Museum Arnhem


January 6th, 2016 I arrive at museum Arnhem. Although I live in Gelderland, I have not often been in Arnhem. Once in park Sonsbeek where I had to tell on TV about a conceptual work by Stephen Wilks (1964). And I went to the museum a few times. Museum Arnhem is a white building from the nineteenth century, originally a gentlemen's society. At the end of World War II, the building was severely damaged because it was on the front line. Restored in 1954, it became a modern art museum.

There will be two theme exhibitions in the wings of the building; Mirror Eye, with self-portraits and Unrest; a selection of works on social unrest. At the exhibition with self portraits first there is Levi van Veluw. His head spins slowly on video and is covered with landscape on which a train runs around, a model railroad track complete with bushes and street lighting.


The Mirror Eye exhibition consists of more than one hundred and fifty works. Rineke Dijkstra in a bathing suit...

A simple animated video shows a head that reveals itself over and over via its mouth. It is Serge Onnen showing that the artist must keep innovating but always comes back to himself.


A three-dimensional Moniek Toebosch is in the corner...


Anyone who sees the self-portrait of Piet Mondriaan, borrowed from The Hague, cannot believe that he really made this. It is an amateurish charcoal drawing, possibly made by one Sal Slijper.

An aging Erwin Olaf,


A large painting by Anya Janssen (1962) shows how, as a naked giantess, she squats a flood while squatting, causing people to drown.


   I have reached a series of photos of a girl, usually crying or almost crying. Melanie Bonajo (1978) took pictures of herself for nine years from 2004 to 2013 while crying or very sad. The pictures remind me of the  Roni Horn selfies, when she just came out of the water. They looks a bit acted. The reason for the cry is not mentioned.

Inside the east wing of the building were I enter the exhibition Unrest there is more acting. A video by the sisters Angelique and Liesbeth Raeven is running. Filmed with the camera approximately at the water surface; it is sunny, the twin sisters play in the murky water. The accompanying text says it must be a "merciless battle in cold ditch water". Here in the movie, no blood is flowing.

A photo of Regina Galindo (1974) who cuts the word “Perra” in her leg with a razor, the blood runs out. It says that with this word, which means whore, the artist wants to expose the horrific practices in Latin America.

A large bunch of glass breasts by Maria Roosen next to a tree.

Because I regularly wonder what the choices for the works are based on, I ask it to Mirjam Westen, who has been a curator of the Arnhem museum for twenty-five years.

"Mirror Eye," Mirjam says, "is about questioning identity. Images do not immediately reveal what the artists want to say. The artistic expressiveness must seduce me to delve into the work. We live in a fleeting world in which the images fly past us, which is why we are no longer used to delving into an image. That is why I believe in looking at an image for a very long time to find out what unlocks the image."
   Mirjam and I are talking about two Lennart Lahuis paintings that she curated last year in the Van Nelle factory (picture), I read it aloud: “By slowing down access to information, Lahuis raises the apparent interchangeability of the current Western visual culture, and our role in it”. I have trouble with that explanation, too vague, too pretensiously. Mirjam says that she herself, in the service of the Mondrian Fund, had written the text but doesn't know what is meant herself either. Incidentally, Mirjam Westen should have written the text before the work was completed. She wrote about the abstract work in response to a confused telephone conversation with  Lahuis when he just woke up.