Theo Tegelaers: Polder Cup, 2011

Football in the Polder

Maider López’ Polder Cup project arose from a collaboration between the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art and SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain. In 2009 both institutes decided to work together on Between You and I a project that was developed for the facade of the Witte de With and which played out on the boundary between the public and institutional domains. An interface was created between the audience and the general public by using the facade of the building as a billboard for a long-term Witte de With programme that centred on the topic of Morality.

Maider López leapt at the opportunity to temporarily cover the facade of Witte de With as a way to evaluate the aspirations of an exhibition institute for contemporary art that operates in the public domain. To a large extent, the involvement of SKOR, which is specialised in the public domain, legitimised her choice. López’ proposal seems simple: a football tournament in one of the most iconographic manifestations of the Dutch landscape: a polder. At first it appeared to be a rather unimpressive location, but it became evident during the development of the project that this was the result of a carefully considered strategy. Maider López hung a gigantic banner with a photographic representation of football fields on a polder on the facade of the Witte de With. This not only announced the project, but it simultaneously referred to the polder in Ottoland close to Graafstroom in the Netherlands where the event would be held. Witte de With became the coordinating centre where participants and volunteers could apply.

The polder was to be the place where SKOR and Witte de With would engage with a new social context in which football serves as a medium to bring people from different backgrounds together.

The Dutch are famous for their culture of consultation, i.e., seeking agreement through discussion that aims to create a consensus with the minimum of inconvenience for all involved. In the public space this phenomenon is frequently expressed through excessive regulation, with the result that very little room remains for spontaneous or ambiguous interpretations relating to the use of the public space. The consensus culture offers very little room for individual interpretations because these are rapidly thwarted by regulations. The lengthy discussions and negotiations about who determines the regulations and how these are implemented typify this approach.

Maider López hopes that Polder Cup will disorganise familiar activities and alter the traditional agrarian function of the polder landscape into a recreational function, in this case, a football pitch. In doing this she relied on the power and visual impact of the image; in fact, the work was developed from the image. The public space is her working space and she acts as a director of that space. She uses the locations she selects for her projects as temporary studios that first have to be organised. This requires painstaking attention to detail during the preparation stage, certainly when realising Polder Cup. In addition, the social context also plays an important role. The openness of the event and its unusual character convince people with an adventurous and open disposition to participate.

Some may regard Polder Cup as nothing more or less than a well-organised event and a reason to enjoy a joyful and relaxing day in each other’s company, while other participants will contemplate the possible implications raised by this project. For Lopèz it is ultimately about creating new images; images that have the power to pose questions about social factors in art, about the role of the public in the public space and about the relationship between the collective and the individual.

When organising the public space, we frequently sidestep the question of whether the public space really does fulfil all the necessary requirements. For example, do the changes that are introduced provide opportunities that facilitate previously unforeseen uses of the public space? Moreover, we sometimes fail to notice how these changes influence social conduct. To what degree does the public space guide our behaviour?

Maider López wants to break traditional behavioural patterns with her projects and interventions in the public space. By introducing new rules she wants to address people as individuals and as members of a community. Her projects stimulate interaction and communication. Communication between artists and art institutes, between governments and social groups and ultimately between individuals themselves are vital elements in her work. In this context, visually appealing images can play a decisive role.


Theo Tegelaers



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