When contemplating the city of Eindhoven, in the south of the Netherlands, one’s mind typically reaches for the successful football team, PSV Eindhoven or the international product giants, Philips. A city more closely associated to manufacture and design rather than to the expressive and conceptual world of contemporary art. Therefore, it was a welcome surprise to visit the Van Abbemuseum, and view the current exhibition ‘For Eindhoven’ – The City as Muse’ curated by Annie Fletcher. The exhibition presents 14 artists personal interactions with the city and museum, where characteristic qualities of industrial production, or classical examples of mid-20th-century town planning reflect in the development of a creative process.
One stunning example is Jan Dibbets work, The Shortest Day at the Van Abbemuseum, 1970. Here Dibbets displays the work in the same place it was created. He photographed the incoming light into the exhibition space on the shortest day of the year in 1970. A shot was taken every six minutes from sunrise to sunset. The focus adjustment and the position of the camera remain unchanged allowing the natural course of time and light to become clearly visible. Each element of this piece interacts with each other, from the current window being reflected in the photographs taken 41 years ago, to the outside light shining onto the archaic slide projector with the old dim light bulb. Here Jan Dibbet subtly communicates the powerful exchange between the making of art and the importance of place. Furthermore, the bold decision of the museum to return to this work in 2011 is a wonderful expression of the layering of time and change, not only by the exhibit, but also as a reflection of the circular evolution that occurs within the history of art.
Other works have been included because they focus on the debate about the role of the museum within traditional Dutch culture. Such as: Read the Masks. Tradition is not Given (2008 – 2009). A film by Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss about Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) as a cultural phenomenon that caused a great deal of controversy in the Netherlands a number of years ago.
Wood Circle (1977) by Richard Long is a further approach to considering Eindhoven as a muse. Long’s construction reflects the immediate natural surroundings in connection to the cultural landscape of the city. Where the properties of Wood Circle evoke a transient nature, where life and decay create a sculpture that is forever changing.
Although each artist collaborates with the city in their own manner, expressing a unique bond. Together they constructed an exhibition where concepts of: passing and change, old and new, come together to communicate Eindhoven as much more than an industrial city, but as a rich source of inspiration.