Photo: QS Serafijn

QS Serafijn (1960-2024) 

This week we received the sad news that artist QS Serafijn has passed away. Since 2013, QS Serafijn has been making watercolors, as he himself described them: “Watercolor is the schlemiel among the arts: too big for the napkin, too small for the tablecloth.” Until then he mainly worked in public spaces. Well-known projects include the interactive ones D tower in Doetinchem, John Wayne in The Hague and man's, the dog in front of the station in Assen. His work as an author was also an integral part of being an artist. In The Collected Brick of QS Serafijn (2023), he takes us into the world of ideas of a versatile artist who is sharp, melodious and then barely intelligible, cheerful or melancholic.  

QS Serafijn wrote a series of columns for CBK Rotterdam under the title Seraphic in the magazine KAAT that appeared between 2007 and 2012. As a tribute to a special artist, a keen observer and above all a beautiful person, we publish the column 'Worthless' below from KAAT number 5 (January-March 2010). 


'To have a goal in mind is slavery' is a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche. When the editors of KAAT invited me to write the column, the possible subject I was given was: who determines the value of art in public space and how? I immediately thought of the PVV's distasteful question: how much does an immigrant cost? The PVV wants to know exactly how much money immigrants cost the state and how much they generate. The question of the yield of something, its economic value, is typically a question that keeps citizens awake at night. It is the grumpiness of the citizen that can be effortlessly projected onto the 'Fremdkörper' such as immigrants and art. The citizen's resentment is ugly and reactionary. In this rapidly changing society his position is precarious and uncertain. 

The precariousness with which Nicolas Bourriaud (author of Esthétique relationelle, among others) labels current art, in particular, is not exclusive to art. It attaches itself to all social phenomena, it infects everything and everyone. Logically, precarity is a thorn in the side of planners: politicians, economists, strategists, managers, educationalists, etc. They are trained to set their goals in the future, and then circumvent or eliminate any obstacles on the way to that goal. This works best when time stands still, but when everything moves and changes places, it becomes difficult to reach the goal without any problems. 

Who determines the value of art in public space and how? I. Quite disgusting. As a visual artist I understand it, I base my judgment on intellectual, substantive and aesthetic arguments and I have experience in realizing images in public space. In addition, the client determines the value of art in public space. He bases his judgment on the 'radiance' that the work has on its environment. He knows everything about (city) marketing; he knows exactly what his city, municipality or district needs. The value of art in public space is also determined by the critic. His judgment is historically substantiated and he has an overview of the landscape of visual arts. 

Don't forget the politician! The politician knows better than anyone how an image like Santa Claus incites the community to degradation and rebellion. The politician does not allow his morals to be derailed by a work of art, not before he has made it to the press. Citizens also determine the value of art in public space; the work of art is on his doorstep. It spoils his view, he didn't ask for it, he pays taxes for it, so what does it cost? Furthermore, media and the spirit of the times also contribute to the appreciation of art in public space. In short, the value of a work of art in public space is determined by a mix of ideas, visions and opinions that serve only one purpose: self-interest. 

Self-interest is the ally of fear: the fear of inadequacy, the fear of not achieving private or collective goals. Fear of losing face, chaos, dismissal, depression, illness, death. Traffic lights, signage, crossings, security and surveillance channel this civil fear. Art in public space, on the other hand, fuels those same fears in its absurd, inexplicable presence. That is a strong point. 

Economically speaking, art in public space is worth nothing, that is, no more than its cost price. Compared to, for example, guardrails (thousands of kilometers in the Netherlands), art costs society nothing. The economic value of art in public space does not increase because it is not traded. Even the aesthetic, ethical, intellectual, social or architectural value of art in public space is questionable. That is why I cherish Nietzsche's words: having a goal in mind is slavery. Or as the Dadaists used to say: Jedermann signals owner Fussball! This much is clear: Art power free. 

Q.S. Serafijn 

Publication date: 06 / 06 / 2024