One of the artists dumped a gilded shopping cart in the ornamental pond. Another started building a makeshift rocket launcher in the front yard. A third disrupts an idyllic woodland lane by setting up a different street pattern, two silly lampposts and a faded hedge diagonally on it – an example ‘brussels‘, which seems to be the term internationally for flawed urban planning.
What do you do as an artist when you have a year to create a work of art for the beautiful De Paltz estate, between Soesterberg and Soestduinen? Do you choose to emphasize the beauty? Or just to disrupt it roughly? Remarkably, the majority of the eight artists in the fourth edition of the Paltz Biennale – organized by and in the garden of Meria Bakker, who lives with her husband in one of the three houses on De Paltz – choose to challenge the beauty with deliberately messy works of art.
Bram Kuypers (1989)’s golden shopping cart was liked (“Destroying things, vandalism, is also something constructive”, Kuypers philosophizes in an accompanying video), but as a work of art in itself also somewhat non-committal. Behind the missile installation of Ole Nieling (1987) lies an interesting thought: we are always moving towards something (think for example: the space ambitions of billionaires), but we don’t pay enough attention to what we leave behind. Nieling rubs it in your face with an uncomfortably messy installation in a beautiful forest.
The piece ‘Belgium’ in Soest by Vlaming Elias Cafmeyer (1990), a limited piece of landscape decor in real life, makes an impression. In the distance you can see the six meter high artificial waterfall of the fake rock, which former Paltz resident and wealthy manhole cover magnate ES Raatjes had built. It rhymes nicely with Cafmeyer’s artificial landscape.
The work that Peter Zegveld (1951) made is particularly suggestive. At the end of a woodchip path between two hedges you will find a white door, behind which children are playing. The road ends. All you can do is ring the doorbell – the children playing are quiet after that. You feel like an angry neighbor in a well-directed performance in which you unintentionally play the leading role.
Two artists, each in their own way, choose to emphasize the beauty of De Paltz. From Joyce Overheul (1989, who normally makes feminist, political art) there is it Paltz Bureau of Investigation, an installation with six screens on which you, like a night watchman, inspect images of the animals that dominate the estate at night. A fox, a badger, a hare, and… is someone there peeing in the open in the middle of the night?
Artist Elise ‘t Hart (1991, who became famous with the Institute for House Sounds, an ever-growing register of house-garden-and-kitchen sounds) made a collection and a symphony of breaking twigs. She photographed a hundred twigs from the forest, recording the sound as she broke them one by one. You can listen to it while walking along a path. The list of accompanying ‘viewing questions’ that visitors receive (an enrichment in any way, good questions help to look better) invites you to pick up and break a twig yourself. Mine was more ‘chik’ than ‘chak’. Listening to that with full attention – then beauty and a little bit of destruction (you break something beautiful in two) come together, in the smallest gesture.