Installation at Mechelen Academy

Dutch Cabinet

Dutch Cabinet

Contour Biennale 9 is proud to present the series Dutch Cabinet by Dutch artist Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide) who lives and works in Brussels since 2016. The serial work Dutch Cabinet consists of 558 water colors and is made between 14 October 2010 until 23 April 2012. That is the same number as the number of days in the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his cabinet’s first term in office. The series started on 14 October, 2010 the day that Rutte’s cabinet, supported by the populist right-wing Freedom Party (PVV), was created. During this term of office, Chang (Van der Heide) painted a watercolour of a brown ‘Dutch cabinet’ every day. A Dutch cabinet is a traditional Dutch cupboard, as well as a colloquial term for the Dutch government. The collection of drawings of cabinets grew in number and in variety with each day the ‘Rutte I’ cabinet was in power. The series came to an end when the government resigned after 558 days.

Dutch Kabinet will open on 28.04.2019 with an artist talk at 11:00. Everyone is very welcome to attend this.

The history of the Dutch cabinet reveals Dutch colonial past. The cabinets are silent witnesses to personal and Dutch national history and have been present in many Dutch households for centuries, where they were (and sometimes still are) passed down from generation to generation. The act of daily drawing by the artist was an act of resistance and an act of counting the days of this dark cabinet. The current climate of fear, hate, white nationalism, racism and xenophobia in the Netherlands, Flanders and Europe in general is the same background against which the series Dutch Cabinet was created between 2010 and 2012.

Although Dutch cabinets are predominantly brown and sturdy, they have been produced in different shapes and colours. The wooden cupboard originated in Asia, and cabinets became familiar household items in Holland around 1600, through the influence of Moorish culture from Spain. Most of these cabinets were manufactured in Holland using Dutch oak, but there are also many examples of cabinets made of ‘exotic’ wood. What is more, Dutch cabinets were also made in former colonies during Dutch colonial times. For example, they were produced in the Cape of Good Hope (currently South Africa); Ceylon (currently India); Batavia (currently Indonesia and Sri Lanka) and New York. Traditionally, the cabinet was a prestige object, used to store valuable papers, luxury goods and other precious items. The refined exterior of these cabinets reflect their valuable contents. Later on, such cabinets were produced on a larger scale and used to store all kind of things such as clothes, linen, etc. The present is shaped by the past: the composition of contemporary Dutch society with white, black citizens and people of color is a direct and indirect result of Europe’s colonial past and imperialistic thinking. Even today, the consequences of Europe’s colonization are present and felt in the Global South. Today’s multiethnic Dutch society, global migration and the current refugee crises cannot be discussed without examining Europe’s colonial past and actively undoing imperialist patterns.

Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide), Hollands Kabinet/Dutch Cabinet, installation of 558 watercolors on paper, each: 26x18 cm, 2010-2012, collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. With the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund and the Dutch Embassy.

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Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide)
Mechelen Academy
Minderbroedersgang 5
2800 Mechelen (B)

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