Hans van Houwelingen: Thorbecke Monument

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The Thorbecke statue from Amsterdam and the Spinoza statue from The Hague are connected by a proposal that Hans van Houwelingen did in 2008 under the title What's done ... can be undone! to swap the two monuments.

In 2007, the city council of The Hague set into motion a trajectory for a new monument for Johan Rudolph Thorbecke (1798- 1872), founder of the Dutch parliamentary democracy.

The commission of the municipality called into question assumptions regarding the alleged inaccessibility of art and the idea of recognizable sculptures. Therefore, Stroom invited, under the title Workshop Thorbecke, artists who in their work regularly deal with the relations between power and image, monuments, art and public space. They were asked for their views on a contemporary monument for Thorbecke. The artists were Florian Göttke, Hans van Houwelingen, André Kruysen en Gerlinde Schuller / Information Design Studio.

The proposal of Van Houwelingen existed of a swap between the Thorbecke statue from Amsterdam and the Spinoza statue from The Hague. Because, so argued the artist, Thorbecke actually belongs in The Hague and Spinoza in Amsterdam. One hundred years ago, The Hague thanked for the offer to have the Thorbecke monument in their city and so it was moved to Amsterdam. Now the city wants a monument for Thorbecke. Amsterdam missed a statue of the most famous and radical Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). The Spinoza Circle was founded and they took the initiative for a Spinoza monument.

Van Houwelingen suggested to resolve this dual desire by swapping the monuments of Spinoza and Thorbecke.

In the publication 'Undone' (expected October 2011) he explains:

"The national heroes of freedom and democracy have to stand in their historical context, on the location from which their meaning expressed best. Thorbecke belongs in The Hague and Spinoza in Amsterdam. A correct environment for these monuments honors their meaning. Both their histories make a reasonable case for their exchange. By exchanging the monuments for Spinoza and Thorbecke, The Hague and Amsterdam will be able to spotlight their heritage down to the minutest detail."

Sometimes things that have been done can be undone. The images on the cover of this exhibition guide visualize the two monuments on the move, freed from the urban context where they have been located for so many years, ready for the exchange that never took place. In the exhibition space we see live footage of the two empty pedestals and in the entrance hall are the statues themselves. Not exchanged between the two cities as Van Houweling originally planned but for once together in a single room.