Tanja Engelberts: Ondertussen (In the mean time), Stroom, The Hague

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In Stroom’s project room artists show aspects of the projects that keep them busy. In this case Tanja Engelberts has

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been in Wyoming in the United States. She is interested in the creation story of the Crow, a native American

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people. In that story the wind blows mud into the air to make land. Engelberts made long walks in the

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Wyoming landscape. She also met Grant Bulltail, one of the last story tellers of the Crow. The presentation is sympathetic,

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simple and small, but probably too simple and small. It doesn’t add much more to the idea that Engelberts has

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been in a far off country, with a strange language and in a landscape dictated by wind and weather.

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(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bertus Pieters

Arike Gill, Le Palais de l’électricité, at Stroom, The Hague

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In the OpZicht (OnSight) series, Stroom presents newly registered artists in The Hague. This time it’s Arike Gill. She has made

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an enormous drawing representing the optimistic atmosphere of the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris. In a sequence from dreamlike colours

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to the black and white of the photographic memory, branchlike structures reach out apparently to disrupt the scene, even using electric

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light, probably from the represented Palais de l‘électricité. Man shows his optimistic ambitions but there is clearly something working against that.

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(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bertus Pieters

Pulsar, by Pim Piët and Anna Mikhailova, Stroom, The Hague

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Painter Pim Piët and composer Anna Mikhailova have been cooperating on their Pulsar-project for some years now. In Stroom’s Ondertussen (Meanwhile) series they give an update.

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You can look at and listen to a musical performance and

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there’s a gorgeous book by Piët which could read as a simple musical score. Piët’s style

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– reminiscent of explanatory scientific illustrations of the nineteen seventies – is

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quite lyrical in spite of its minimalistic looks. In his

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wall painting, integrated in the presentation, the dots could represent the bleeps produced by the pulsars.

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You can also see Piët at work. And generally

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there’s a lot of music in the air, or rather

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in the cosmos.

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(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bertus Pieters

Beelden van de Binnenstad (Sculptures of the City centre); Town Hall and City centre, The Hague

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I went to the town centre city centre to see the small exhibition Beelden van de Binnenstad (Sculptures of the City Centre) in the Atrium of Town Hall. There you can see miniature models of the sculptures which have been made during the last two decades for the gallery, usually called the Sokkelproject (Pedestal Project).

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In the first picture you see models of Adam Colton’s untitled work (1996) and Gert Germeraad’s Mansportret (Portrait of a Man; 2002) and in this picture you see Christien Rijnsdorp’s De hef (The Lift Bridge; 2007) and Maria Roosen’s untitled work (2011).

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There are thirty five miniature models on show. These ones are models of Rondanini (2005) by André Kruijsen (current curator of the gallery) and The Observer (1996) by Berry Holslag and

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here Rien Monshouwer’s Beeld (Vision/Sculpture; 1994). Although the models are all standing next to each other, they don’t really bite each other. They even look a bit like

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puppets in a Punch and Judy show. I can’t get rid of that idea seeing these two untitled models of works by Jos Kruit (1997) and by the old and great Carel Visser (1994), or

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this couple: Jan Snoeck’s La nostalgie de la lumière totale (The Nostalgia of Total Light; 2000) and Emo Verkerk’s Sperwer (Sparrow hawk; 2005). And again in

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Sonja Oudendijk’s Bellevue-toren (Bellevue Tower; 1993) and Atelier Van Lieshout’s Veelhoofd (Many-Head; 2010).

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All models have a short explanation (in Dutch).

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De Beeldengalerij van P. Struycken (P. Struycken’s Sculpture Gallery) is the official title of the Pedestal Project as it was initiated by artist Peter Struycken under the auspices of Stroom. The real sculptures

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were all made for public space and they can be seen in the city centre in the two axes Kalvermarkt – Grote Marktstraat and Spui. In Kalvermarkt

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it starts at the moment with For whom the Bell Tolls (1993)

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by Joost van den Toorn. The title is of course

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Hemingway’s and indeed it’s a tower of resignation,

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maybe even a tower of fate and death.

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Carel Visser’s work, originally made of polystyrene,

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has an unstable appearance which would have worked better

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if the base of the pedestal wasn’t more or less floating. And that’s a problem

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with many other sculptures in the gallery, like Rien Monshouwer’s Beeld, which is constructed from the word BEELD and,

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is used as a piece of street furniture, in this case a dustbin.

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The rigidity with which the statues are placed at a twenty five meter distance of each other,

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sometimes results in a strange situation like here with Sigurdur Gudmundsson’s work (1996). This compulsive repetition

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denies the individuality of the sculptures, of course defended by the idea that all sculptures have the same pedestal and are part of the same series. But

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isn’t that clear enough just by that fact?.

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With Sjoerd Buisman’s Phyllotaxis (2002), its use as street furniture works quite well, the bike underlining its way of stacking. The owner of the bike, probably unknowingly,

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has added to the meaning of the sculpture, while

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the sculptures of the Ministry of Defence stand guard from quite another position at the other side of Kalvermarkt.

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Auke de Vries’ untitled sculpture (1994) gives you

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his usual aesthetics of finding harmony in unbalanced components.

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In the definitive version of Emo Verkerk’s Sperwer,

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the sparrow hawk has come down.

