Sannetje van Haarst at work in her garden. Photo: © Marwan Magroun

Behind the scenes: I AM A SOCIAL ONE-PIECE

In conversation with Sannetje van Haarst

Sannetje van Haarst is production coordinator for the international sculpture collection SIR, or Sculpture International Rotterdam. She supervises the realization, management and (re) placement of the sculptures in the collection of this program belonging to CBK Rotterdam. In addition to a great love for art in the city, Van Haarst as a garden designer also has a close affinity with nature. Exploration of city and country with an idiosyncratic, active imaginer. 'I never sit still. Always play outside. '

Text: Annemiek van Grondel

"Openness to diverse perspectives is important for a fascinating city," said Dees Linders, the former artistic director of SIR, in 2010, during the unveiling of a fairytale 'pop-art' work of art. Because this one consists of two parts The Idler's Playground by the German sculptor Cosima von Bonin reflects multiple ways of looking at our daily existence. What do we see? A referee's chair with Pinocchio on it, whose meter-long nose pierces right through an opposite mushroom. The bench underneath invites you to reflect on the world around us or simply to linger carefree. The work of art, which was unveiled with an experimental performance at Hofplein, is now in a park on Putselaan, near metro station Maashaven. The long nose of Pinocchio and the bench are rewarding seating objects for perching birds of all kinds. That open view of the world and a wide range of interests have characterized Linders' right-hand man Sannetje van Haarst for many years.

Rock and noise

A site trailer was the very first thing Sannetje van Haarst saw of the world. We write Meppel in the year 1966. It was the home of her newly married parents, an east-west connection between a Haarlem and a Tukker. 'My father was a contractor and that site hut served as a temporary living quarters,' explains Van Haarst. Shortly afterwards, she was one year old, the family moved to Enschede. The city center of that city, like that of Rotterdam, was largely destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. In the decades that followed, Enschede was gradually restored and the liveliness and noise returned.

The words 'life' and 'noise' also apply to Van Haarst

The words 'life' and 'noise' also apply to Van Haarst, who in her youth was a regular visitor to the illustrious youth center cum pop venue De Kokerjuffer, a progressive, rock-solid base where weed was already legalized. When that ended in 1983, she sympathized with a militant group that demanded its own pop venue for the city. And that happened: for decades performances by national and foreign bands were programmed in the new Atak.

Sannetje van Haarst - Photo: © Marwan Magroun
Sannetje van Haarst -
Photo: © Marwan Magroun

About the same time, Van Haarst was seventeen years old, she was the victim of a serious motorcycle accident. 'I had to recover from that,' she says. "I couldn't even climb stairs anymore."

A few years after this radical event, she picked up her life again and continued her education at the MBO course Fashion and Clothing. But it was time to activate a dormant ambition: the art academy, AKI. That wish was granted more easily than expected. Chuckling: 'There was an application procedure for the academy, but after the entrance exam I promptly received a giro collection form for the registration fee, which I paid readily. It later turned out to be an administrative error. The coordinator was surprised to find out how I had ended up on the training. But I was allowed to stay. '

Avant-garde at the AKI

At the AKI, Van Haarst followed the direction of Monumental Design. 'With monumental design, think not only of three-dimensional works of art in public space, but also of building-related art and design,' she says. 'Just like wall paintings or wall hangings in hospitals and companies, or Karel Appel's stained glass application in the façade of the Hofpleintheater. Monumental design is based on the location and is often spatial. I made a lot of installations during my art academy education. But it also includes music and other performances. '

The avant-garde is necessary to question social developments. And to examine yourself: what do you want to and can you identify with?

The AKI calls Van Haarst a 'very progressive school'. In the XNUMXs and XNUMXs, director Joop Hardy introduced free, modern art and design and insisted on self-development through his own work. 'AKI was one of the freest academies, even more free than the Rietveld,' she says. Joop Hardy and later Sipke Huismans were responsible for the institute. They were idealistic and put the social, humanistic aspect at the center of art, living together in different layers. According to them, the essence of art was nested in every layer of society. The avant-garde is necessary to question social developments. And to examine yourself: what do you want to and can you identify with? '

Public scandal

Van Haarst absorbed all the information and eagerly experimented in her own identity search, including in Spain. There, after a crash course in Spanish, she did an internship in Cuenca in the early nineties at the faculty of fine arts of the University of Castilla-La Mancha. It was a wild time, in which she met talented people, such as the artist Lara Almarcegui who later moved to the Netherlands. The idiosyncratic AKI student nevertheless stood out among all the artistic people at the academy, which was located in a former monastery. They called me The Sitting Bull from Holanda ', she says, referring to the controversial performance she performed with her roommate in the stairwell that led to the church. 'I had drawn the parts of a cow all over my body and my fellow student Covadonga de la Vega was eating a huge piece of raw meat on the other side of the room at the same time. They labeled us anarchists. ' Escándalo público !, the newspapers headlined. Not entirely unjustified. She smiles. 'We were a kind of Pussy Riot avant la lettre, yes. That did not go well in a country with countless references to Franco's rule, from banknotes to statues and street names. '

