Silence is golden and a recurrent theme in the work of renowned Dutch artist Sarah van Sonsbeeck. Her latest solo exposition opens today in the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam.
‘We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now”
__ quote attributed to Martin Luther King
In its early days, this medieval church was a port church where ships were blessed, prayers were offered for a safe return, and numerous seafarers and naval heroes found their final resting place.
What connects the history of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam with the topical question of migration and Sarah’s golden art?
Sarah van Sonsbeeck’s Blankets
The fact that this church is interwoven with the ocean, inspires Sarah to reflect on the monumental building’s earlier significance as place of shelter. The same as what todays refugees hoping to find. Images of refugees wrapped in golden thermal blankets after a terrible ocean crossing, give these shimmering golden layers a totally new connotation.
Walking between the rescue foils, all perfectly lined up, moves me. One moment I see an aesthetic view of golden leaves, almost like empty chocolate wraps. Seconds later I see dead refugees – covered by golden blankets – who did not make it safe ashore, all lined for identification. This feeling is strengthened by the renowned tombstone floor of the Oude Kerk, now with an extra layer of protection.
This blanket lay-out forms new and narrow walking paths which prompt visitors to walk behind each other or wait for another person to cross.
From Oxygen Tank to Gong
In 2016 Sarah spent three weeks on Tristan da Cunha, the worlds most remote island. To research geographical silence.
Before her voyage home, she received an unusual souvenir. The inhabitants – who use everything the sea brings them – gave her a washed-up oxygen cylinder. From a life boat. Used on the island as gong for two occasions only. Either to announce the days possible to go out fishing or as an alarm in case of fire.
With these tanks, Sarah shares her fascinating with the Tristanians who don’t see something for what it’s said to be. Only for what it could become. An oxygen tank is a perfect gong.
An original version and two replicas cast in bronze are in the Handboog chapel, along with three hammers. To struck the gong. The sound travels back across the ocean to the island in a time of eight hours.
This new poetical work of Van Sonsbeeck, created for this monumental building, makes you whisper, feel and think. A golden reflection that shines awareness on current times and Amsterdam’s oldest silence.
Oude Kerk Amsterdam - until sep 17, 2017 More on Sarah van Sonsbeeck