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The massive and dark volume of Jan van de Pavert’s Ministerie (Ministry; 2000) referring to the former buildings of the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, may remind you of a modern version of Kafka’s Castle.

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But what is it doing there next to a road sign? What has it to offer to the passers-by there and what kind of context has its environment on offer to add to the sculpture?

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Berry Holslag’s Observer is especially suitable for street corners and crossings

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and it does its present job very well. Next to it

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is Karel Appel’s Frog with Umbrella (1993/2001) which has been drawn into the project but which is much bigger than the rest and so breaks the monotony of the rest of the series.

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The new acquisition to the project Vriendinnen (Friends; 2014) by Tony van de Vorst

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has the power to become iconic with its extra pedestal, monumentalising modern day common street life. On the other hand

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you may ask what two strolling people add to all the other strolling people in the street.

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Ingrid Mol’s Binnenstadgoden (Inner City Gods; 2014) is another new acquisition and

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is based on children’s drawings about the theme and

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it is another example of the democratisation of public art.

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In the no-man’s-land in between Spui and Spuiplein,

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sculptures like Eline Vere (2012) by Thom Puckey,

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Maria Roosen’s untitled work,

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Atelier Van Lieshout’s Veelhoofd,

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David Bade’s Calimero (2011) and

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Anno Dijkstra’s A Last Farewell (2011) are just trying

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not to be obsolete, in spite of their substantive and varying artistic qualities.

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Back to Karel Appel, which shows you the advantages of a non-floating pedestal.

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The other arm of Spui

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is still in limbo as the Amadeus building is not finished yet.

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So the sculptures can only add to the limbo feeling, like Jos Kruit’s work and

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EN/OF (AND/OR; 1993) by Marc Ruygrok,

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the ambiguous nature of its title underscored by its function as a parking spot for bikes.

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I followed the route to Grote Marktstraat which

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doesn’t really make one optimistic about

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its future. Because of the chaos there

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are only three sculptures of the series on show:

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Mannetje met losse ledematen (Little Man with Loose Limbs; 2003) by Tom Claassen, which

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seems to have resigned to the situation,

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Gisteren staat, Morgenstond (Yesterday stands, Tomorrow stood; 2005) by Arjanne van der Spek and

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I Love JR (2007) by André van de Wijdeven. They seem

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to stand there to show you how pieces of street furniture become street weeds, although as such they blossom well.

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Refurbishment of Grote Marktstraat will be finished by the end of the year. Stroom’s website says:

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A luxurious pavement, new street furniture and a special lighting plan will create ‘The international shopping boulevard of the Netherlands’. The Sculpture Gallery of P. Struycken plays an important role (“een cruciale rol”- BP) in that area’s upgraded look (“bij die uitstraling”- BP).” So,

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keeping up appearances, that’s what it is all about! Artists who have done their best to make valuable things for public space are just being used to decorate the coop of the strutting peacock of international consumerism. Artists, herewith your works have been declared empty!

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Shown in the stupidity of a strict order of twenty five meters distance, all on the same floating pedestal which gives them an idea of instability and unimportance,

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they will stand in the way of all these international people who will come all the way to The Hague’s Grote Marktstraat to drink a Starbucks and to spend, spend and spend. But of course dreams never come true.

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(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bertus Pieters

Ondertussen (Meanwhile); presentation by Maarten Boekweit, Stroom, The Hague

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Maarten Boekweit is an artist who makes temporary installations, does performances and actions. Last year he was

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in Chicago amongst others. There he happened to stay in one of the unsafest quarters, not on

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purpose, but because it was cheap. So, feeling unsafe, breaking through that feeling and finding a way

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to connecting with other people were the themes Boekweit had to deal with. He did so by

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dancing. He designed a dance and asked people in the street to dance with him, inspired by

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a dance workshop he followed in Finland and by Bruce Willis in Die Hard with a Vengeance.

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In the process he asked himself if he was radical enough in his actions giving Jeroen Eisinga,

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who covered himself with bees, as an example. But i think it’s more Boekweit’s clarity in this

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presentation in Stroom which is confronting, inspiring and intriguing. That may create something radical in its own right.

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(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bertus Pieters

Grist to the mill; Bram De Jonghe, Stroom, The Hague

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The other day i visited Bram de Jonghe’s exhibition Grist to the Mill at Stroom.

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He attached a large transparent surface on a frame horizontally in the main room of the gallery.

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You can walk around it as far as possible.

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But all kinds of things are happening underneath.

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Around it are some objects, including one

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which is not blowing out a candle.

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And just under the surface a big flowering Verbascum, softly swaying in the wind, might invite you to take a look under the framework.

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A pencil becomes a symbol, for thoughts

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evoked by the things you see, or thoughts

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provoked to make this installation.

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Time to move on…

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In the basement of the gallery, you can walk from one thought to another. Is there or must there be a connection between them?

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They need the space around them, for, with the thoughts they create, they need a lot of space.

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There ‘s movement, creating, there are thought provoking objects.

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There are even some drawings as if reflected by or in the framework, which is also hanging over the basement.

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And time to move on again…..

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to see the end of the story, or the object of your quest.

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Is it a story? Is it a quest? If you want, it is. If you don’t, it isn’t.

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(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Bertus Pieters