Interview about Nomanslanding with Andre Dekker by Anne Cayley – The Nest, Sydney
What's your background as an artist? (Discipline, personal history, etc) Educated as schoolteacher. Autodidact in painting, writing and curating. Founder of Observatorium – public art and place-making. Author of Big Pieces of Time, a book on public art. How did you become involved in Nomanslanding? By invitation of curator Katja Assmann, head of Urbane Künste Ruhr, a public art program in Germany. She is familiar with the artworks and landscape designs of Observatorium in the Ruhr region. Tell us a bit about the process, and working together with these four other artists. The process started with a research question of the curators: how can a site specific artwork in the public realm tour? And how can it fit into the worldwide commemoration of the World War One as well three major art festivals in three countries? Since the five artists were thrown into a melting pot of disciplines and personalities, on which they didn't have any influence, the design experiment depended on curiosity for each other and the interest in the ambitions of the three curators/ festival programmers. Thinking aloud, listening, analyzing, questioning and adjudging – it was a strange mix of a Socratic conversation and a quest for the one exciting idea that required everone's skills. Can we make the audience walk on water and cross a river? Can the artwork function as a lament? What is it about Darling Harbour that makes it a good site for a site-responsive work like Nomanslanding? Darling Harbour was a war site and is now attracting the masses. Nomanslanding is in the water basin, so we have plenty of spectators on shore and can still offer a reflective walk on the water. The artwork has meaning for people in different countries – what does it mean for your country? And for you? Should Nomanslanding be presented in The Netherlands, it would both refer to the threats, water imposes on a country below sea-level and to the one million Belgians who fled from World War I to The Netherlands. It would be a lament for something, not happening to us (Netherlands were neutral in WWI) and for something we cannot control (rising sea-level). Personally, it would be rewarding to bring life to the dead harbour basins as part of the urban renewal of Rotterdam.