Amiel Grumberg
projects & works

shows & archive
Baadsters (Amsterdam)

Marianne Maasland
`Women bathing`
Marianne Brouwer

related link
NYArts Magazine

Amiel Grumberg (ENG)
also published in NYArts Magazine 2003

Water: A Vast Outdoor Exhibition
For a long time, open-air contemporary art exhibitions have been a staple of European cultural tourism. It’s a tried and true method that attracts not only the organizers but also a mass of summertime visitors. Choose a picturesque walk with a park, gardens in bloom, and throw in a castle if need be. Be sure to scatter a few monumental works around, so as to show the walk at its most pleasurable. An advertising campaign and some published material will insure the success of the project and will mark the occasion on the summer events calendar. Some go for the ‘fun’ option of huge, imposing adult-proof sculptures on which children can climb and play. Others will go for the noble option, in the Nth attempt at democratizing contemporary art.

Everyone will appear satisfied with the arrangements. Governments and municipalities can be proud of their artistic patronage, and the public will be especially delighted to benefit from a few days of rest – art or no art. But the exhibition Water, running until November at the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen in Haarlem has what it takes to shift views on the so-called summer sculpture walk. The setting is overwhelmingly idyllic and devoid of any tourist presence due to its hyper-protected standing. This natural reserve is the production and cleaning point for all the water that enters Amsterdam. Considered as the quietest place in Holland, it is spoken about with discretion. Its appearance in any local or foreign tourist guide is avoided. So Water long remained confidential, to the delight of local joggers and the odd Sunday stroller taking advantage of this extraordinarily peaceful haven. To convince the park authorities of the underlying good of the project took quite some time for the three organizers, who had to deal with a daunting list of conditions. The coinciding of the chosen topic with the park’s fiftieth birthday finally dissolved the remaining doubts and the co-operation between the park technicians and the artists appears to have been particularly fruitful.

Based on the theme of water, Japan’s Toshikatsu Endo, Beninese Meschac Gaba, and Holland’s Wapke Feenstra were invited to take possession of the site and to make their mark. Here are no monuments, nor any well-worn paths. Armed only with a simple map, the visitor is to venture forth and discover the works of the three artists hidden in this jewelry box of nature. Unlike the average open air walk, nothing here is visually imposing. The visitor could pass by oblivious to the artist, simply observing the changing landscape and meeting with a surprising array of fauna. Along the path, Wapke Feenstra’s Bathers form a discrete red line. On concrete plates inserted into the ground, the artist has traced contours of some famous bathers taken from paintings by some of the modern masters. They are only apparent to the visitor whilst spouting water. Playing on the visible and invisible, Wapke Feenstra establishes a dialogue with the original open-air artists at the end of the 19th century and lets history run its course through nature. The fountains of Toshikatsu Endo were produced in an even more discrete manner and are integrated so well in the landscape that they remain invisible even to the locals. Most observers will have gathered that the shape of the miniature geysers from which they are inspired is not commonly found in Holland. Designed in co-operation with the landscape designers of the park, the geysers have a way of emerging from the ground creating a somewhat ‘fairy-like’ atmosphere. Dug into isolated zones, they form real places of meditation, and evoke the quasi-spiritual relation with nature that one finds in the majority of eastern philosophies.

Further along the path Meschac Gaba’s village surprises the walker who finds himself or herself face to face with peculiar vestiges of a civilization in contrast to this pristine setting. Tens of wooden out-houses planted in a clearing refer to the ancient Stone-Hengesque sites of the Menhirs, and to animist rituals. Approaching visitors discover office water-coolers built into the out-houses and can help themselves to some refreshment. Each water cooler is decorated with Dutch water landscapes, adding a new dimension to the course of the exhibition. By combining ancestral structures with common, daily objects, Meschac Gaba has skillfully played on the pretenses of the Dutch landscape – an erudite mixture of natural and artificial.

Water is a three hour walk dotted with scores of works; you won’t find all of them. It is a modest and refreshing environmental exhibition, and an ideal respite for the body and the soul.