We were a kind of Pussy Riot avant la lettre

As soon as something threatens to become sluggish, Van Haarst likes to shake things up and point out the necessity of art for people. Full of fire: 'In the past, art meant “exaltation of the people”. Art ensures that you experience beauty, experience a kíck with it. Willem I and II commissioned artists and made their collections accessible to everyone in museums. Over the centuries, that urgent feeling has slowly but surely faded. Today many people feel that art has lost its value. Take the cutbacks in the cultural sector by Halbe Zijlstra some ten years ago, during the first Rutte cabinet. Art and culture have become a side issue, a hobby! '

The Wild Know

Partly thanks to fellow artist Jeroen Jongeleen, who still knew Van Haarst from the AKI, she ended up in Rotterdam in the late 55s and in a studio at Het Wilde Weten. For that artists' initiative she acted as treasurer and organized exhibitions and a number of times the WildeBoekenMarkt. While she lived and worked in Rotterdam, Van Haarst expanded her network in the rest of the country as well. Like in the capital. Van Haarst, now 2006, is still combative and social, with a clear heart for the business, as her colorful career shows. Through her art history teacher Sebastián Lopéz, she found employment at The Gate Foundation on the Herengracht in Amsterdam. 'That foundation, founded in the early nineties by Els van der Plas, the current business director of the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht, existed until XNUMX,' says Van Haarst, who in recent years managed the archive of non-Western artists living in the Netherlands. and organized activities. 'We paid a lot of attention to non-Western art and the internationalization of the art world. The first exhibition was devoted to modern Indonesian art and the last was entitled A Short History of Video Art. Una breve historia del video arte holandes. Ultimately, the foundation was disbanded, because the then Minister of Culture and Media was of the opinion that non-Western art was already sufficiently represented in the Netherlands. We have housed the archive and the library at the Van Abbemuseum. '

Rotterdam is teeming with iconic works of art, by various national and foreign makers

Due to various wanderings in the art world, her network continued to expand. Her activities were and are many. She briefly arranged projects for designer Hella Jongerius. She is also still an advisor to artist Erik van Lieshout. Van Haarst is currently responsible for the image selection and presentation of a book about the constructivist artist Naum Gabo. Enthusiastic: 'The book deals with one image of him, the well-known construction that stands in front of the Bijenkorf. Gabo. Portrait of a picture. Gabo. Portrait of a sculpture includes contributions from Patricia van Ulzen, colleague Siebe Thissen, head of BKOR and former colleague Dees Linders, former artistic director of SIR. Dees is also the initiator of this publication. '

Art belongs to everyone

Rotterdam is teeming with iconic works of art, by various national and foreign makers. Everyone knows the images of Zadkine, Henry Moore, Willem de Kooning, Karel Appel, Naum Gabo and Joep van Lieshout. From the post-war reconstruction, private art collectors worked to liven up the city by purchasing high-profile international images. This was taken over in 1960 by the City Embellishment Committee of the City of Rotterdam, which acquired 21 sculptures of art historical value until the late XNUMXs. For example Alexander Calders Le Tamanoir (The Anteater), purchased by the Municipality of Rotterdam in 1965 for the new housing estate Hoogvliet. It is one of the most valuable sculptures in public space in the Netherlands. 'Some people think it is a shame that it is in such an anonymous place and not in the center,' says Van Haarst. Wim Pijbes, then director of the Kunsthal, also had that discussion. I limp on two legs: the image belongs to everyone. It's a shame less people see it, but then again, the world is so small. If you're flying to Madrid, why not get on the metro? It will take you from CS to Hoogvliet in no time. Continue via the Beneluxbaan to Hoogvliet and back via the other metro line via Pendrecht and Zuidplein over the Maas and Leuvehaven. Did you know that Pendrecht was designed by a Bauhaus architect, Lotte Stam-Beese? Then you have an extremely interesting trip through the industrial landscape of Rotterdam, including a look at the Hoogovens. '

From Erasmus to Rodin

In 2007 Van Haarst ended up at Sculpture International Rotterdam, which was then still called the International Sculpture Collection. SIR manages approximately 65 public works of art in the city. The program was led by Dees Linders, who proposed the name change in 2006. At SIR, Van Haarst works 24 hours a week, in addition to her activities as a self-employed person.

