"Dood of de Gladiolen" (Death or Victory), ArtBorne 2015.
This year the 69th edition of the Airborne Walking Tour starts on the first Saturday of September, the largest one-day walking tour in the world in which more than 30,000 people participate each year. This memorial tour has been held since 1944 "to commemorate the many who lost their lives at the Battle of Arnhem". You write that the thought about commemorating the war has evolved because there are fewer and fewer people who have witnessed the Second World War. A historical commemoration therefore makes way for more contemplative ideological reflections. The actual memory of the horrible occupation by the enemy has evolved into, I quote,: "awareness of freedom in which we live". This proposal for a work of art along the route of the Airborne walking tour, entitled Death or Victory, responds to the awareness of freedom.
Awareness of freedom:
The freedom of 1945 cannot be described with any pen or artwork. The gratitude to those who fought for it in the Battle of Arnhem is still great after seventy years. However, commemoration is an active process and gradually became a process of reflection, bridging the time span between 1945 and 2015. It makes no sense to project the freedom of 1945, the liberation, indiscriminately on any contemporary concept of freedom. Occasionally this might be heard in right-wing nationalist rhetoric but not otherwise. The question then is what sense of freedom we are living in could we experience during the 69th Airborne walking tour.
We could honor the soldiers who fell around Arnhem realizing that their struggle is still going on. Realize that freedom, injustice and occupation affects a large part of the world population. Realize that the allied resistance is diametrically opposed to the resistance to alliate in this time. Allied soldiers, from all over the world, determinedly went to battle for one great ideal of freedom. In the Netherlands in 2015, freedom is by no means a common ideal, but there is a fight for its definition: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, even political parties advocate segregation in the name of freedom. Nowadays freedom is a political tool in a fierce conflict of interest.
Death or Victory (the Gladiolus), on it or under it, it is all or nothing. Gladiolus for the winning gladiator, death for the loser. In sports this expression has survived 2000 years. On walking tours it is a fixed tradition to provide runners with gladioli to triumph over the finish line. The artwork that I propose makes a direct link between this tradition and the sense of freedom in which we live.
It is a performance by 72 Muslim women who distribute gladioli to the participants of the walking tour throughout the day at the end of the route. As formulated in your assignment, the artwork has an inviting character, there will be irrevocable interaction with the public. This performance cannot be missed by anyone, thousands of participants will for a moment form thoughts about freedom in 2015, in whatever way. In view of the tensions in contemporary society, the title of the work of art exists in all its ambiguities, whether it is death or gladiolus.