Under the title What's That Doing Here, BK Information is bringing you a ten-part podcast series about artists and the social issues they deal with. We launched the first episode on Nov. 4.
In each episode, philosopher and expert on art in public space Esther Didden, together with a co-host, enters into conversation with artists who realize their work within a social context. A context in which very different criteria apply than within the "usual" art discourse.
The creators of the podcast want to know why they work within that context and what it brings to their artistry. What criteria are they dealing with? And what does it bring to society? What does an artist add when they sit at a conference table?
The Butterfly House Foundation, co-founded by artists Stefan Cools and Sandra van den Beuken, has started a new project in which they are transforming a piece of land near the Bunderbos (Limburg) into a nature-inclusive meadow. Cools and Van den Beuken will use parts of the harvest for their artworks. The Province of Limburg is leasing one of their farmlands to the foundation for the next six years to transform 1.3 hectares of farmland next to the Bunderbos into an ecological flowery meadow and plant it with trees and shrubs.
Cools and Van den Beuken's plans consist of a combination of art and nature development that focuses on knowledge about the landscape. To this end, Cools and Van den Beuken are collaborating with ecologists, scientists, farmers, citizen researchers, students from art schools and universities.
How do they acquire their ecological knowledge and how does this knowledge relate to those they work with? What do Cools and Van den Beuken do differently from the biologists, ecologists, etc. involved? In addition, the artists sometimes show their work in a museum context. What does such a stage bring? And what makes it interesting for a museum to show this ecological art? Does it reach different audiences?
Monuments, attention to the past
Many new monuments will be completed in the coming years, and increasingly at the request of residents (groups). We want to pay attention to a Monument to Slavery and a War Memorial.
A monument to commemorate the slavery past in Tilburg. A selection committee was formed of residents with roots in Suriname or the (former) Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Many of this large group of Tilburgers are descendants of people who were victims of the Dutch slave trade. Three artists were commissioned by Kunstloc Brabant to create a sketch design. The design by duo Dedden and Keizer (Spacecowboys) won. The Slavery Monument was unveiled during Keti Koti 2022 (July 1).
The artists are very aware that within the current era, recognition of the slavery past is important and increasingly discussable. This has not always been the case and how it will be in one or two decades, we do not know now. In this work, how do they take into account the development of social sensitivities and acceptances? What contribution do they make to that? How do you make sure that this attention is sustainable, even a decade from now? In the podcast, we also talk to the client about the importance of this assignment for Tilburg and the process chosen. We also want to speak to one or two members of the commission, what does the arrival of this monument mean to them and what do they expect from it?
Names and Numbers
Since 2012, Ida van der Lee's Names and Numbers project has ritually commemorated the 2,800 deported Jews from part of Amsterdam's Oosterpark neighborhood.
On May 4 each year, over 70 volunteers and local residents help welcome and guide the approximately 1,000 visitors through the ritual. Names and Numbers is a valued and innovative form of remembrance. It confronts people with history in a personal and poignant way. On the Chestnut Square, a special memorial site has been set up where everyone can symbolically bring a Jewish victim home step by step. Participants in the ritual commit to a name, make a personal nameplate and place it at the appropriate address in the large map of the neighborhood. This Street Monument grows every year.
It is a temporary monument to an infinite loss. Van der Lee wants to bring attention to things that shouldn't be there. Why does she do that and what does it bring to society? How can art be the missing link between remembering and commemorating, for those who were not witnesses? This year, Van der Lee will officially hand over the ritual that takes place annually in Chestnut Square to a neighborhood committee. How does she handle this and how important is it for her to be able to let go of the project at some point? And what does it mean for the neighborhood committee to continue the work?
Sustainability, care for the earth
Embassy of the North Sea is a collective of artists, scientists, designers and (landscape) architects. The sea and life in the sea belongs to themselves. From this premise, they founded the Embassy. They listen to the political voices of things, plants, animals, microbes and people in and around the North Sea. They have mapped out a route to 2030. First they will learn how to listen to the sea, then learn how to speak with to finally be able to negotiate on behalf of the sea and marine life. Their multi-year approach is remarkable; they are taking their time to achieve their goals in a time when political decisions are framed in four years.
