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Center for Visual Arts Rotterdam

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Dikkie Scipio (MArch) is a co-founder and architect partner of KAAN Architects. Photo: Max Dereta

Sculptures in public space

We think it's normal that we walk around in Rotterdam in one of the largest sculpture gardens in the world. How special it is that we stumble over, lean against or sit on, sometimes world-famous names that give meaning to our public space, how special it is that we have the right to be against or for the placement of works that other cities can only dream of , we don't seem to know about it.

Siebe Thissen has ensured that there is now a beautiful overview work through which we can oversee the wealth of visual art in Rotterdam in public space and place it in its context, socially and historically. Browsing the book filled me with pride. I see it as the grand finale of an era as our concept of public space is rapidly changing.

Where openness used to designate the space that is not private and the facades and entrance parts of the buildings were occasionally entrusted to the artists as edges of the public space as the builder's enormous gesture, the hard line between public and private is now slowly blurring. A new generation has arisen that no longer pursues property. Not from a political ideal but from the idea that it does not see the meaning of the usefulness of property. It is the backpack generation that was brought to school in the morning with the announcement that they would be picked up by their father, their neighbor or their grandfather's third wife. It is a generation growing up in prosperity with the knowledge that everything is always present, but not in one place and not in ownership. It is a generation that takes sharing for granted and is not impressed by ownership. The line between private and public disappears. The emergence and popularity of Uber, Airbnb and Greenwheels are the result. Even Porsche currently has one sharing program!

This also has major consequences for the perception of the idea of ​​public space. Namely, when the term 'possession' no longer indicates the harsh separation between private and public, where does public space end? Does that end at all? The creation of the first POPS - the Privately Owned Public Spaces - is already a fact. As far as I know, the visual arts now react to this new public space as if there is no difference, but it cannot fail to happen or there will be a reaction.

Another exponent of the new sharing is the 'sharing of knowledge'. Whereas knowledge was first a private good that was tradable, we have now become accustomed to a knowledge and network society in which it seems that we have access to all knowledge for free. What we have overlooked, however, is that it is about intellectual knowledge, not the knowledge and experience that we have to undergo physically to master a craft.

Now, one of the things that is so special about artworks in public space is that they are very well made. They have to, because whether they are free or part of a building, apart from having the right physiognomy and the right appearance, they must also be able to withstand the nurturing of the public and, moreover, survive our climate. Also, the images often have a scale that is such that if they are not properly constructed they would fall over or collapse under their own weight. Therefore, in addition to exceptional artistry, great craftsmanship is required when making the works. A lot can always be said about the meaning of the works, but the skill with which the works are made has long been taken for granted.

How unjustified that is can be seen from the enormous shortage that threatens real professionals. There are hardly any masters who have mastered the skills of, for example, glass blowing, machining and casting of metals, processing of leather, the many types of processing and applying natural stone, baked stone and concrete and making fabrics, lace and patterns. , etcetera. The list of endangered crafts seems endless. It is a serious matter, because to actually master a craft you sometimes need up to decades of practice and patience. That the need is high is evident from the fact that various multinationals now have programs in which they are looking for real craftsmen. Often older and sometimes even very old people are hired to ensure that their professional knowledge is not lost and to pass it on to young people who get to know the value of the profession again. Crafts that are often needed to make a good work of art.

I am grateful for the fact that Siebe's book contains numerous photos of artists at work. It makes clear the importance of craftsmanship. It is often the artists who have ensured that some knowledge is not lost. Let us be particularly aware of this. Without craft there would be no art in public space.

The timing for the book IMAGES to publish could not be better. It ensures awareness of the quality with which we are accustomed to surround ourselves and, hopefully, also with respect for the expertise that is needed to achieve this. It also shows us our attitude to public space, where the visual arts are the discipline that helps us to understand how the world can be viewed as the ultimate public space. Right now this world is changing very quickly and we are there to experience this. Is not that great?

MArch Dikkie Scipio
On the occasion of the presentation of the book Sculptures. Urban embellishment in Rotterdam since 1940 from Siebe Thissen
Rotterdam, 1 June 2016

Publication date: 10 / 06 / 2016

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