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TRACES OF THE PAST #35 – NEUCHATEL – 2020
We were so optimistic in the 1960s. Things could only get better. The advent of modern appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators changed the lives of women. We put a man on the moon. The future looked bright. But of course, all that changed. The rise of our living standard created a waste problem and climate change became a serious issue. Instead of hope the dominant mood today seems to be one of anxiety. Is it all downhill from here?
TRACES OF THE PAST #1 – BERLIN – 2019
Between half a million and a million people demonstrated in East Berlin on 4 November 1989, demanding political reform, holding protest signs saying ‘Nie wieder Lügen’, ’40 Jahre SED sind genug’, ‘Wir sind das Volk’, ‘Freie Presse, freie Wahlen’, ‘Demokratie, jetzt + hier’. Thirty years later I remade these protest signs and placed them next to the waste containers in a courtyard.
TRACES OF THE PAST #26 – STRASBOURG – 2020
Was it just vandalism? Or was it a clear case of anti-Semitic aggression directed at the emblem of the State of Israel, the seven-branched menorah? Is Arab hostility towards Jews anti-Semitic or simply a political stance? Is it possible to discuss Israel’s human rights record without being called anti-Semitic? They say anti-Semitism is rife amongst young Muslim men. Yes, it is true that Muslim extremists have been responsible for some of the anti-Jewish attacks in Europe, but Muslim organizations firmly condemned such actions. Is violence ever a legitimate form of protest? Well, maybe in this case it was just kids having fun smashing windows….
TRACES OF THE PAST #19 – BREMGARTEN – 2020
When did this Madonna and Child end up in the river Reuss? Was it in 1529, when Bremgarten became a Protestant city? But the city was re-Catholicised only two years later, after the Second War of Kappel. Or was it in 1712, after the Second Villmerger War, when the official religion changed back to Protestantism again? For a long time there was no individual freedom of religion in Switzerland. Everybody had to adopt the faith of their rulers (‘cuius regio, eius religio’). Dissenters who didn’t want to convert had to emigrate to a region where their faith was the state religion. Or they could hide their faith (and maybe even throw away a Madonna and Child sculpture) just to be on the safe side….
TRACES OF THE PAST #28 – AACHEN – 2020
Thalidomide (brand name Contergan, Softenon) had been prescribed in the late 1950s and early 1960s to pregnant women to help reduce morning sickness, but tragically, it turned out to be toxic to developing fetuses. Worldwide, an estimated 24,000 babies were born with short arms, twisted hands and no thumbs. The thalidomide tragedy is probably one of the greatest pharmaceutical disasters of all time. In November 1961, the Grünenthal company withdrew the drug from the market, but thalidomide never disappeared, it is available now for treating leprosy and as an anticancer drug.
TRACES OF THE PAST #18 – COLMAR – 2020
I didn’t know the French liked rum so much. Negrita rum is distilled in the French islands of Réunion, Guadeloupe, and Martinique in the Caribbean. In the colonial era, rum production depended on the labor of slaves to harvest the sugar cane. Is advertising this Caribbean drink with a picture of a black girl still acceptable? Who wants to be served by a black servant? To this day, the logo of the Negrita brand is this black girl, but in their ads they now show a more diverse group of ethnically mixed young people, dancing in the Caribbean sun.
TRACES OF THE PAST #10 – AMSTERDAM – 2020
Gary Glitter (real name Paul Gadd), was a successful glam rocker in the 1970s, selling over 20 million records. In 1999 he was sentenced to 4 months in prison for possession of child pornography. Later, he was convicted repeatedly of child sexual abuse, cumulating in a 16 years in prison conviction in 2015 for having sex with a girl under the age of 13. Is it ever OK to listen to the music of this convicted pedophile? Can we separate the artist from his art?
LIFE & DEATH #12 (THE PAINTER) – ROTTERDAM – 2018
Charles Rochussen (1814 – 1894) was a 19th-century painter from Rotterdam, who was also known as an illustrator and printmaker. As a boy he showed a talent for drawing, however, it was decided that he would pursue a career in business. He worked for a few years in an office before resolving at the age of 22 to turn to painting. His speciality was history painting. Do you ever see one of his paintings in a museum?

LIFE & DEATH #3 (THE WRITER) – AMSTERDAM – 2018
Heere Heeresma (1932 – 2011) was a Dutch writer and poet. His novel ‘Een dagje naar het strand’ was adapted for the screen twice. He propagated unpretentious and readable texts. Under different pseudonyms he also wrote erotic and pornographic books. Does anyone read his books nowadays?

LIFE & DEATH #6 (THE ACTRESS) – AMSTERDAM – 2018
Julia de Gruijter (1887-1967) was a famous actress, decorated by the king of Belgium, buried in Amsterdam and today completely forgotten. Let’s give her an audience again.

LIFE & DEATH #1 (THE POET) – ROTTERDAM – 2016
Cornelis Bastiaan Vaandrager (1935-1992) was a Dutch poet, famous in the 60’s, addicted to drugs in the 70’s, wandering the streets as a misfit in the 80’s. He died lonely at the age of 56.

LIFE & DEATH #15 (THE PAINTER) – THE HAGUE – 2018
Bernard Blommers (1845 – 1914) was a Dutch painter. He mainly painted genre works depicting fishermen and their wives. His work was critically successful during his lifetime, being sought after by English, Scottish and American collectors. Now he is all but forgotten.

LIFE & DEATH #21 (THE POET) – AMSTERDAM – 2018
Johan Werumeus Buning (1891 – 1958) was a Dutch poet and writer. He published 18 volumes of poetry. His most famous line was ‘Maar de boer, hij ploegde voort’. During World War II he joint the Reichskulturkammer (a Nazi organisation) which led to a two year publication ban after the war. Who reads his poems nowadays?