column

2013 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006

Windflower

Works by 12 artists that focus on constantly different perceptions of nature are on display in the Kröller-Müller Museum until 15 January 2012 under the title Windflower. It is a very attractive exhibition that revolves around beauty and the threats facing the vulnerable. You can find more information about this on this website.
‘Nature’ is a difficult notion to comprehend. After all, on the one hand it can be taken to mean all things on, around, in and of the planet earth and everything that happens to it, on the other hand, people can hold very individual, uncompromising and limited opinions about it.
From the former point of view, humans are a part of nature. You could argue that the history of humankind is a process of separation from nature, in which the environment has been moulded to the will of human beings. This contrast with nature was made definitive with the development of the notion ‘culture’ and the practise of ‘art’.
With the mechanisation of our societies and nature becoming subject to the laws of the market in ever more countries worldwide, the cultural aspect of our societies has gained the upper hand over the natural. For more and more people, nature no longer has any direct presence in their everyday lives, but appears only in derived forms. Artists increasingly feel it their task to adopt this altered relationship to nature as their point of departure. The Kröller-Müller Museum, whose location alone gives it a strong connection to nature and which gladly brings notions of the paradisiacal up for discussion, focuses much attention, both in its acquisitions and its exhibitions, on artists who make the effort to involve this constantly shifting balance between art and nature, and the experience thereof, in their work. Windflower is one of the results of that endeavour.
Nature in the Netherlands is a fusion of gardens, parks and public gardens: plants and animals occupy the space allocated by humans. The last piece of ‘unspoilt nature’ was already sacrificed many years ago to the organizing hands of our country’s inhabitants. If the presence of the lynx, the wolf, the black grouse, the beaver or red deer is desired, then this will be arranged. If ‘wild nature’ is wanted, then areas are designated where the illusion of wildness is painstakingly preserved. Over-fertilization, dehydration, acidification and fragmentation are the greatest threats to the enjoyment of nature in this landscape shaped by hand, computer and machine.
A beautifully tended domain like the Kröller-Müller Museum has acquired an ever increasing value and appreciation simply due to its contrast with the urbanizing environment. Here, since the thirties of the previous century, our focus has remained on the understanding that as human beings’ level of civilization rises (and the noise around them increases) their need for a peaceful environment in which they can come to their senses and find inspiration also grows. Carefully cultivated nature, international modern art of the highest quality and a well-considered architectural environment are the three most important ingredients. We consider it an important duty of the museum to raise awareness of the vulnerability of nature and of every form of life and to promote empathy for unorthodox ways of thinking about it. The role of the artist is to take the initiative and to make unexpected connections between representation and various social disciplines, the museum’s task is to reach out to the public and provide the work a context and thus, hopefully, to increase the appreciation and understanding of it.

Evert van Straaten

October 2011

Image: Willem de Rooij, Bouquet VII, 2010 (photo: Marjon Gemmeke)