Reconsidering our freedom
Watch an African boat being immersed in the waters of the Prins Hendrikdok only to be hanging over the water like a spraying fountain moments later. Or stand face to face with a large human figure on feathers below the Lange Jan. Is it a he or a she, can you touch him/her, is it a kind of boxing ball?
Two random examples of sculptures and installations that have descended upon the town of Middelburg for the third edition of contemporary art manifestation Façade in Middelburg. You can watch in wonder. Admiration, perhaps. You can let go of your daily concerns for a little while. The images can bring present, past and future. Offer reflection, perhaps, if you take a moment to let your mind run freely.
In total, 14 contemporary artists from both the Netherlands and abroad have been working especially for the city at the invitation of CBK Zeeland this summer. In addition, two works of art from previous editions are included in the new route. Façade 2022‘s guiding principle is ‘Freedom from fear’. Curators Kathrin Ginsberg and Pleun Meijer are referring to one of the Four Freedoms which the Middelburg-affiliated President Franklin D.R. Roosevelt discussed in his famous State of the Union, Four Freedoms Speech for the American Congress in 1941. Kathrin Ginsberg: “The plans were already in place, but the covid pandemic made the theme more current than we could ever have imagined before.” Pleun Meijer: “In recent months, with the war in Ukraine, we wondered whether the theme ‘freedom from fear’ might have become too current.” Kathrin Ginsberg: “Fear has many facets.” This could also be seen in the diverse and intense reactions of the artists. This is reflected in the impact of the various installations. One of them focuses on Middelburg and its role in the slave trade, the other finds reasons for fear in the present, such as climate transition, the pandemic, the war, the far-reaching digital control. Yet another has chosen for a personal psychological approach.
The first episode of Façade took place in 2012 and was dedicated to the city of Middelburg and the architecture of the monumental city, whose heart was largely destroyed in 1940. The idea of creating a temporary manifestation builds on the programmes that organizations like Forum and New Music presented in the 1970s and 1980s. During that time, the arts regularly took over the city as well. In 2017, the second edition of Façade proved that art in the public areas of Middelburg could count on a warm welcome. Kathrin Ginsberg: ,,We could tell by the reactions.” Middelburgers expressed that the placement of the images and installations changed the way they viewed their surroundings. The event attracted interest from people outside of Middelburg, outside of Zeeland as well. Tourists also gave high ratings to the freely accessible route of Façade through Middelburg. Now, with the third edition, people will know what to expect.”
Hollywood letters along the Channel of Walcheren, a musical illuminated installation at the Station bridge, organically grown pillars that seem to be plucked from the ocean floor on the Helmplein: every artist has chosen their own location in the city for this edition. In the pond of the newly decorated Molenwaterpark, tribute is paid to the Zeeland goddess Nehalennia, and in the bunker opened for the first time since World War II, it is, once again, possible to seek shelter. The sentences spelled in square tiles inside the bicycle tunnel under the railway have a background related to Zeeland.
Pleun Meijer: “By the approaching of sixteen artists, you get to deal with sixteen different people and as many different visions and methods. That is enriching. Sometimes you encounter artists who have totally different backgrounds and that always leads to inspiring conversations. With remarks like: “Your freedom is not my freedom.” Then you arrive at the question of when your own freedom means oppression of the other. All of the artists were motivated to tackle these kinds of questions. We as curators found that it can be very inspiring to look through a different lens. That makes Façade a challenging quest.”
A robot-like installation that is scanning its environment on the Fish Market, hands reaching for the sky on the embankment or on the boat, a made-up bed at Balans, living organisms between the walls of the Kuiperpoort, a dome on the Noordbolwerk that invites celebrating freedom, a fragmented curved mirror in the cloister of the Abbey. No matter through which lens each visitor looks at the installations, it will make them all aware of the vulnerability of freedom and the power of imagination.
Kathrin Ginsberg: ,,The choice we have made is based on the inducements of the artists. The intensity with which these artists, renowned or debuting in public space, are able to portray their ideas, makes Façade 2022 an adventure that we are entering into with each other. A discovery of our freedoms, free from fear.”
Kathrin Ginsberg, directeur CBK Zeeland en Pleun Meijer, coördinator Beeldende Kunst & Vormgeving CBK Zeeland