mer à boire – Wouter Klein Velderman

Opening September 10, 18-21:00 hrs
Exhibition until October 22, 2011

Monument for transition, interview for www.hyperallergic.com

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Wouter Klein Velderman chose Amsterdam as a fine base to work on his art, but whenever possible he travels to foreign countries to produce large scale objects, build with local knowl- edge, materials and cultural properties. Building a huge wooden Mickey Mouse in the jungle of Suriname is his latest project. Klein Velderman also likes to play around with scale in curating massive exhibitions. He is one of the curators of “Beeld Hal Werk”, a presentation of Dutch sculpture over the past 60 years, in a giant industrial hall in the former harbor of Amsterdam, in 2010.

1. Why were you in Suriname? I was invited by the Tembe Art Studio to reside for a period of three months in beautiful Mo- engo, Suriname. In Moengo visual artist Marcel Pinas initiated the Marowijne Art Parc. Over the following few years artists from all over the world will be invited to add monumental sculptures to the interesting envirement of the region Marowijne. Their works will find a place in public space and eventually together will make Marowijne the art region of Suriname.

2. You are calling your largescale sculpture a “Monument for transition” . . . what do you mean by that? “Monument for transition” is a monument for the constant changes that the people of Moengo and Suriname are subject to. It’s as well a monument for changes in the past as for changes that are happening in this very moment. It’s a monument for small changes, that are hardly noticable, and huge changes with great concequenses. It’s a monument for nature, that rap- idly changes all unused objects into jungle by covering it with moss, bushes and tropical
flowers. It’s a monument for Toyota, that changed the streetscape drastically by filling up the streets with their cars. And it’s a monument for the Chinese that came to Suriname and took over almost all of the supermarkets. It’s a monument for the enormous amount of schoolchil- dren that grow up in Moengo and are developing their talents and eventually might use these talents to make even more transitions to the town. But it’s also a monument for the enormous transition that took place after the civil war that ended at the early 1990s. A transition that is still having its effect on the people. And at last, there are the transitions that are still to come. What transition will the current government bring? And what transition will take place after Suralco, the mining company where many Moengonese are employed, leaves the city?
I wanted to use an existing icon that stands for a certain kind of transition. One of the icons that changed Western society a great deal is the Walt Disney cartoon Mickey Mouse. There- fore I asked the people of Moengo and children from the surrounding villages to help rebuild- ing the Mickey Mouse cartoon, but this time using techniques, materials, and (woodcarving) elements from and about their own culture.

3. What fascinated you about the work of local artist David Linga and why did you choose to work with him? For the monument to succeed I needed the best woodcarver from the region to participate. I wanted to initiate a sculpture that the people of Moengo could be proud of for a long time. Marcel Pinas showed me photographs of Linga’s work, and brought me into contact with him. Linga’s works of art are very much about the history of Suriname and its habitants through the years. His strength is to very realistically and lively depict scenes from the past. These are scenes about the plantations, the slavery, but also about the people of Suriname in modern times. To make the monument interesting for a wide range of people I wanted to make its foundation a realistically carved base, that tells the story of their own people, David is by far the best man for the job.

4. What was your impression of Suriname and the challenges of society there? Moengo is a small town in the bushy East of Suriname, that hasn’t been taken care of so well by the government since the civil war at the late 1980s. Therefore, at first sight, the people were a bit stiff towards new initiatives, especially when it comes to a thing like contemporary

art. That’s why I tried to actively drag them into the project. When they discovered that the sculpture was about, and for, them, they came a bit closer. Finally, on my ride from Para- maribo to the airport, to take my flight back home, the cabdriver told me about a giant Mickey Mouse that was built in the jungle of Moengo, by a man called “Ras2”. For me this was a sign that society had ”enfolded“ my sculpture.

5. Did you encounter anything that surprised you about the art of Suriname? Can you give some specific examples? The Suriname contemporary art world consists of a very intense, fast and professional group of people. Artists like Marcel Pinas, George Struikelblok, Remy Jungerman, Charl Land- vreugd and Patricia Kaersenhout are conquering the world of art rapidly. These artists stay very close to theirselves, and that brings a certain necessity in what they produce. I was not surprised by their huge productivity, though it did surprise me that their work stays so inter- esting and close to themselves, even though their production is quite high.