One of the most precious images from the collection is that of Desiderius Erasmus, designed by Hendrick de Keyser. It is the oldest bronze statue, not only in Rotterdam, but in the whole of the Netherlands. 'The Erasmus statue, cast in 1622 and placed on the Grotemarkt, was a gift from the citizens to the city,' she says. 'It survived the bombing in May 1940. During the war, the statue was hidden by the people of Rotterdam under sandbags in the courtyard of Boijmans Van Beuningen. Since 1964 it has had a permanent place on the Grotekerkplein near the Laurenskerk. '

One of the most precious images from the collection is that of Desiderius Erasmus

Although Van Haarst mainly works with performers, she also regularly enters into conclaves with artists. Then it is useful that she has followed an art education and is active as a designer herself. 'As an artist you are always focused on solutions. You assume a certain materiality, ”she says. 'That's why art is so interesting. You have to be and stay sharp. ' Van Haarst says he is a 'jack of all trades', who is both social and soloist. 'I am a one-man. I am regularly criticized for not being able to delegate very well. You don't have to do it all yourself, they say. '

The conscience of SIR

Knowledge of art and people, coupled with a pragmatic attitude, are important qualities for a SIR madam. Van Haarst: 'Suppose an image has to be moved. The work would be somewhere temporarily, or the context would change. Then we look for another location together with the artist and other parties involved. Of course you have to deal with the public, which often attaches itself to a work of art or place and sometimes cheers, then protests. But I can support and motivate such a decision. In doing so, I draw on our extensive knowledge of art in public space. Don't forget: space is scarce. '

SIR's office coordinator has acquired global technical know-how from engineers and industrial designers. 'I'm not a technician, I don't have to. You always operate in close consultation with City Management and City Development. The artwork will be placed in the public space, so we must ensure that it is safe. You are obliged to prevent anyone from climbing on it and then making a death tuck. ' There is also care for the place itself. For example, under the Hofplein, the former location of The Idler's Playground - She calls it 'Playground for the Uitvreter' - a historic sewer. 'You cannot and should not overburden that soil so as not to endanger us and our drinking water,' she says. 'We investigated with engineers from the Bureau Leidingen whether we could place the artwork there.'

The artwork will be placed in the public space, so we must ensure that it is safe

Another object that caused many headaches is the kinetic work of art Two Turning Vertical Rectangles on the Binnenwegplein. The eight-meter-high stainless steel structure with moving rectangles about two meters high by George Rickey was unveiled in 1971. In 2012, the work was removed due to 'head impact hazard' and placed back on a higher pedestal after three years. But then a truck (or van: the perpetrator lies in the cemetery) hit the artwork on the newly redesigned Binnenwegplein, causing serious damage. Van Haarst: 'The plates became loose. That day the storm was so terrifying that it became dangerous. I stood with Theo Laport of Stadsbeheer gesturing to the public to keep their distance. Ultimately, the wings were lifted off the mast and repaired. Tjalling de Vries of the engineering firm also had to perform calculations on the mast from which those wings were hanging. Because, believe it or not, the wind blows more now and even harder than thirty years ago. ' Since September last year, the rectangles are again proudly shining on the Binnenwegplein. Van Haarst has a lot of consultation with City Management and City Development when it comes to maintenance of the works of art. 'It was decided to have a collar of poles placed around the statue,' she says. 'It does not necessarily make the sculpture and the surroundings more beautiful, but it does make it a lot safer.'

A natural switch

Although Van Haarst loves her work at SIR dearly, she remains that 'one person' with a wide view. 'The activities are very varied. But at some point you have to make room for others. An organization must be able to rejuvenate. I'm thinking of leaving in a few years, no matter how exciting the work is. '

I go completely crazy with drawing, at least one evening a week

She has already taken an advance on that new life by following a training as a garden designer. Her own company Phlox Tuinontwerp was born in 2018; a year later, one of her creations was nominated for the Gardenista green festival. 'My grandmother was a pharmacist and garden enthusiast, with a lot of medicinal plant knowledge. She also loved art. For example, she pointed out all the plants that can be seen in paintings and Greek vases, 'says Van Haarst, who loves everything that grows and blooms and can be found in her garden at Volkstuindersvereniging Blijdorp every free moment. 'I never sit still. Always play outside, 'she explains. 'That is why I started studying landscape architecture at the age of fifty. That's fantastic: I go all out with drawing, at least one evening a week. I design on the drawing board and the computer, with landscaping architecture-software. Then I feel thrown back to my art academy days. '

Her personal taste? "I like a wild, slightly untidy garden, with as much uninhibited natural vegetation as possible," she says. 'I am democratic in my own garden, but I am also at home in monumental, strict design. Pruning hedges in symmetrical shapes, that's a job. So if you want a pristine garden, I will deliver it with love. '

I like a wild, slightly untidy garden, with as much uninhibited natural vegetation as possible

Publication date: 23 / 04 / 2021