Why did they give themselves this assignment? Also featured in the podcast is a lawyer, she is involved as a consultant because to give the sea a political voice, legal status is important. Her advice is important to the success of the mission. In a sense, she must be legal pioneer. We want to know more about that.
Impoverished inner cities
Bringing artists and entrepreneurs together to learn from each other. This is happening in the project "Creative City Boost; creating and entrepreneurship in Zeeland's inner cities," a plan of CBK Zeeland and the province of Zeeland. The intention is to give Zeeland's inner cities a boost through surprising collaborations and the development of new product-market combinations. Under the heading REACT-EU, the European Union is making additional funds available for accelerated and resilient economic recovery of regions after the corona crisis. Creative City Boost is one of the selected projects.
The goal is, initially, to strengthen the inner city of Goes, Middelburg, Vlissingen and Terneuzen in perception. The loss of public space, vacancy and one-sided supply is a problem. At the time of writing, the selection of artists is taking place. In consultation with CBK Zeeland we will approach artists for a conversation in the podcast, as well as other parties involved such as someone from the SME or a center manager.
In this episode, we talk with visual artist Melle Smets, one of the initiators of "The House of the Future," established in the Bospolder-Tussendijken neighborhood of Rotterdam. Bakery de Eenvoud and Academy for Visual Education are involved as equal partners. The House of the Future explores how a household operates on human power. Can residents work together to find ways to save energy? This neighborhood is one where many people have money worries
have. Together we are working to achieve the lowest energy bill in the Netherlands.
How does dealing with major social problems relate to the artists' artistic practice and vice versa? How do you perpetuate achieved successes in a neighborhood where bailiffs drive in and out and evictions are a daily occurrence? Is there a difference between what you can solve for the neighborhood as an artist and what you can solve as an individual citizen?
Care and welfare
Artist duo Sjaak Langenberg and Rosé de Beer stood at the cradle of Re-creation, a guest studio for artists. They came up with this at the invitation of Reinaerde, a large care organization. In addition to the guest studio, they supervise the artists and designers and are responsible for project management and communication. The Re-creation project won the 2021 Elisabeth van Thüringen Prize, a national award for exemplary art projects in care. The jury speaks of "a project that intertwines the domains of art and care in a very original way and, moreover, is
expresses in an extraordinary way the theme of 'connection'". Art and care have a long tradition: art can count there as comforting and thus bring peace, by appealing to the autonomy of art.
How subservient can autonomy be, how do clients think about it? As a follow-up to this project, Langenberg and De Beer are currently working on a plan to bring art as a profession into healthcare education. Therefore, for the podcast we will also speak with some of the policy makers the artist duo is working with to embed art as a profession in healthcare education.
Artist Tirzo Martha created a sculpture for the Sprengenpark in Apeldoorn on the occasion of winning the Wilhelminaring. He had this work created in close collaboration with nine residents of Apeldoorn from all walks of life. For Tirzo Martha, art is a way of being socially involved. In his work, he brings different communities together by adding visual elements that refer to different cultures and contexts. With this involvement, he wants to avoid clichés and generalizations of certain themes and symbols.
His installations are characterized by a multiplicity of objects, materials and techniques. All sorts of references can be discovered in them. His work deals with the history of slavery, tourism and political corruption, as well as the daily habits and living conditions of the inhabitants.
How does he manage to make art with and for the community? What does this self-chosen connection bring him? We would love to hear from involved residents about why they wanted to participate and what collaborating on this sculpture has brought them.
For one podcast, we are explicitly still leaving the guests open because we want to be able to anticipate what the podcast triggers and any new initiatives and developments that arise during 2022 and 2023.
Group discussion with all participating artists
In the final podcast we look back together with all the artists we spoke to. They can react to each other's stories and together we formulate concrete recommendations to both artists and (potential) clients about the contribution of artists to social issues.