press release

1:1 introduces two remarkable artistic practices concerned with the dilemmas of public art. The works of Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal are bound by a sustained polemic with the monumental genre: they unravel the political desires and anxieties that monuments thread together and 'set in stone', and reopen the debates about recent history that monuments seek to terminate. The artists engage the question of the monument overtly, in a critical scrutiny of paradigms of consensus, modes of commemoration and their political instrumentality.

Both artists present three recent works, with one point of continuity: the context in which the project of a National Monument for the Guest Workers in Rotterdam was proposed and vocally disputed. Van Houwelingen's and Staal's responses to this uncomfortable commission chart the full extent of a political spectrum animated by ongoing debates about the demise of the multicultural model in Northern Europe. These responses—Van Houwelingen's proposal to restore a landmark of Rotterdam public art from its dismally poor technical condition and re-script the narrative of its origin and ownership, and Staal's converse glorification of the 'real Rotterdamer', dispossessed of his or her city by successive waves of immigration—sit in opposition but also in a disquieting complementarity. They articulate the contradictory monument of a political discourse premised on ideological disjunction and the rapacious calculation of votes.

Hans van Houwelingen also presents Sluipweg, a footpath made of over 300 disinterred gravestones, circling the ramparts of Fort bij Vijfhuizen—a defence outpost where no war was fought. The place of a history that never came is now traversed by the material traces of hundreds of anonymous destinies, vanquished in other battles. What's done… can be undone! was proposed by Van Houwelingen in response to a commission from the city of The Hague for a monument to Johan Rudolph Thorbecke, founder of Dutch parliamentarism. Since the municipality of Amsterdam was at same time discussing a monument to Baruch Spinoza, purported founder of the city's image of freedom and individualism, the artist proposed a trade-off—pointing that each city held the statue the other desired. Van Houwelingen behaves curatorially in political space: he re-hangs the permanent collection in a museum of political history.

Jonas Staal presents a project commissioned by the residents of the Maastrichtsestraat in The Hague, who wished to commemorate the deportation of sixteen Jewish families that had lived on the street during World War II. As opposed to a conventional scenario where the task of remembrance would be externalized into a marker that remembers in our place, Jonas Staal proposed the change of the name of the street into Deportation of Sixteen Jewish Families Street. This was not to be just a switch of a street sign, but was to span from correspondence and billing addresses to the residents' efforts to modify accordingly all entries relating to the street in the archival filing systems of the municipality.

Staal's other contribution to the exhibition is the third episode of his research Art, Property of Politics. Closed Architecture is based on the Architecture MA dissertation of Fleur Agema, currently a prominent member of the Freedom Party. The text describes the project of a prison, a complex facility for reinserting inmates into society through an elaborate sequence of disciplinary spaces and norms. Jonas Staal took it on himself to flesh out this vision from a dissertation that reflects on punitive and re-educational strategies, implicating the boundaries at which normality and the health of the social body are formulated politically and defended.

Guided tour and symposium / Friday 13 January 2012 1:1 will conclude with a guided tour, led by Wouter Davidts, followed by short lectures by Bart Verschaffel, Marina Vishmidt, Gideon Boie and Sven Lütticken, and an open discussion.

The speakers will engage the two artistic practices from a variety of perspectives, ranging from a reflection on the monument as a philosophical notion, to a recent history of prison architecture and the relationships between this microcosm of exclusion and the larger social body from which it is separated, or to the ways in which the two artists negotiate the distinction between politics and the political.

Extra muros and Publications Until the 11th of December, 1:1 runs parallel to Hans van Houwelingen: Until It Stops Resembling Itselfat Stroom Den Haag. For this exhibition and in co-production with Extra City, the publication Undone has been realized by Jap Sam Books.

On the occasion of 1:1, Jonas Staal presents the publication Art, Property of Politics III: Closed Architecture, published by Onomatopee.

Extra City, Jonas Staal and Hans van Houwelingen wish to thank all who have been supportive in realizing the exhibition and the publications: Centrum Beeldende Kunst Rotterdam, Context is the Message, Fonds BKVB, Koninklijk Bijenkorfarchief, Mondriaan Foundation, N.V. Hollandia, Stichting Onomatopee Eindhoven, Stichting Stokroos, Stroom Den Haag and SIR (Sculpture International Rotterdam).

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Hans van Houwelingen & Jonas Staal