Stones that should
have a voice
Marinus Boezem has grown to be an established name in the art and architecture manifestation Façade. This summer, his Passage at the Koepoort, first completed in 2012, is included in the list of works of art to be visited for the third time. And there is no reason to assume that the twenty-five plaques placed under and in front of the arch will be skipped next time.
After the first edition in 2012, the Municipality of Middelburg decided to purchase the installation, to everyone’s satisfaction. In the meantime, however, things have changed. The tiles carved from Belgian bluestone were replaced a few years ago because they had become damaged. Now there are twenty-five black granite ones. The reason why the bluestone plaques had to make way was that the original paving stones in front of the arch had been replaced by a lawn. The bluestone tiles in front of the gate were damaged during professional lawnmowing.
Tiles out and greenery in might be a good slogan for urban front gardens. But not so much, according to Marinus Boezem, for the front garden of the Koepoort, not even after the granite plaques have been placed there: “I based the design of the Passage on the yellow brick pavement that was there at the time. Now that it has been replaced by a lawn where dogs are walked, the tiles get overgrown and you can’t see them very well. That has taken away a significant part of the effect I was aiming for.”
The installation consists of twenty-five tiles. The first one under the Koepoort reads ‘Passage 2012′ with the name of the artist, Marinus Boezem. On the other twenty-four we read the names of people who have been of significance in Zeeland’s capital city. Such as a number of architects, including Antwerp native Jan Pieter van Bauerscheit (1669-1768) who designed the Koepoort, which was completed in 1739. We also find Jan de Munck (1687-1768), city architect and master builder of the Koepoort, as well as the twentieth-century architects Johannes Fake Berghoef (1903-1994), Arend Jan Rothuizen (1906-1990) and Aldo van Eyck (1918-1999). Marinus Boezem: “Van Eyck designed a museum for modern art in Middelburg together with his wife Hannie.The museum was later named Museum 13/IX. That went well as long as it was considered to be a cultural centre where you could also play cards and billiards. When the name ‘museum’ was used, things went south. That was assumed to be too elitist and too expensive. Ah, that’s such a missed opportunity.”
There are strange contrasts in the names on the plaques”, says the artist. Alongside Queen Wilhelmina, Stadtholder William V and Emperor Napoleon, you stumble across German artist Joseph Beuys, who held an exhibition in De Vleeshal in 1970. And Luciano Fabro, an Italian artist from the Arte Povera movement who took part in the art event ‘Forum here in 1987.” Writers such as Hans Warren (1921-2001) and J.C.J. van Schagen (1891-1985) also received a tile, as did the American avant-garde composers John Cage (1912-1992) and Morton Feldman (1926-1987), both of whom performed during the festivals of New Music.
Marinus Boezem: “These are not gravestones that I have laid down, it is not a cemetery. All of the names, displayed in ever-changing formats and fonts, should to be talked about again today. The people who are mentioned are examples for us. They can inspire us. It has been written about the stones that they do not want to commemorate, but rather to evoke. I find that beautifully put.”
If you stand under the Koepoort and look towards the city centre, you can see the tiles fanning out in front of you. That idea has become stronger since the recent, successful landscaping of the Molenwater Park. From the arch, you have a fine view. It’s just such a pity that there’s grass on the square in front of the arch now, instead of the previous stone plateau. Initially, there was natural quality to the bricks in which the plaques were incorporated. Unfortunately, I sounded the alarm too late. Actually, to do the installation justice, the brick pavement should just be put back.”
Marinus Boezem (Leerdam, 1934) lives and works in Middelburg. Along with Jan Dibbets and Ger van Elk, he is regarded as the founder of conceptual art in the Netherlands. He has exhibited in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Kröller-Müller Museum Otterlo, Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, Museum of Modern Art and Brooklyn Museum New York, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Municipal Museum of Fine Arts Kioto, among others. His Green Cathedral in Almere, opened in 1996 – 178 Italian poplars planted according to the ground plan of Reims Cathedral – was reopened on 4 June 2022 after restoration. On the art estate of the Verbeke Foundation in Kemzeke, he planted a hundred poplars in 2016, in a project entitled ‘La Lumière Cistercienne Baudelo-Ghent’.