Art encourages seeing and thinking in the Frisian paradise

It’s brave of an art exhibition to have the title paradise select. As a visitor you get the hand-rubbing feeling of ‘Fine! We’re going to paradise! ‘ and it does not seem very easy to achieve. In paradise there is neither bustle nor dust, there is nothing wrong with it (and strictly speaking nothing wrong with it), in paradise everything is fine.

In the ‘idyllic Oranjewoud’, which the organizers consistently refer to the location of the outdoor exhibition, everything is obviously not in order. There is the history of the place with its regent past, where country estates and large gardens were naturally laid out by and for nobles by power, there is the present, where the inhabitants did not want to make room for a floral work of art by Erik van Lieshout, they were not interested and thought , that she said it was a futile plan, because the deer would still eat those flowers – which the residents might be right about. There are things that are always there: power and abuse of power, struggle for attention and the best place, friction between man and nature.

And then there are the annoying things that always happen: works of art that are not quite finished when they open, an artist, Mercedes Azpilicueta, who finally rejected the location of his artwork and retired, a Lithuanian sauna sauna in wood, which people flow with. on the water and which visitors could then retreat into, but which is now located right next to the visitor center, giving a completely different effect.

No one has ever tried to create eternal bliss

Oranjewoud, located near Heerenveen, was built in the 17th century as a country house by Albertine Agnes van Nassau, widow of the Frisian governor Willem Frederik. In the late 18th century, during the time of the French Revolution, it was largely destroyed and later largely restored. Then wealthy families came to live there, and the atmosphere of wealth and richness with large houses, beech groves and beautiful water bodies still prevails. Now burdened with our continued awareness of where that wealth actually came from.

Perhaps Oranjewoud has temporarily been a paradise for some. Such is always the case with paradises: they are lost. The fourteen artists who artistic director Hans den Hartog Jager invited to create something for this place, which is overloaded with past and with meaning, are aware of this difficulty. No one has ever tried to create eternal bliss, everyone knows that time can play no part in paradise, and it does in our world. Time is therefore already a theme in Paradise.

Be here

First and foremost, of course, the visitor’s own time: half a day is the least you can take on a visit. And then go, stand still, think: have I really seen it, listen, look around again, try to understand what you see or try not to understand anything, but just be here.

Go, stand still, think: have I really seen it, listen, look around again

The latter seems to be mostly the question of the work of art by Isa van Lier: you go out on a lawn, and there, stacked on top of each other, smile eggshells, smooth ceramic faces in candy colors for you. “Do I want to see this?” one hears oneself ask: ‘Do I not find this very childish and superficial?’

But again, what is the point of asking such questions if that is what Isa van Lier wants you to see and then you surrender to her most friendly and very reassuring world where everything shines and smiles. In a white, again quite egg-shaped temple, there are a kind of smiling white ceramic asparagus, one can also see penis smileys in them, or just white creatures that are in our favor. All sorts of colorful candy-like things smile at you, and it all should have a zen-like effect on the viewer – and I think it does. In any case, it’s strangely reassuring when you stop resisting so much kindness. Strange that it’s a task. How far one is from the paradise state.

Diana Scherer makes three 2.5 meter high dresses of plant roots for Paradise.
Photo by Peter de Kan
Diana Scherer makes three 2.5 meter high dresses of plant roots for Paradise.
Photo by Peter de Kan


While Van Lier seems to want to stop time for a while, Diana Scherer talks about growth. Three dresses, the color of the trees and branches, rise silently under the beech trees. They are made of plant roots, and Scherer managed to make a kind of fabric out of them and grow patterns in them; it has cooperated with natural growth and subjected that growth to its will.

One can not help but think about what growth is, what nature is, what culture is when one is confronted in the forest with the wonderfully beautiful dresses, both completely natural and completely artificial, each of which is made into one of the three women, such as Oranjewoud, the aforementioned Albertine Agnes, her flashy daughter-in-law Henriëtte Amalia and the much-loved Maria Louise van Hessen-Kassel, better known as Maaike or Marijke Meu (aunt Marijke).

Also read the interview with the participating artist Charles Avery: ‘You do not make art to express your opinion’

The organic material of the dresses is as perishable as history. To show how much there is next to the statues, which are protected in glass domes from too much time, a role of this ‘root material’ is in the rim, without any covering. It will change over time and probably decay over the months the role is shown.

Artworks in the environment are most beautiful when they somehow fit into that environment, or change the environment a little. Several of the works of art on display do, some of them not at all, they seem to be located here just like that to tell a story that can only be connected to Oranjewoud with a lot of mental crochet. Or they just do not work very well, like the small, floating island of Em’kal Eyongakpa that makes rhythmic sounds. It may be spectacular elsewhere, but here it’s a bit lost in a nice park. Or the rather ugly image of a plantation worker by Athanas Kindendie, a member of the artist group CATPC, a group of Congolese plantation workers. The story behind it is fascinating, but the artwork itself, which on such a beech avenue, says a bit. It is often the case that you will not experience that much if you do not get comprehensive information.

Oddly enough, something that makes a lot of impression when reading about it. A stone that has been moved from Switzerland, Gstaad to be exact, here.

Well there it is then. On a nice free field between trees and he lies in front of a mirror. And on the other hand, it lies again, but then it is not the stone itself but a replica in aluminum. It is a work by Alicja Kwade, and one can say a lot about it, about different realities and about reality and imitation and about reflection and gaze direction, but it is not necessary. Just seeing and being amazed at reality and how we see it comes naturally there. You want to stay there for a long time, as if paradise was there. But you have to go. Of course.

Em’kal Eyongakpa made a fluid sound work for Paradise. He recorded local sounds, which he reproduces in a new way in an unexpected place.
Photo by Peter de Kan
Athanas Kinddie (by the Congolese sculptor’s collective CATPC) shows a mahogany statue of a plantation worker on Paradise.
Photo Ruben van Vliet

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