HERE / THERE, a dialogue between two banks

It started to become a familiar image: 5 could see the words HERE and THERE in neon light for years on the ventilation buildings of the Maas tunnel on either side of the Maas. They were the only points of light on the buildings shrouded in the dark. The light work was a temporary intervention in this special place. In modified form it can now be seen in the exhibition Our Tunnel in the Kunsthal. The words may return to another location after the exhibition. CBK Rotterdam spoke with Vesta Kroese about the history and future of this special neon artwork.

HERE AND THERE was installed in 2011 after a preparation process of more than two years. From 2007, the Downtownberaad Foundation (entrepreneurs' association Center) and the Kick Foundation initiated various projects in the North / South project group with the intention of connecting the north and south sides of Rotterdam. Visual artists Thijs Ewalts and Jasper Niens realized in 2008 a first work of art from South: a sign with the first part of a highway from South to North. In 2008, CBK Rotterdam was approached to select an artist who could create a work of art crossing the river from the north side.

“An urban Rotterdam language”
A proposal was made by visual artist Vesta Kroese, an architect originally but specialized in sculpture and works in public space. Kroese wanted to create a work that connected the two banks, and that would not only say something about 'North versus South', but about the entire city and its inhabitants. The result was HERE AND THERE, a light artwork in two parts: two word scaffolding attached to the white ventilation buildings on either side of the Maas, both of which alternately showed the words 'here' and 'there' in neon light. Neon was a logical choice according to Kroese: "Both banks were in the dark and neon is a city-like Rotterdam language."

After sunset, the words came on: if one side showed the word "here," the other side could read the word "there," and vice versa. HERE and THERE became THERE and HERE: a dialogue between the two banks. For example, the artist explicitly did not prefer North or South, but there was always communication between the two banks, with the water at the center. Due to the irregular staggering of the words, it sometimes took minutes or even hours for the neon words to change from HERE to THERE. Kroese did that on purpose and experienced it herself when she wanted to capture her work on video. She herself did not know how long it would take before she documented both words: “You had to keep looking and waiting for the moment to change. It was precisely because of this unpredictability that we started to look better at work. ”

Vesta Kroese, sketch: graphic drawing HERE / THERE

The construction
The typography of the letters was carefully designed by the artist and formed a graphic drawing, which was important for Kroese: "It also had to work visually if both letters were on at the same time" (see also the sketch above).
A software program was set up so that the neon lights jumped randomly from one word to the other. If one side jumped, a signal was sent to the other bank, wherever word was changed.

From a technical point of view, it was still quite complicated to make the construction temporary, yet sturdy. Kroese explains: “Because the work would already be temporary at the start, with a permit of 5 year (due to the monument status of the buildings, CBK R'DAM ed.), The work was mounted in such a way that there was no facade had to be screwed. ”The letters were therefore hung on a tilting construction on the roof. “Qneon took great care of the work, and often checked it in various storms. Neighborhood residents also kept a close eye on the work. They always immediately reported it to CBK Rotterdam if the installation failed or was switched off. Anton (Hoeksema) was quite busy with that! ”

The unveiling (YouTube video QneonBV, 2012)

Coming HERE AND THERE back yet?
In 2016 the permit granted for the work expired and the end became 2016 HERE AND THERE disassembled. It was first moved to the Kunsthal: there the neon work can be seen in the exhibition Our Tunnel. This exhibition is dedicated to the 75 anniversary of the oldest traffic tunnel in the Netherlands, the Maas Tunnel, and was realized by the Kunsthal in collaboration with the municipality of Rotterdam. Kroese: “The artwork is now in the Kunsthal, where the context and building are suddenly very large. It is actually conceived to be seen from a distance. A video is also shown showing how the work worked on the Maas. Fortunately, we finally succeeded in getting a picture of the switch between the words. ”

HERE AND THERE will probably reappear on the banks of the Maas after the exhibition in the Kunsthal. Especially if it is up to the former residents of the ventilation buildings. In any case, the municipality has guaranteed that the white buildings will be illuminated again after the renovation, so that they will no longer disappear in the dark at night. In the meantime, Kroese is working on a book that she started during a residency in Germany. The book contains texts that Kroese wrote, addressed to the road that cuts through the park around her stay in Germany. An impartial middle way that connects, that determines inside and outside, that is the center of a park but does not make any statements itself; the same neutral role that the Maas plays in HERE AND THERE.

Vesta Kroese
Vesta Kroese was trained as an architect and focuses on the human experience from the visual arts. She studied Sculpture at the Royal College of Arts in London and is expressed in various media such as sculpture, contextual interventions, installations, paintings and prints. She now lives and works alternately in The Hague and London. After installing HERE AND THERE in 2011 she did not see the work for long periods, but when she saw the work again she was moved by it. "It was no longer my job, but it had started to live its own life."

The video registration of HERE AND THERE produced especially for the exhibition (by Vesta Kroese and Christian van der Kooy) was made possible with financial contributions from Stroom Den Haag and CBK Rotterdam. Our Tunnel can be seen in Kunsthal Rotterdam until 23 April.

Publication date: 28 / 02 / 2017