2001 nl

International Sculpture Collection, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

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A dike is not a suitable place to plant a flagpole, at least not if the pole is 50 m high. If this had been otherwise, an enormous red, white and blue Dutch flag would have flown above Rotterdam’s Westzeedijk in 2001, visible to all the world. Or was the impossibility of creating a concrete foundation in a seawall only a pretext that Sculpture International Rotterdam (the commissioning body) seized upon, so that it would not have to erect Doorenweerd’s work? And even if it was more than just an excuse, might the organization not have looked back later and been relieved that it hadn’t worked out? After all, a year afterwards, Rotterdam became worldfamous for the wave of populist nationalism that swept City Hall in the form of Pim Fortuyn, and for which the city’s intellectuals – admittedly, a small group – would be apologizing for years to come. Suddenly, Doorenweerd’s work of art would have become political: a provocation, satire, commentary or critique that was politically incorrect, morally wrong or critical and therefore good. If the flagpole had been raised and the Dutch colours had flapped megalomaniac-ally over the Rotterdam skyline, as if to foreshadow the logo of the hard-right Party for Freedom, then it might have become the perfect lightning rod in the fearand- loathing-filled discussion of national identity and the Judeo-Christian Dutch Leitkultur. The work could have been the eye of a hilarious whirlwind of hysteria, pathos, misunderstanding and recrimination, the past six years of Dutch public debate in miniature. Doorenweerd would have surpassed Hans van Houwelingen as a ‘politically engaged artist’, and the columnist Bas Heijne would have described his work as a satire of populism, but at the same time the integrationist professor Paul Scheffer would have welcomed his work as a sign of resurgent national pride. The flagpole would have appeared on the covers of books by the travelling salesman of Dutch design, Aaron Betsky. And Fortuyn’s political heirs, from Wilders to Pastors, would have used the gigantic flag as a political emblem and a background for their campaign ads. In the end, the Dutch evening news might have reported that Jeroen Doorenweerd was the first Dutch artist ever to need security guards. (Wouter van Stiphout, in 'Jeroen Doorenweerd' Nai Publishers 2009)