A couple of years ago, travelling through Northern Europe, I found myself passing through towns that I had only ever read about. It was a remarkable journey that allowed me to visit two lands that I had wanted to see since I was a child, The Netherlands and Germany.
The reader need not be detained by the reasons for the journey, suffice it to say that everything that should go well, went well. It was during the train journey across The Netherlands that a landscape of which I had wondered and dreamed as a child became a reality and a most exciting one at that.
For many, to be exciting, landscape needs hills and mountains; enclosure perhaps; boundaries and borders, like Austria and Switzerland where the mountains seem to touch the sky. Having myself grown up in an area bounded by low hills and high hills, the prospects from the train were fascinating: wide and expansive skies with towns and villages clustered neatly here, then there. Now a new housing development, then an old farmstead; in the distance, a spire; close by, a small church or chapel, an orchard; a small stream, straight and peaceful cut the green fields in two. The Netherlands shopping, walking, cycling, driving, working and chatting.
Sadly, our tickets – bought quite late – had put us in first class in the train from Rotterdam to Amersfoort. Travelling through Gouda, Utrecht, Amersfoort, Apeldoorn, Deventer, Almelo and Hengelo and into Deutschland by Bad Bentheim. Being in first class we were quite isolated and it was easy to sense that the Nederlanders were having a good old chat in the carriages marked “2”.
The morning had started well; the boat coming in to Rotterdam with a flotilla from the North Sea, and it was an easy transfer to the big city from Europort. Rotterdam with the area around Centraal alive with so many people, trams and road works. One chap – and very sensibly – working in real Klompen, a thing I thought never to see. I grew up with clogs too and as such, they are great for getting children to stand up and walk – and kind to the feet of us oldies.
The shops in the immediate area were expensive and of the kind that might be found in any major city, but we ventured inland and found ourselves seated outside a delightful cafe (Dudok) opposite a model railway shop. Here we saw Nederlanders come and go, on bicycles and on foot, but no hurry. We walked and saw the Oude Kerk. It was mightily impressive. This place with its ever present trams and traffic and people was quite fascinating.
We ate French Fries by an inland canal, just by where Westersingel meets Kruisplein. Here we observed with fascination how kind the populace were to the wild birds; we saw a primary school trip wait for a tram and realised that children are the same everywhere; we saw one angry seagull try to dominate some of the others, trying to frighten them away. I did not see such a personality in a seagull ever before – or since.
We walked to Centraal and boarded our train. It was another adventure.
Setting off and looking at the railway entrance to a great city, it was a reminder that most railway entrances are the same, with graffiti, weeds, old trains, redundant engines, trains out of service, goods wagons and containers. Then we were away and into The Netherlands proper.
But as we approached Apeldoorn, I saw something in the distance. In the sky like a mast, something for the TV, some conveyor of electricity.
I got up from my seat. I wanted to see this thing. It was very unclear.
As the train came into Apeldoorn, I saw a great shaped pillar of stainless steel. It looked mad. Then, all at once, the two slightly mangled-looking steel beams up on high, formed themselves into that most delicate of things: it was a kiss!
Two profiles, nothing more.
That some sculptor had been able to catch this most transitory of greetings and farewells into something much more than the instant of its happening, and concoct that tenderestmost of split seconds in the lives of humans into something that elevated it beyond the private to the realms of something allowably observed without being either nosy or prurient, is one of the most wonderful of artistic statements of the modern age on the grand scale.
Jeroen Henneman – for he is that artist – deserves a medal for his inventiveness. “De Kus” is one of the greatest artworks in the world. At once both clever yet simple; sophisticated yet uncomplicated; of steel and of flesh; both a greeting and a parting; of both sorrow and happiness; both universal and personal; for Apeldoorn and for The World.
Henneman has also used the sky – the ever-changing Netherlands sky – as the background and showed the world what a child sees. This man and this work of his should be known throughout the world.
For me, I waited a long time to make this journey. It started with a kiss; it ended with a kiss. The discovery of this sculptured kiss was the high spot of the journey I made; and I could not wait to see it again on my return.
Surely this is what “De Kus” is all about. Everybody should see it.
more information here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karinenrene/1660998190/