A small group gathers around on Friday afternoon, 22 September at 3 p.m. in the Erasmus Gallery in A Building, adjacent to the aula. Snacks and drinks are on the bar; a student who happens to be strolling past looks at the noisy gallery inquisitively. Once silence has fallen, the chairman of the art committee, Philip Hans Franses, has the honour to open the exhibition. Fully in keeping with the spirit of the times, this is done in English.
As head of the art committee, Franses – his day job is dean at the ESE – came up with the idea of involving the various EUR departments a little more in the university’s art affairs. “We could, as it were, ask the men from the post room to be guest curators,” Franses thought. “But,” he then thought, “why ‘as it were’ actually? They are the ones at EUR who have carted the artworks around the most.”
“When I put the proposal to them around the coffee table in the postal department, everyone was initially very enthusiastic,” Franses recounts. “Ideas abounded from all sides of the table, but after a while the conversation ground to a halt. ‘How can we do that, curate an art exhibition? We are no experts, right?’ the men asked. ‘Art is like music,’ I told them. ‘You don’t have to be an expert. Just follow your instincts.’ This set things in motion and the postmen chose the pieces that moved them.”
For instance, Peter van der Ham chose the ‘untitled’ piece (1993) by Jörg Immendorf. This piece is of an aeroplane with a naked woman on it. It is being guided in its flight by a large man. “Yeah, you can decide for yourself what that’s meant to mean,” Van der Ham remarks drily. “I interpret it as a flight to freedom. Maybe the man is God. To me that aeroplane could be an allied forces plane.” This interpretation is fully in line with Van der Ham’s fascination with the Second World War.
One of the pieces that Milton Liauw-A-Fong chose was the artwork entitled ‘World #10’ (2005) by Ruud van Empel. It is of a small, dark-skinned boy in a jungle. Thanks to the bright colours, the work has a strange sort of surrealistic depth. This piece took Liauw-A-Fong straight back to Suriname, the land of his birth and where he lived until the age of four. “That little boy looks exactly like the little boys that used to run around on the streets in Suriname.”
Liauw-A-Fong also chose a photograph by Fiona Tan. ‘Lift’ (2000) shows a woman– the artist herself – who has around thirty helium balloons attached to her and who is slowly taking off into the air. Tan had this photo taken of herself to celebrate the turn of the millennium. “I chose this piece together with my trainee,” Liauw-A-Fong explains. “The photo really cheered us up. We couldn’t stop laughing when we saw it.”
To be continued
Each year four exhibitions are on display in the Erasmus Gallery. The intention is that, from now on, one of these exhibitions will be compiled by staff members or students. ‘The post room’s choice’ is on display until the end of October.