The Society of Arts has extended membership to thirteen prominent artists. They are active in the worlds of architecture, visual art, film, philosophy, literature, music, the performing arts and design.
The new members are:
- Composer Louis Andriessen
- Designer Maarten Baas
- Jewellery and industrial designer Gijs Bakker
- Poet, writer and visual artist Maria Barnas
- Conceptual artist Liesbeth Bik
- Artist and filmmaker Nanouk Leopold
- Philosopher Erik Rietveld and architect Ronald Rietveld
- Visual artist Willem de Rooij
- Playwright and director Adelheid Roosen
- Conductor Ed Spanjaard
- Visual artist Jonas Staal
- Singer-performer Wende
‘Seeker of beauty’
Louis Andriessen (born in 1939) is one of the most influential composers working today. He is one of the founders of the Haagse School, an avant-garde, minimalist movement that began in the second half of the twentieth century. In the 1970s he founded Orkest De Volharding and Hoketus, two instrumental groups dedicated to playing his unconventional compositions. Andriessen is especially noted for the engaging manner in which he combines an array of musical genres and the performing arts, making him a leading figure for Dutch musical ensembles. Andriessen places beauty above all else, and it is the search for beauty that leads him to explore new paths.
A recipient of both the Gaudeamus International Composers Award and the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, Andriessen has inspired many generations of composers, musicians and aficionados of music as a composer, conservatory instructor and professor (Leiden University/Royal Academy of Art, The Hague).
‘In search of pure design’
Designer Maarten Baas (born in 1978) shows us reality from a surprising angle and gets us thinking. Time, transience and imperfection are some of the themes that he explores in his many designs. He is intrigued by them not because he wishes to shock us, but because he longs for a direct, ‘pure’ approach to design.
Baas has enjoyed international prominence since graduating from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2002. In 2004, the influential Moss gallery in New York hosted a solo exhibition (Where There’s Smoke…) of his ‘Smoke’ series, consisting of 25 pieces of burned furniture, including design classics by Rietveld, Sottsass, Gaudi and Thonet. In 2009, Baas won the Dutch Design Award and was the first Dutch national to be named ‘Designer of the Year’ by an international jury. His work can now be viewed at many prestigious museums, galleries and exhibitions worldwide (MoMA in New York, Victoria & Albert in London, and Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam).
‘Holistic approach to design’
Jewellery and industrial designer Gijs Bakker (born in 1942) plays a significant role in design, Dutch design in particular. As a designer and as the co-founder and organiser of such design platforms as Droog Design (1993), Chi Ha Paura (1996) and the HAN Gallery (formerly Yii) in Taiwan – where he has been creative director since 2009 – he has cleared a path for young Dutch and foreign designers. He has also affected the lives of hundreds of up-and-coming designers as a teacher and a source of inspiration. Bakker spent 25 years at the internationally renowned Design Academy Eindhoven. Towards the end of his tenure there, he was the head of the Master’s programme.
Bakker’s approach to design is a holistic one in which heart, mind and material converge. His designs bear his unique signature and many have become modern icons.
His work has been the subject of dozens of exhibitions. It can currently be seen at the Municipal Museum of The Hague, and previously at the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), the Museum of Arts and Design (New York) and the Hermitage (St Petersburg).
‘Forms of reality’
Maria Barnas (born in 1973) is a celebrated poet, writer and visual artist. In her written and visual output, she explores how descriptions and images form and deform reality. To what extent is our perception defined by our knowledge and language? Is it possible to show how an object and the perception of that object differ?
Barnas is an adviser at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. She explores the fine line between science and art, using such methods as the visual essay. In her most recent work, language plays a crucial role in object development. Does language consist of images too? Barnas attempts to give form to the ineffable and has developed objects for alternative communication.
Barnas has published two novels. Her first collection of poetry, Twee zonnen (2003), was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize. In 2009 she received the J.C. Bloem Prize for Poetry for Er staat een stad op (2007). Jaja de oerknal (2013) was awarded the 2014 Anna Bijns Prize.
Barnas writes for Dutch literary magazine De Gids, for the weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, and for national newspaper de Volkskrant. A collection of her essays for national daily NRC Handelsblad (from 2007 to 2010) have been published under the title Fantastisch (2010).
