The Wageningen campus is slowly but surely decked out with old sculptures from buildings vacated by Wageningen UR elsewhere in the city. Together, they mark a new but yet imperceptible trail.
There isn't going to be any signboards at all, says Ad van der Have of Facilities Management. Signs will get stolen. 'Boards are too vulnerable and expensive. You have to move with the times', comments Van de Have. 'There are more modern techniques', he says, and names the AR - or Augmented Reality - campus, a serious plaything which workers at the ESG Geo-lab showed off recently. Van der Have was present then and saw a good application for it right away. Routes, text, images and sound about the art pieces can be made available online via the mobile phone. 'Everyone will carry such a gadget in a few years' time', says Van de Have. Signboards are things of the 20 th Century.
The art trail-to-be was set up three years ago under the auspices of Wageningen UR, explains Simon Vink, spokesman for the Executive Board. He and Van de Have together form the art committee of Wageningen UR. This sounds weightier than it is. While both are art lovers, they are not seasoned art historians. 'We're going to hire that expertise', stresses Vink.
The art trail is the answer to what should be done to all the art pieces in the buildings which Wageningen UR has vacated with the move to the campus. 'What do we have and what are we doing to do with them?' is how Vink summarizes the assignment entrusted jointly to Van Xanten Bureau and artist Wim Korvinus (guest lecturer at Landscape Architecture). The answer to the first question (what do we have?) has produced an inventory of about fifty works of art: sculptures, mosaic works, stone wall plaques, busts, stained glass-in-lead windows, wall paintings and plastic art forms. The phrase 'about fifty' is noteworthy because the line which separates art and architecture is not always clear.
As far as quality is concerned, none of these works is top-notch, says Vink. 'There are valuable pieces among them, but not that many', is his appraisal. 'Many of these art pieces are valuable chiefly for conveying a sense of time. It's a piece of history which we would love to haul to the campus.' Provided that this is technically possible, and not too costly. Some pieces are difficult to move. A good example of something which is immovable is De Hoorn of Plenty in front of the old Entomology building on Kortenoord Allee. The sculpture, made by the Belgian Leo Copers had been assigned a prominent place in the art trail in the Bosveld on the western side of the campus. But transporting it would pose a risk. Van der Have: 'It's a technically risky project; we don't know if the work will survive the move.' Therefore, it was decided to give it away to the Wageningen Municipality, who received the gift (said to be worth 60 thousand Euros) with gratitude a few weeks ago.
The sculpture trail traverses east to west across the campus and is divided into three parts or 'fields'. They have the somewhat heavy-sounding names of Pronkveld, Atelierveld and Bosveld. The Pronkveld (exhibit field) lies to the east and owes its name to the buildings Atlas and Forum, attention-catchers which Wageningen UR likes to show off with.
The Atelierveld (atelier field) is next to the Restaurant of the Future. The name points to the duty quarters beside the restaurant which may be rebuilt into an atelier where artists and scientists get to work together. The westernmost part of the route is the Bosveld (forest field), named after the little bit of forest surrounding the campus. There are no works of art yet on this last part. A folly will be the anchor piece here.
A special feature along the art trail is a folly which will be constructed on a spot diagonally across from the new building of Rikilt. The folly (a structure without function, also known as 'novelty architecture') will house a series of stone wall plaques and mosaic works which cannot be placed individually outdoors. The brains behind the art trail visualize a glass greenhouse-like folly. Vink has no doubt that this folly will be built.
Less certainty, however, is attached to another special feature of the trail: a living-cum-working artist's studio. The duty quarters next to the Restaurant of the Future is being eyed for such an atelier, which would enable researchers to work temporarily alongside artists on art activities. It is like cross-pollination between art and science. But spokesman Vink says the idea has been temporarily 'shelved'. 'It's an interesting idea but there are no funds for it yet. While a folly is a once-off expenditure, to run an residential atelier will incur costs structurally. We will focus on moving the existing art pieces first.'
To keep or not to keep?
Not every work of art can be easily re-located. Nor can every piece be recognized as such. Take, for example, the colourful balustrades at the Biotechnion, a giant work of art by Peter Struycken. He did that in 1988/89 when the Biotechnion was renovated. Struycken used the computer to compose his design, and so became one of the first in the Netherlands to work in this way. The computer generated the panels of yellow, red, blue and green according to strict rules. Writers Hermelinde van Xanten and Gabrielle de Nijs Bik describe this in a book released last year on Wageningen art treasures related to buildings of Wageningen UR.
The Biotechnion will be pulled down in time to come. It is not clear what will happen to the balustrades. To discard or to hold on to? The same question is asked concerning the ceramic potato strips which decorate the entire lower part of the facade of the Biotechnion. This work of art is by Henk Tieman, who composed it in 1980 for the then new building.
The tree dragon
The art trail which is taking shape slowly but surely is, on the whole, not yet finalized. New works of art, such as The Oak at the Forum, have made their appearances in the meantime. Other sculptures, for example the Tree Dragon by Aad van de Ijssel in front of the Radix, have fallen outside the trail because they have been placed elsewhere and not according to the original plan. In addition, five works of art re-sited around the ESG buildings have not been included in the trail yet.
ESG has also mapped out its own art trail at the end of last year in and around the Gaia, Lumen and Atlas buildings. Its own art committee has even produced an accompanying booklet with background information on its own collection of sixteen works of art. Vink feels that there is a lack of coordination somehow. But it will be easy to add on to the long trail. 'Take it that we will soon integrate the various efforts when the campus quietens down.' There may even be room for new art pieces then. The trail has taken this into account. Money comes next.
Iris le Rütte, Two-part deer (Actaeon), 1996
Figure this out
When art is being moved, it can become incognito, its origins obscured. That was what happened to the sculpture in front of the Radix. There it was suddenly - the 'man with the spike' - in front of the new building. It didn't fall out of the sky, of course. It was placed there with great pains. But no-one within Wageningen UR could solve the mystery of who its creator is and what it represents. An appeal in Resource under the heading 'Foundling' brought in a few tips.
It prompted Professor Paul van den Brink to report that the sculpture previously graced the new wing of the Staring Building on the Marijkeweg. At that time, the building housed the current Environment Risk Assessment team of ESG. The team was known then - in the sixties - as the Laboratory for Research on Insecticides (LIO) and later in 1979, as the Institute for Pesticide Research (IOB). When Alterra was set up ten years ago, the group was re-located to the campus and literally lost sight of the sculpture. 'The sculpture has been cynically dubbed by some colleagues as 'the civil servant', wrote Van den Brink. 'Try asking our senior Minze Leistra who may know who the sculptor is.' Leistra suggested contacting the National Monuments Commission. This golden tip led to Annemarieke Leendertz, visual arts collection manager at the State Architect's Atelier, who easily retrieved the required information from the records. The sculpture turns out to be created by Cor van Kralingen and was placed as a 'lying figure' in 1963 at the entrance of the LIO at Marijkeweg 22. This work of art was made under the auspices of the now defunct one-percent-ruling, which at that time stipulated that one percent of construction costs had to be spent on art.
The foundling's identity has therefore been restored. But what does this sculpture represent? It's certainly not a man with a spike, wrote retired employee Leo Eppink in a mail. Those at Radix should know this better, he says. 'The man is looking for pests on the underside of leaves.'