Building Casuariestraat corner Schouwburgstraat, used as a campus by Leiden University.
The building itself is officially said to be built around 1700, however, the way it looks, it is probably late 19th century or even later.
It has been used as State Archive and as the library of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
From 1990 to 2010 it housed De Illusie (“The Illusion”) a so called culturele broedplaats (“cultural breeding ground”), a squatted powerhouse for art and music.
I remember its early days as an exhibition spot, with its strange empty archive room and its narrow staircases.
One of the oldest artists initiatives in The Hague and excellently located in between the Royal Academy and the museums in the city centre, De Illusie was vacated for Leiden University in spite of serious objections by The Hague’s cultural institutions.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s the generational divide. I brought my camera to Trixie, in case there would be something to make pictures of. But there wasn’t anything worth photographing without becoming cynical. And i don’t want to become cynical about something i still believe was made with some kind of attention and care. I was offered some camomile tea and i walked around with it, looking at the kitsch hanging on the walls. Then some music started which didn’t make me feel “encouraged to self reflect while visiting the space,” as the invitation stated. Indeed, self reflecting i was thinking, what the heck am i doing here? I had come to a place with things that didn’t interest me, with a bunch of people that were busy amongst themselves, which reminded me of the 1970s. To be short: i felt obsolete and so i left the place.
Maybe you’ll have another and more precious experience than i had if you pay focus loslaten | ontspannen a visit which is still possible Friday and over the weekend. (opened 16.00 – 22.00 hrs; because of Covid-19 measures you have to send them an e-mail to tell when you would like to come; tea and waffles are present)
Doing a Master in Artistic Research is not an easy matter, as what is “artistic” and what is “research?”
Generally too many artists are claiming to be researching.
While art can be the result of inner or outer research – or one may need to research in order to make art –, stressing the research in art means the research itself is emphatically part of the art you show.
However, in the end it is just the materiality of what you show that should make the difference.
As a viewer you don’t give a damn if a work of art is the result of any research; that only starts to matter if, as a viewer, you become part of the research.
To engage the viewer you need all the conventional conditions and techniques.
There is the material object you want to show, there is the space you want to show it in, there are the acoustics of the space and there is time, the space of time you want to engage the viewer in.
Whether you are good at Mid-Atlantic English non-speak or not, doesn’t make any difference.
When showing your work as an artist, you are in fact artistically naked, you can hide almost nothing, and even if you do, the hiding itself becomes part of your artistic nakedness.
That counts for any artist, whether you are a conventional painter or a maker of intricate video installations.
Referring to what i preached before, i must say not all exhibiting students really engage you in their artistic research, although all do make interesting works.
One of the most interesting works was shown by Giath Taha.
The work looked quite simple and open in the beginning, but looking at it in a darkened room made it haunting and even a bit spooky.
A work about space, presence and absence, it engages the viewer completely.
At least that is what happened with me.
Another very interesting presentation was Serene Hui’s at Page Not Found. (scroll up for pictures of her work)
In her work different ideas come together, from the manipulation of Google’s algorithms to truth and fake behind language in a post-truth society.
The different voices filled up the space from different speakers, making it also a work about time and space, while the book titles of the shop seemed to illustrate the whole work.
Generally i admire the way these mostly international students have coped with the present situation, cut off from their friends, families and homes (some may have been in that situation already before) and finding themselves in a world that is suddenly less international in many ways.
This is the Prince Berhard fly-over, at the end of Rijnstraat and running along Schedeldoekshaven.
It was built in 1975 to open up The Hague’s city centre for car traffic and to regulate it.
It didn’t prove to be the best of solutions and today it has become obsolete.
Plans have been presented in 2019 to largely break down the fly-over and the office buildings built over it, and to create a new area with new offices for the state administration, Leiden University campus, cultural activities and for a new giant skyscraper with apartments.
The new post-postmodern proposals have been presented with modernist élan (as were once the Prince Bernhard fly-over and its surroundings).
The present situation looks unloved and forgotten.
The physical installation at the gallery is in three parts, but the sounds of it can also be experienced partly on PARTS’ website.
As the installation should be very much experienced on the spot, it would be a serious spoiler to tell you any of my experiences with it; it is better to visit it yourself (which i’d highly recommend).
Additionally some works from private collections are on show as well.
Again, under the tranquillity of the Covid-19 measures at the museum, it was a great joy to see these works in all their preciousness again, without the pressure of any other visitors who may disturb your attention.
After all, art watching is an egotistic activity.
At best it’s you and the work of art, and nobody in between or around.
However, i couldn’t spend much time there as i needed time for the Lucassen show. Reinier Lucassen (1939) has built an impressive oeuvre of paintings.
He started in the 1960s as an artist who combined elements of figurative and abstract art and of high art and consumer culture, like other artists in the Netherlands and Belgium, usually called Nieuwe figuratie (New Figuration).
In the case of Lucassen it has become an art intermingled with the beauty of the banal and the absurd.
Lucassen’s work is also linguistic, as such it may be even more mysterious to a non-Dutch speaker than it is for a Batavophone.
As usual in these big shows at the KM there is an overload of works.
The works are not presented chronologically.
To an extent, that works, as mutual correlations between the paintings of different periods may become clear.
On the other hand, after watching intensely (which is now really possible!) for some time, one gets the idea of getting a bit dizzy of all these different voices that shout, sing and whisper at you.
To be short about visiting the KM at the moment: it is now possible to really look at the works intensely, or even reflect on them while looking, which is great and unique for this period of the crisis.
However, as the exhibitions are quite big – apart from Navid Nuur’s, although his is big in its reflective content – you need to plan ahead what you really want to see.
Otherwise you may not fall victim to the Covid-19 virus but to the Stendhal syndrome.