‘Subtle irony as signature style'
Liesbeth Bik has collaborated with Jos van der Pol since 1995 as the artists’ duo Bik Van der Pol. They see art as a tool for exploring and reflecting on social and political changes in a constantly evolving landscape. In their ongoing exploration of the meaning of ‘making public’ and ‘public making’, they focus on the role and visibility of knowledge in the public domain and utilise every opportunity that art offers to create different visions and experiences that will spur the imagination and galvanise dialogue.
Bik van der Pol co-initiated the Duende artists’ initiative in Rotterdam and (from 1999 onwards) the Nomads & Residents collective in New York. They have worked with others to set up the School of Missing Studies (2003), serve as advisers at the Jan van Eyck Academie, and teach at MIT (2016). Liesbeth Bik is also a core tutor at the Piet Zwart Institute. Their work has been exhibited in museums and art institutes around the world, most recently at the Pérez Art Museum Miami and The Power Plant in Toronto (2015). Their work featured at the Istanbul (2007), Mercosul (2013), São Paulo (2014), Jakarta (2015), and Gwangju and Seoul (2016) Bienniales. They have developed works for Creative Time and Frieze Projects (2011). In 2010, they won the prestigious Enel Contemporanea Award (Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome), and in 2014 received the Hendrik Chabot Award. They live and work in Rotterdam.
‘A report on how we feel about the times in which we live’
Artist and filmmaker Nanouk Leopold (born in 1968) reports on how we feel about the times in which we live. In the past 15 years, she has established herself as one of the most successful screenwriters and directors in the Netherlands. Her scripts, both original and book or film adaptations, have a distinctive, artistic quality. Each one is different, but each one also bears her unique signature, in which she combines her background as an artist with the writer’s/director’ craft.
Her first film, Îles Flottantes (2000), was nominated for a Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival; her second, Guernsey (2005), won two awards at the Netherlands Film Festival and was selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Her three next films, Wolfsbergen (2007), Brownian Movement (2010) and Boven is het stil (2013), all premiered at the Berlinale and won several prizes at various international film festivals. Since 2008, she has collaborated with artist Daan Emmen on a series of video installations under the name LeopoldEmmen.
‘Strategic interventions at the crossroads of art, architecture and philosophy’
What ‘affordances’ does the environment offer us? It is a question that fascinates philosopher Erik and his architect brother Ronald Rietveld. United in their multidisciplinary and experimental studio, RAAAF (Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances), they work at the crossroads of architecture, philosophy and art. Their work consists of radical – they call them ‘strategic’ – interventions that set off a series of changes. ‘[E]very project is a manifesto in itself,’ according RAAAF.
Striking projects include the installation Vacant NL (the Dutch contribution to the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale), which called on the Dutch Government to make creative use of 10,000 vacant public and government buildings. The End of Sitting, a spatial installation challenging people to alter their posture regularly at work, was RAAAF’s response to a society designed almost entirely for sitting, even though research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy. In 2013, RAAAF was chosen ‘Dutch Architect of the Year’.
Rietveld and Rietveld are experienced teachers (from fine arts academies to Harvard and UC Berkeley research institutes) and have won many prestigious Dutch and international awards (including the Prix de Rome for Architecture and a VIDI Award from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research). They also publish regularly in international journals and are very active in the world of architecture.
Willem de Rooij (born in 1969) is an influential artist, teacher, consultant and director all rolled into one. His work analyses the conventions of presentation and representation in meticulous detail, culminating in spatial installations in which he uses his own work, the work of others and art-historical objects to explore the tension between socio-political and autonomous image production. He is especially interested in transcultural exchanges. For example, in 2010 he contrasted a group of bird paintings by seventeenth-century Dutch painter Melchior d’Hondcoeter with a number of eighteenth-century Hawaiian feather masks in Intolerance, his installation in Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie.
His multifaceted work includes film, sculpture, installations and art books and can be found in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the MoMA in New York.
De Rooij studied art history at the University of Amsterdam and art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. He won both the Charlotte Köhler Prize and the Bâloise Art Prize in 2000 and was a Robert Fulton Fellow at Harvard University in 2005. Along with Jeroen de Rijke, he represented the Netherlands at the 2005 Venice Biennale. He has taught at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, since 2006.
