Discover Benelux | Culture Feature | 11 Fountains International Art Project
Cornelia Parker’s lion fountain in Workum. Photo: Jantina Talsma for Leeuwarden-Friesland European Capital of Culture 2018.
T H E 1 1 F O U N TA I N S O F F R I E S L A N D
Daring to Dream Big TEXT: ISA HEMPHREY
In the winter of 2012, the Netherlands anticipated the announcement of an ice-skating race known as the Elfstedentocht. At the last race in 1997, a crowd of around two million watched speed skater Henk Angenent cross the finish line in under seven hours. For the race to take place, the ice of the entire 200-kilometre canal route around the 11 cities of Friesland must be at least 15 centimetres thick. That year, it was decided conditions were inadequate and the Dutch would have to wait for another particularly cold winter. They are still waiting. The Elfstedentocht is a rarity, since 1909 it has been held 15 times. With the consequences of climate change, how many more cool winters will douse a skater’s feverish optimism? Friesland needed a 76 | Issue 54 | June 2018
new way to link its 11 cities. So, as part of their bid to become the Capital of Culture 2018, 11 acclaimed artists were comissioned to create 11 distinctive fountains. “The project was primarily conceived as a new, sustainable way to link the 11 cities where once the 11 Cities’ Skating Tour fulfilled this role,” says Claudia Woolgar, creative producer of the Leeuwarden-Friesland European Capital of Culture 2018. Sustainability and the environment are both concepts embraced by the 11Fountains artists. In Sloten, Lucy and Jorge Orta crafted a tower of bronze buckets and tubs overflowing with water. Balancing on top is a bronze boy and girl clutching a peewit, an endangered bird. For Dutch artist Birthe Leemeijer, creator of Dokkum’s fountain, the big issue of climate change will be presented on a human scale to make it relat-
able. Her concrete sculpture is inspired by a photo of an ice formation in the winter of 1963 when even the North Sea froze over. Innovated by the Delft University of Technology, the water of the fountain will freeze and thaw with the weather to create a sculpture that transforms every day with the help of solar energy.
Water and ice Although the gap since the last Elfstedentocht widens, the environmental message of the fountains is not necessarily foreboding. “You know you don’t have to sit around and think about how horrible it is with the planet, that’s not the intention,” says Anna Tilroe, artistic director of 11Fountains. Chinese artist Shen Yuan has created a fountain representing Hindeloopen’s coat of arms: a tree with a stag and doe. This legendary ‘tree