artist / participant
De Jong was born in the Netherlands in 1972 and studied at the Academy of Visual Arts and the Rijksacademy for Visual Arts, both in Amsterdam, where he currently lives and works.
De Jong's work comments on contemporary politics, society, and war, using the grotesque as Pieter Brueghel did in the sixteenth century, and as German Expressionist artists often did in the twentieth century. In a 2008 interview de Jong said: "The only way to rise above the problems we are confronted with is to turn them into the grotesque. The grotesque allows us to see that everything is relative. The problems we are confronting are not new. These things happened before."
De Jong's choice of materials--Styrofoam and polyurethane-- adds another layer of meaning to his work. These substances are relatively impermeable and sometimes toxic, and they create considerable environmental problems. That they were invented for or used in the service of warfare, and are currently made by the same factories that still produce chemicals like napalm, gives them additional significance for the artist. Their sinister history of fabrication, use, and environmental impact contributes to the grotesque quality of the sculpture.
The Shooting ... At Watou was initially created as a site-specific work in Watou, Belgium. De Jong chose this border territory between France and Belgium to pay homage to an area notorious for its savage war history. The Shooting re-enacts, in the allegorical form of David and Goliath, the battle between Spain and The Netherlands during the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648). The 10-foot-tall Goliath is Spain grimacing in the face of death, and the life-sized Dutch soldiers are the heroic David. The soldier facing death is also a metaphor for the individual soldier who is asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
De Jong also references Francisco de Goya's famous 1814 painting The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid: the Executions on Principe Pio Hill, which shows a Spanish citizen being murdered by Napoleon's troops. Like Goya, de Jong depicts an execution, though de Jong's scene is surreal: the grinning giant taunts his murderers with rattling castanets, while the drumming soldier incites his comrades to kill. The absurdity of the scene is enhanced by the contrast between the violence portrayed and the saccharine colors of the Styrofoam and polyurethane materials, and the disproportionate scale of the figures. Unlike Goya's painting, it is unclear who the victim is in The Shooting--the soldiers or the giant, perhaps suggesting that in war everyone is a victim.
only in german
Folkert de Jong: The Shooting...At Watou