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Polder Cup – Football in the Polder

Date uploaded: September 12, 2011

Maider Lopez’s 'Polder Cup' project grew from a collaboration between the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Arts and SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain.

In 2009, the two institutions joined forces for Between You and I, a project for the facade of the Witte de With building that took place at the intersection of the institutional and the public domain.

The institute’s facade was used as a billboard for Witte de With’s long-running Morality series. This created an interface, a medium, for interaction with the public at large and the streets in which they moved.

Maider López leapt at the invitation to temporarily cover the facade and assess the ambitions of a presentational institution that engages with the public domain. SKOR’s involvement may have provided the artist with both an excuse and an alibi in this regard. López’s proposal seemed simple: to organise a football competition in that most iconographic manifestation of the Dutch landscape, the polder. Not such a disruptive concept at first sight, but it became increasingly clear as the project progressed that she had a carefully conceived and highly apposite strategy. Maider López hung a gigantic banner that featured a photographic image of football fields in a polder on the facade of the Witte de With building. It was an announcement of the project, but it also referred to the polder in Ottoland near Graafstroom, where the event took place. Witte de With was the coordination centre and the place where participants and volunteers could register.

The polder thus became the place where the two arts institutions could engage in a social context, and where football could become the medium for bringing together people from different backgrounds.

Consensus Culture

The Dutch are renowned for their culture of consultation processes, or polderen (‘poldering’), which seeks to reach a consensus with the least inconvenience. These regulatory processes are characterised by lengthy discussions and negotiations about who determines the rules and how they are implemented. In public space this is often expressed in the excessive regulations that hinder the use of that space in spontaneous or ambiguous ways: consensus culture provides little room for autonomous interpretation of public space.

The power of the image

What López had in mind with Polder Cup was the disruption of familiar activities and the transformation of the traditional agrarian function of the polder landscape.
López’ departure point was the image and the impact it had, and she developed her work from this image. Her field is the public domain and she operates within it as a director. The locations she selects for her projects become her temporary studio - one that must be equipped and organised before she can create the work. This requires a high degree of perfection in the preparations - as was certainly the case with the Polder Cup. But López also incorporates the social component: this project’s combination of accessibility and unusual characteristics encourages adventurous people with an open-mind to participate. For some, the Polder Cup was a well-organised event and an opportunity to spend an enjoyable day with other people; for others it was an opportunity to reflect on the issues and connotations that the project broached.
Ultimately, though, what it’s all about for López is new images - images that are powerful enough to pose questions about the social component of art, the role of the public in public space, and the collective/individual dichotomy.

Breaking habits

When public space is being organised we often neglect to take account whether it satisfies the relevant needs: does it, for example, facilitate uses not anticipated in the original plan? We are also often unmindful of the influence the public space has on social behaviour: how does the public space direct our behaviour as individuals, and as members of the public.

Maider López’s projects and interventions in public spaces break fixed routines. By establishing new rules, she addresses people as individuals and as members of the community. A crucial component of her projects is that they stimulate exchange and communication - between artists and art institutions; between authorities and social groups; and ultimately among individuals. Visually appealing images can play a definitive role in this process.

Visit www.skor.nl/eng/news/item/polder-cup-football-in-the-polder

Photography: Maider López

Photography: Maider López