‘I answer, therefore I am’ (Lévinas)
No topic is taboo in the theatrical and film productions of playwright and director Adelheid Roosen (born in 1958): honour killing, domestic violence, sexuality (straight or gay) in de Muslim world, her mother’s Alzheimer’s – everything can and must be exposed. Inspired by her own experiences researching The Veiled Monologues, about women Muslim migrants living in the Netherlands (1997–2006), Roosen developed a method in which players and writers are ‘adopted’ by local people for a two-week period to ensure more profound communication and to collect life stories. Her method has since taken root in the Dutch and international theatre and cultural world.
In 2009, Roosen received the Amsterdam Prize for her pioneering contribution to the arts in Amsterdam. She has received an award at the Netherlands Film Festival and has twice won the Netherlands Proscenium Prize for her oeuvre. The Humanist Association of the Netherlands awarded her the Van Praag Prize, calling her ‘a tireless advocate of a world in which solidarity is given a second chance’. She has been affiliated with the Amsterdam University of the Arts for almost three decades, where she teaches drama.
‘Champion of Dutch music’
Ed Spanjaard is one of the finest conductors in the Netherlands and a champion of Dutch music. He works as a guest conductor all over the world, and his repertoire ranges from opera (more than fifty to date) and orchestral work to contemporary music. His 2012 farewell concert (after 12 years) as the chief conductor of the Limburg Symphony Orchestra was a performance of Debussy’s Martyre de Saint Sébastien– a piece that is rarely performed – with a new libretto by Dutch poet laureate Ramsey Nasr and choreography by Toer van Schayk. He is the musical director of the Nieuw Ensemble, which premiered Si Fan, a new Chinese opera based on the Sichuan tradition, at the 2015 Holland Festival. Dutch filmmaker Frank Scheffer made a full-length documentary about this project. Spanjaard conducted a highly successful production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen with the Dutch Touring Opera. He began 2016 with a performance of the same composer’s Fliegende Holländer at the Aalto Theatre in Essen.
He teaches orchestra conducting at the Conservatory of Amsterdam.
‘Democracy as a work of art’
The work of visual artist Jonas Staal (born in 1981) explores the relationship between art, democracy and propaganda. He does not shy away from controversy and his work has often sparked public debate. For example, when Dutch politician Geert Wilders (founder of the far-right Freedom Party) took him to court for his work, he called it ‘performance art’ (The Geert Wilders Works, 2005-2008). He also produced a detailed realisation of a prison model described by Freedom Party MP Fleur Agema (Gesloten Architectuur, 2011).
In 2012 he founded the New World Summit, an artistic and political organisation that develops temporary ‘parliaments’ at art institutes, theatres and public spaces where it hosts stateless and persecuted ‘terrorist’ organisations that have come together to discuss alternative models of democracy. The Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava, an autonomous region in northern Syria (also known as Syrian Kurdistan), commissioned him to build a new and permanent public parliament in that will be completed in April 2016.
Jonas Staal’s penetrating images force us to think but also inspire actual collaboration between artists and emancipatory political parties and movements. He believes that artists have a duty to declare not only their aesthetic but also their political position; creating a new world order means that artistic images must be reconciled with political ones. Staal explores the relationship between twenty-first century art and propaganda at Leiden University’s PhD Arts Department.
‘Drive to experiment’
If there is one idea that underpins the work of singer-songwriter Wende (Wende Snijders, born in 1978), then it is her intense curiosity and talent for reinventing herself.
She graduated from the Amsterdam Theatre School in 2002 with a desire to take her repertoire of French chansons from the 1950s and 1960s on tour in her own show. She received an impressive number of awards for her work, including two Edison Music Awards (in the World Music and Jazz categories) and, in 2008, the Annie MG Schmidt Prize for her composition De Wereld Beweegt. Having spent seven years touring and successfully interpreting this repertoire, she left it all behind to write her own pop/electronic music, which she performs in clubs and popular music venues. Her most recent project, Last Resistance, combines electronic and orchestral music.
Wende always explores and pushes past the boundaries. She does this both in her solo work and in collaborative projects. She creates shows in which she uses all the elements of theatre to tell a story; she explores the tension between theatre, popular music, electronic music and classical music, how they can be combined, and how they relate to one another. In that relationship, she investigates the balance between entertainment and experimentation.
Wende combines her enormous talent and love of her craft with a seemingly inexhaustible drive to experiment. She was nominated for a Netherlands Film Festival award for her debut film performance (in a leading role) in Zürich.