Looking at art on the street at night
26 March 2006 – Several residents of
the Witte de Withstraat and its surroundings have a white box with
art in it standing behind their window. “The goal is to turn
a dull street into something special”, says initiator Mirjam
Berloth. “The boxes have lights in them, so you can visit
an exhibition on the street until midnight”.
“You see people on the street stopping to look at the boxes,
people really appreciate it. It offers artists an opportunity to
show their work in a very accessible way”. They respond to
the environment and often to the title of an exhibition. Then they
make something specifically for this project.
“I have an extensive network of very good artists. Therefore
we can put together expositions of a high quality”.
On the website of the De Baarsjes district, the art is described
as ‘fun, moving and colourful’. Berloth: “The
art must be suitable to look at in passing. It may not cause offence,
for it is shown in the public space, people cannot choose whether
or not to look at it”.
That is the only criterion, apart from quality of course. “Sometimes
the pieces on display are difficult to grasp, sometimes not. Mostly,
I send out an e-mail to the artists that I know with the theme of
the next exhibition, so that they can respond to that”.
The current exhibition’s theme is ‘Play’. A large
part of the art works on display are cheerful, cloth animals and
objects, made by Esty Gertzman of Zooart (see photo's). “For
the exhibition, I brought her a stack of empty boxes. I know her
work and I was certain that she would come up with good stuff”.
The next exhibition will have ‘Park’ as its theme and
will open 14 May.
An evaluation of the project suggested to make exhibitions with
foreign-born artists, with the intention of involving ethnic minorities
living in the neighbourhood in the project. “I am not going
to do that, you know, the idea strikes me as odd”, says Berloth.
“You don’t just invite a Turkish artist because there
happen to live many Turks in the neighbourhood, now do you?”
“The artists whom I work with come from Israel, Germany,
Morocco, Groningen. But I am not going to start looking specifically
for an ethnic artist. I work with artists because they are good”.
However, Berloth does find it important to involve neighbourhood
residents in the project, for example, by organising activities
with schools. “Last year we started doing that. Parents and
teachers thought it was a good idea to organise an art walk during
the children’s time for physical exercise”.
“When the children turned up, they were complaining because
they would rather participate in sports activities. However, after
a few windows, this started to change, and they started to ask the
artist all kinds of questions. And afterwards they all came to nicely
give us a hand and say ‘thank you’!”
For the next exhibition, residents of the ground floor appartments
of the Witte de Withstraat have been invited to have a box placed
behind their window. “In the rest of the street there are
all sorts of art galleries with splendid windows, but this part
is a bit dull”.
The high number of art galleries in the neighbourhood is a result
of a district policy. When buildings that are not too expensive
become available, a subsidy is given to turn them into ‘broedplaatsen’
where new initiatives can be developped.
Meanwhile, Berloth is working on a project at the local Wash-O-Matic.
“People with 128 nationalities go there to do their laundry,
they sit there waiting for an hour and a half”.
Artist Nina Rave is going to talk to clients to collect proverbs,
which will be printed on tyles. Not exactly Delft blue: “Delft
red rather, for the background will be a red chequered pattern,
derived from the bags in which people bring their laundry”.