Deliberately cluttered art on a beautiful property – but in the end, beauty prevails

One of the artists dumped a gilded shopping basket in the ornamental pond. Another began building a makeshift rocket launcher in the front yard. A third disrupts an idyllic forest path by erecting another street pattern, two silly lampposts and a faded hedge diagonally on it – an example of ‘Brussels’, which seems to be the international term for inadequate urban planning.

What do you do as an artist when you have a year to create a work of art for the beautiful De Paltz property, between Soesterberg and Soestduinen? Do you choose to emphasize the beauty? Or just to disrupt it grossly? Remarkably, the majority of the eight artists in the fourth edition of the Paltz Biennale – arranged by and in the garden of Meria Bakker, who lives with her husband in one of the three houses on De Paltz – choose to challenge the beauty with deliberately cluttered works of art.

bram kuypers, No title, no work2022
Photo by Gerard Wielenga
Ole Nieling, Application for environmental permit, Paltz 3, 3768 ML Soest, construction of rocket launch platform2022
Photo by Gerard Wielenga

The golden shopping basket by Bram Kuypers (1989) likes (“Destroying things, vandalism, is also something constructive”, Kuypers philosophizes in an accompanying video), but as a work of art in itself, it is also something non-committal. There is an interesting idea behind the rocket installation by Ole Nieling (1987): We always move somewhere (think, for example: the billionaires’ space ambitions), but we place too little emphasis on what we leave behind. Nieling rubs it in your face with an unpleasant messy installation in a beautiful forest.

The play ‘Belgium’ in Soest by Vlaming Elias Cafmeyer (1990), a limited piece of landscape design in real life, makes an impression. In the distance you can see the six-meter-high artificial waterfall of the fake stone, which former Paltz resident and wealthy sewer cover magnate ES Raatjes had built. It rhymes nicely with Cafmeyer’s artificial landscape.

Playing kids

The work that Peter Zegveld (1951) did is particularly thought-provoking. At the end of a chip path between two hedges you will find a white door, behind which children play. The road ends. The only thing you can do is ring the doorbell – the players who are playing are quiet after that. You feel like an angry neighbor in a well-directed performance, where you inadvertently play the lead role.

On a dark forest path, Elise ‘t Hart lets you listen to a composition of cracking twigs: TK2022
Photo by Gerard Wielenga

Two artists choose in their own way to emphasize the beauty of De Paltz. From Joyce Overheul (1989, who usually makes feminist, political art) there it is Paltz Bureau of Investigation, an installation with six screens, where you as a night watchman inspect pictures of the animals that dominate the estate at night. A fox, a badger, a hare and … is anyone peeing in nature in the middle of the night?

Artist Elise ‘t Hart (1991, who became famous with Department of House Sounds, an ever-growing register of house-garden-and-kitchen-sounds) made a collection and a symphony of cracking twigs. She photographed hundreds of twigs from the forest and recorded the sound as she cracked them one by one. You can listen to it as you walk along a path. The list of accompanying ‘see-questions’ that visitors receive (an enrichment in every way, good questions help to look better) invites you to assemble and crack a twig yourself. Mine was more ‘chic’ than ‘chak’. Listening to it with full attention – then beauty and a little bit of destruction (you crack something beautiful in two) come together, in the slightest gesture.

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