Design of a square for the inmates, personnel and visitors at a juvenile prison on the site of a wartime concentration camp. Brickwork foundations were built by detainees for the purposes of practical education, play, animal shelters, vegetable-growing and good conversation. THE WORK IS NOT FINISHED UNTIL SOMEONE USES IT Observatorium orchestrates liveliness and provokes people to expand or modify their projects and sculptures. The basis for a public sculpture is established by a claim on space. The basis for a lively public space is appropriation by people.
Deprived of liberty De Leij Judicial Juvenile Institution is a place where delinquent boys up to 18 years are remanded while awaiting a judicial sentence. It was decided to expand it by adding a school and a playground. The Atelier of the Government Buildings Agency, which manages the "one percent rule" (that proportion of the budget of every public building project reserved for art) on behalf of the Dutch government, decided to commission a work of art from Observatorium. "Just come up with a proposal," they said. "Our minds are open to anything." A crowd of security staff, teachers, office workers, psychologists and youth social workers gathers daily in front of the entrance to De Leij to dedicate themselves to the problems of some 80 young people. The staff has a minute-by-minute daily programme of education, guidance and observation. A glimpse of all the security cameras, fences, walls, security gates and checkpoints gives you an impression of the human urge towards freedom. It takes an immense effort to deprive someone of their liberty.
After their first visits to this surrealistic world of protocols, curbs and solicitude, Observatorium came to see the young detainees as their primary patrons and decided to try to offer some sort of escape behind the walls. A meeting with the director of the institution, whose glowing description of the prison for teenage delinquents left little room for misunderstanding, bolstered their determination. Camp Vught How can you improve the world in a place as notorious as Camp Vught, which since 1940 has continually expanded to accommodate more and more involuntary residents? According to the demands of the times and the regime, there has been a continual process of building, expansion and demolition, on behalf of the banished, the uprooted and the incarcerated. This was once a point on a line of fortifications intended to stave off the advance of Napoleon's army. During the Second World War, it became a Nazi concentration camp and a transit facility for those destined for the death camps. After the war, following the expulsion of the Netherlands from its colonies in Indonesia, it provided temporary abodes for loyal soldiers from the Moluccas; a year later the unfortunate soldiers were moved out to make way for a prison cell complex. Continual construction of institutions for all kinds of incarceration and reeducation took place here since the 1970s. The woods around the prison complex are a backdrop to monuments, a memorial site and a museum, all of which are dedicated to the respective relationships the Netherlands has had in the past with France, Germany and Indonesia. History also had its impact on the work of art: the artists were asked if they would kindly not to refer to the war – things were already bad enough there.
Foundations The continual alterations to Vught, an aspiration to do some good and the requirements of an environment for children persuaded Observatorium to apply their artistic freedom to occupying as large an area of land as possible. Guards, staff members and worried parents must realize as they enter the institution that they are in an environment designed for youngsters. Surrounded by walls, fences and grim buildings, Observatorium's eyes fell on a large site between three buildings (the staff offices, the cells for young detainees and the visiting rooms).
location: De Leij Judicial Juvenile Institution, Vught