Te Huur Te Koop (to rent, to sell) *)

Kerkrade, Netherlands, 2014

Background (about Kerkrade):

Kerkrade, in Zuid-Limburg, is a perfect example of a shrinking city in Europe. It is located in the very southern part of the Netherlands, the border to Germany goes along a street within the town itself and the border to Belgium is only a short car drive away.
Today the town seems to be deserted. It is almost as if its inhabitants preferred to be absent. From the middle ages until the seventies of the last century there was a big mining industry in the area (it was the oldest mining district of Europe). In the fifties a great number of people lived in Zuid-Limburg. They came from North Africa, Russia, Southern and Eastern Europe. In the seventies gas deposits were discovered in the Netherlands and cheap coal from Australia was imported. In 1974 the last mine was shut down. In contrast to Germany and Belgium all the mines in and around Kerkrade were demolished within a decade (except one or two buildings, which are now used as mining museums). Over centuries mining has been the major income of the town and its surrounding region (called: Oostelijke Mijnstreek today: Parkstad). Although the work was dangerous and coal dust was poison to their lungs people identified with the mining and the various activities in the mining associations.
Quite a few people from Kerkrade, whether still living there or not, feel their town and its inhabitants are still suffering from that sudden break up with their long mining history.

With my work I wanted to convey a certain feeling of absence and emptiness which I think one gets when coming to Kerkrade. The absence of liveliness and the absence of the history of Kerkrade. Although there are many statues of miners and monuments which refer to their story and there are even archives with documents and photographs, I still felt something is missing.

*) The title refers to the countless boards, set up in the windows of the houses in Kerkrade. It seemed to me as if half the town were for sale or to rent. The exhibition took place in the building of the former main post office of Kerkrade which is for sale, too.