of an individual in a controlled surrounding.
Pie Fight Study, 2012, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm work by Adrian Ghenie.
The sources for his images are derived from a combination of his own personal memories and from historical books, archives and both documentary and fictional film.
Ideological Guide to the Venice Bienniale is a project by: Jonas Staal
The Ideological Guide to the Venice Biennale consists of a free application for iPhone and Android that provides information on the political, economic, and ideological framework of all national pavilions of the 2013 Venice Biennale.
Dragline stumbles across an autonomous event, and echoing 1970’s structuralist film, returns the default setting of contemporary digital practice - sampling and looping - to its industrial roots.
The film is a collaboration between: Eileen Simpson, Ben White, Marysia Lewandowska and Neil Cummings.
Lucy+Jorge Orta: Food-Water-Life
Lucy+Jorge Orta, collectively explore major concerns that define the 21st century: biodiversity, environmental conditions, climate change, and exchange among peoples. These models and machines, constructed by the Ortas, suggest ways to purify, prepare and transport food and water, or launch a world-wide humanitarian effort.
Sculptor Pedro Reyes has taken hundreds of guns and transformed them into artistic musical instruments.
Igor Grubić, East Side Story 2006-08
Interview with the artist here:
Tim Roda, Untitled #146, 2007, black & white photograph on fiber matte, 84 cm × 97 cm.
“I strive to produce a sensation that makes people both familiar and uneasy about the in-congruence of life’s experiences.”
My Barbarian is a collective consisting of Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade, founded in Los Angeles in 2000. My Barbarian's interdisciplinary performance, video, music and installation projects use fantasy, humor, camp and clashing aesthetic sensibilities to playfully reenact artistic, political, social and historical situations.
Mernet Larsen - Gunfighters, 2001, acrylic, tracing paper on canvas, 43.5" x 68"
At first glance, the surreal situations and almost cartoonish figurations seem wholly humorous. In time however, a pervasive sense of longing and contemplation arises. Larsen's desire is "to evoke a sense of permanence, solidity, weight; time stopped, essences of ordinary events made tangible."
Michiel Alberts, video still, ROOF, 2013, watch the video here.
Michiel Alberts creates performances of long duration that could be described as 'physical drawings in space'. Through his physical presence the artist relates to the given space and to emptiness revealed. In his work he wants to undo dualistic constructions such as subject/object, space/time, me/the other, in order to create a process.
Liquid Cat – part of project missing trolleys
Liquid Cat, relevant is their desire to break free from the social-democratic stagnation of their country. As they state on their website: “Born in a city that hasn't produced culture for five hundred years, Liquid Cat’s intent is to use the weapons of deflection, irony and anti-omologation. Liquid Cat steals, quotes (often improperly) and if necessary terminates with extreme prejudice.”
Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro are interrogating ideas of home, aspiration, mobility and the acquisition of material goods, their work is characterized by a playful reinvention of prefabricated structures and the assemblage of everyday objects into extraordinary sculptures and installations.
Untitled (What do you believe your eyes or my words?) by Philippe Parreno
Philippe Parreno has been described as “permanently moving”, and certainly his work, whether made on his own or in his frequent collaborations with fellow artists, evades easy definition in its constant exploration of how art can and should be experienced.
Lynette Yiadom Boakye, Politics, 2005, oil on canvas, 183 x 168 cm
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s figurative paintings are drawn from her own fictitious set of characters and allude to traditions of European portraiture. Her paintings suggest a narrative but the people and places depicted are carefully ambiguous ciphers of the imagination.
HEXEN 2.0/Historical Diagrams/From Diogenes of Sinope to Anarcho-Primitivism and the Unabomber via Science-Fiction
Treister deals with notions of identity, history, power and the hallucinatory. Her practice engages with eccentric narratives and unconventional bodies of research, such as alchemy, extrasensory perception and 'conspiracy theory', to reveal the structures that bind power, identity and knowledge.
Photo from the serie: SATELLITE by Patrick Jolley
Series of 22 overpainted black and white photographs. 20”x24”. 1995.
The root of the Irish artist Patrick Jolley’s films and photographs lies in the subjective experience of the passage of time. He expands on sensations of inertia, solidification or dislocation through physical displacements and rearrangements.
Watch the video: Fall, here and Snakes, here.
Enda O’Donoghue - Ellipsis ( 2012 ) Oil & Acrylic on Canvas , 180 x 240 cm
The imagery comes almost exclusively from found photographs sourced from the Internet, where O'Donoghue plays with random throw-away moments of everyday life.
Work by Enda O’Donoghue will be part of the group exhibition: NEITHER HERE NOR THERE on show till 5 May 2013 here: