Report Radio Paleis Maashaven from Art Rotterdam

By Nous Faes

In 2022, Radio Paleis Maashaven made its debut, live from the Afrikaanderwijk, with radio broadcasts about developments in public space. One year later there was a sequel, live from Art Rotterdam. Compilers and presenters Mariska van den Berg and Kim Bouvy settled down with their team at an appropriate location: in the middle of the Sculpture Park, a new part of the art fair with large-scale works of art that are suitable for an outdoor location in the city or nature. Here Van den Berg and Bouvy received artists and designers and spoke with them about art in public space, the city and urban culture. How do you work in public space? From what intentions? And what urban conditions matter, make the work possible?    

David Bade, photo: Boudewijn Bollmann

Image echoes

“Art needs to get out of its cage!” it sounds in the middle of the stock exchange, which is mainly made up of boxes and David Bade indeed means it as a commentary. His art has a completely different approach and it would be difficult to manifest itself at a fair, he says, because making and engaging are essential characteristics and the work is (therefore) more immaterial and difficult to sell. Bade sees his art projects and initiatives as “ongoing works of art” that are based on interaction with the environment. How he approaches this becomes clear when he talks about the Instituto Buena Bista on Curaçao, which he co-founded, the multi-year collaborative project All You Can Art with Kunsthal Rotterdam and a new project that he is realizing together with psychiatric patients. 

But above all, the conversation with him is about the manifestation Image echoes, for which he is responsible as guest curator and which will start in the spring. The starting point is the renowned international sculpture collection in the public space of Rotterdam and the intention of Image echoes is that those images are viewed with new eyes. Literally and figuratively, because Bade has commissioned eight artists to each choose one of the sculptures on the sculpture route from Central Station to Westzeedijk and to respond to it with a new work, in whatever way. In the broadcast, two of these artists, Yaïr Callender and Roxette Capriles, talk about their plans. We hear how Callender gives an insight into his motivation and the work process surrounding the neon work from his studio Breathe, Walk, Die (2016) by Ugo Rondinone that he has selected. He wants to make a healing image “to help Ugo to break free from his depression.” Roxette Capriles fell for the 6.5 meter high work The Plait (2020) by Kalliopi Lemos, which has strong masculine and feminine features. She embraces the image as a radical gesture against patriarchy, as an image that banishes old ideas and identities, and her artwork promises to be a celebration of the tenth anniversary of the ballroom scene in the Netherlands. In the broadcast, she talks about the origins of the phenomenon from the XNUMXs to the XNUMXs in the United States, its meaning and current popularity. She envisions an active work, both monument and archive, with which she wants to give this community something lasting back from a practice that is only digital and stored in memories.

And that active interaction fits in perfectly with how David Bade Image echoes want to see manifested in a fringe programming. There is room in it for the ephemeral processes and immaterial content that are so important to the artists, but are abstracted, as it were, absorbed and disappear in the material sculptures. 

Roxette Capriles, photo: Boudewijn Bollmann

The invisible city

A city as a collection of invisible identities that become visible is the poetic approach of the second conversation. Mariska van de Berg performs with Iratxe Jaio, who has an artist practice in Rotterdam with her partner Klaas van Gorkum, and with Ayo, Joanneke Jouwsma and Salim Bayri, three artists whose work can be seen in the exhibition prospects, an annual part of Art Rotterdam in which the Mondriaan Fund shows young talent. In the works of art that Van den Berg discusses with them, sound plays a supporting role and it flows from their hands into an almost tangible spatiality that touches your senses and mind. 

For example, how do you capture sound in a room full of buzz, or outside, where it disappears into other sounds? Jouwsma shows how she plays with it in her performances. Ayo made the movie Singing of Kee and we listen to a sound fragment in which grain is sifted manually and rhythmically; it works as a metaphor for people movements in the diaspora. In the broadcast, Ayo explains how and why she intertwines image, language and sound from three countries in her film and what effect she is aiming for. Salim Bayri made the video work F to a reflexive inner world in which no sound penetrates and which (partly for this reason) is charged with emotion. He tells how he came to this work, but also how he thinks about the suspension of judgments and the stretching of time, playing according to one's own rules and the quality of moving in an in-between space from which you can find new footing.  

The film Under the wing came up with Iratxe Jaio with her then eleven-year-old son when they were both forced to stay at home due to a lockdown during the corona pandemic. The film fits into the artist's oeuvre that has been formed around the collective and private use of public and private space. For this film, Jaio says, she was inspired by a work by Wim Wenders, in which the city becomes a socio-political stage in a fiction film; this is how the city in lockdown could also be understood. In the city in lockdown, common conceptions of indoor and outdoor space and associated sound fell away and because people were not allowed to come close to each other, their communication also changed. In the sound clips that Jaio plays during the broadcast, whispers can be heard and the final chord ends in a cacophony, for which a sound archive was created from twenty different countries, via an appeal on social media. 

Photo: Boudewijn Bollmann

By whom is the city?

How could the city as a complex public space, bound by rules and restrictions, be appropriated by committed citizens, makers, writers and designers, or just mere mortals? Kim Bouvy and her guests in the broadcast are looking for an answer to this question. 

Before the publication Smooth City (2023) René Boer has looked at different cities worldwide and his prediction is that the trend to rake cities according to principles of perfection, optimization and limitation via digital surveillance, with homogenization as the outcome, will continue. This becomes tangible and comprehensible in the fragment about Amsterdam that Boer reads. Then, in conversation, he mentions porosity as a counterpoint and a brainstorm unfolds how that could work in a contemporary city. 

Bruce Tsai-Meu-Chong works with Linda van der Vleuten under the name Opperclaes in public space and was recently awarded the Laurenspenning for this. Recently they carried out the project Rebound out, painting an unused field and turning it into a sports field. It took the duo four years: two years in which they tried in vain to get authorities enthusiastic and, after an award from 'innovation generator' CityLab010, another two years to realize the project. In the broadcast, Tsai-Meu-Chong and Boer talk to Bouvy about this project and about initiatives such as Tante Nettie, RAUM and the Afrikaanderwijk Coöperatie, each of which establishes a long-term relationship with a neighborhood with a clear assignment based on a connection between residents, artists and entrepreneurs. , and therefore be successful. Incidentally, less successful examples are also reviewed. 

Save Museumpark is an action group that did not get a foothold in the new design of the public space around the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen. In recent years this has been a unique space that has been actively used by various groups, both centrally located and in the shelter. Mike van Straaten is an urban designer and skater and in conversation with Bouvy he explains how the area functioned and why the action group continues with its speculative design sessions. 

The conclusion is that Rotterdam wholesales in billboards that represent the character of the city (raw, dynamic, decisive), but that temporality without an underlying vision means nothing. Van Straaten suggests that the appointment of a City Architect who experiments with the unplanned and thus facilitates the city from below, as in Barcelona, ​​can make a difference. He calls it 'Tactical urbanism', and it accommodates the previously proposed porosity. 'Can't something like that be done in Rotterdam?' is the question that lingers before the final chord is a new, monumental sound work by Cardboard Lamb full of metropolitan classics. 

Radio Paleis Maashaven is a collaboration between CBK Rotterdam and Operator Radio, the online radio station and cultural platform in Rotterdam. The broadcasts can be listened to on the website VAN Operator en CBK Rotterdam.

Publication date: 07 / 03 / 2023