The project was titled ‘Inscription and Erasure’ and was focused to obsolescence spaces, where history is rewritten in different levels, sometimes hiding the trace of time, some other times, evoking the old days nostalgia. Not long ago Said Donkins & Leonard Luna had the chance to visit Netherlands, thanks to the invitation of Amsterdam Urban Art Museum / Street Art Today, Heerlen Murals and Locatie Spatie in Arnhem. Traveling between Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Heerlen and Arnhem they got to know a little part of Netherlands culture and to discover places with a strong historic and symbolic value.
By the end of the 19th century, Heerlen had become an important industrial center in the Netherlands due to mining. The government ran coal mines as state industries, generating jobs and a population growth without precedents. Coal mining became the basis of the city’s economy. In the early 20th century the industry had a turbulent expansion. During those times, a lot of ancient buildings were destroyed to build new ones, according to the new modern image of Heerlen. However, the glory didn’t last long, by mid-century the coal production stopped being profitable facing the competence of countries like Poland or the United States, as well as the discovery of new energy sources, such as natural gas. Suddenly, Heerlen industry stopped producing, and by the 60’s the coal mines were closed. More than 60000 people lost their jobs. The State relocated some governmental offices (ABP, CBS) to create jobs and ease the crisis, but it didn’t work out entirely. Today they’re still working hard against unemployment and to improve local economy.
Nowadays it’s hard to find traces of the mining industry. Almost every coal mine has been transformed in green hills, through an erasure operation known as ‘Van zwart naar groen’ (from black to green). The old mining area is now called Parkstad Limburg. Material testimonies of the mining past has been rigorously demolished. Just a few monuments still remind us about once dominant industry, perhaps a commercial mall that refers to mining towers shape. It seems that this episode has been deliberately erased, physically and symbolically, despite the great importance it had for local history.
They visited Arnhem thanks to the invitation of Locatie Spatie and decided to work on The Airborne Monument, a monument placed in the center of a memorial situated in front of the John Frost Bridge, dedicated to the fallen soldiers during Market Garden Operation, in the Second World War. The monument is a damaged column that belonged to the Justice Palace, in which appears the inscription: “17 September 1944”, referring to Arnhem Battle. They worked on this piece in the exact day of the Commemoration, and the memorial was full of photographs, flowers and candles. It is the only day of the year in which social memory activates through the monument.
It is surprising how many bicycles can be seen in Amsterdam! kilometers and kilometers of cycling routes, canals with small boats that can take you from one place to another. For their project inscription and erasure they were invited by Street Art Today to collaborate in the project of the Urban Art Museum, that will be open next year.
They worked in Amsterdam-Noord, the old industrial area across the IJ river. Currently, it’s going through an accelerated process of gentrification, that has given rise to a new urban area at the river shore with hotels, restaurants, galleries and museums that have turned the neighborhood into a place of production and consumerism characteristic of post-industrial cities. From another perspective, the local people of that side of the river that had lived there through generations in social care housing, feel every day more unconnected to their own neighborhood.