Broken Line

ico Esther Didden

  • commissioning and public space

First there is the famous writer. Marga Minco was born in 1920 in Prins Hendrikstraat in the Ginniken neighborhood of Breda as Sara Minco. In the fall of 1942, the entire family had to move to Amsterdam by order of the occupying forces. Her parents, brother, sister and their spouses were deported and murdered in the extermination camps, as were almost all of her immediate family. Sara escaped and survived under the name Marga at various hiding addresses. In 1957, she made her debut with The bitter herb, a story about the downfall of a Jewish family during the Nazi regime. The book is partly set in Breda.

First there is the famous writer

Then there was a passionate group of Breda residents who worked for more than a quarter century to improve Oranjeplein, located on a viaduct. Because of the many traffic flows, it was dangerous for passers-by, moreover, the square consisted only of stones. The residents felt that the square should become safer, greener and more attractive. The plan arose to change the name of the square to Marga Minco Square; after all, she was born in the neighborhood. There was another wish: a new square needs a work of art. The Mondrian Fund and Neighborhood Culture Fund supported the wish financially.

The plan arose to change the square's name to Marga Minco Square

When Tamar Frank was approached for this commission, she was a bit surprised at first. She makes abstract and spatial work; creating a work of art for a person, a writer, was not obvious. Looking back, she thinks the selection committee may have seen similarities with Minco's work in her austere and minimalist style. It has a similar form of abstraction. Frank was involved early in the process, even before the Marga Minco Square was constructed. Besides the fact that the artwork had to have a recognizable connection to the writer, there was also an urban issue; the Ginnikenweg runs over the viaduct and connects Oud-Breda with Ginniken. In addition, the brief stated that Marga Minco's work had to appear in it, for example in the form of a text. Frank found that last question the most difficult.

Frank was involved early in the process, even before Marga Minco Square was constructed

She processed on the viaduct, in the pavement, two red lines of Led light. Where the lines meet, they break, make a sharp kink and rise vertically eight meters, creating a kind of gateway.

The lines are visible during the day because of the red color of the acrylic, and at night because of Led light. The darker it is outside, the more intense the color of the red. After the gate, visitors enter an intimate space. An area is laid out with plants and a concrete omega-shaped circle on which one can sit. Speakers have been incorporated into the concrete parts and there, sitting among the greenery, you can listen to the voice of Marga Minco. Frank made a 2.5-hour compilation of audio fragments. She selected the fragments from the Image & Sound database and combined them with parts of an audio book recorded by Minco herself from The bitter herb. Frank received plenty of cooperation from Minco's daughter, Jessica Voeten.

The title Broken Line refers to the event that marked Minco's life and authorship. The red line of her life was abruptly broken. By writing, Minco kept her family alive, so to speak. That break was sharp, as if it had been cut with a sharp knife. Frank wanted to depict that. The event took place in Breda, which is why the lines are carved into the pavement. Making visible an open wound that continues for generations.

That break was sharp, as if it had been cut with a sharp knife. That's what Frank wanted to depict

The assignment touched Frank on a deeper level than she initially thought. She herself comes from a Jewish family, and although the war was rarely talked about at home, it was always there. Like a shadow, a fraught past that her grandparents had lived through. She never felt very connected to being Jewish; she had mostly negative associations with it.

She did not grow up religious; she does not know Jewish customs and traditions from her own experience. But it seems abundantly clear that at this stage of her life and artistry she must do something with it, for she has been asked by the municipality of Amersfoort to make a monument to the 357 Jewish victims who were taken away during the war. This monument should be finished next April. Family of Marga Minco lived in Amersfoort before they were forced to move to Amsterdam. This links these two assignments in a special way. It touches Frank how her own background emerges through these two assignments. It still has something incomprehensible to her, but it is perhaps because of her own background that she is able to create intimate, personal and moving works of art about this.

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