Dear honest citizen do not read it
The text in the pedestal for Albert Helman (SR 1903-NL1996) contains a quote from the introduction to ‘A warning beforehand’ from the book ’My monkey is laughing’ (1953): “Honest citizen, lay this book aside! Do not read it! The monkey speaking in it – as if a monkey ever could speak – is so stupid and irreverent, so lacking in any form of human love and consideration, in short, so savage, that he will continually irritate you.”
Given that this is not about a ‘book’, but a cast figuration in concrete, it was relevant to leave out the phrase ‘put the book aside’ in this quote. For the rhythm and composition of the writing I have stressed the alliteration of ‘honest’ and ‘citizen’ (‘brave’ and ‘burger’ in Dutch) by adding ‘dear’ (‘beste’). So the adapted text reads: ‘Dear honest citizen do not read it.’
The pedestal may be seen as ‘introductory words’ for the passing public, walking by the series of columns along the quay. But what is actually meant by ‘do not read it’? What is one being requested not to read then?
Of course, the activity of reading plays a large role in experiencing the artwork, as does the activity of looking itself – perhaps equally as much. For how can you view this pedestal, or the whole artwork – without ‘reading’ the letters and the words?
Furthermore, just like other pedestals in the series, the figuration refers to the often loaded and ‘weighty’ content of the legacy of the twentieth century – not only ‘in a serious tone’, but also in a playful manner. A word beforehand to the public walking on the Oranje Vrijstaatkade; the viewer and reader is warned.
Albert Helman (SR 1903-NL1996), pseudonym of Lodewijk (Lou) Alphonsus Maria Lichtveld, resistance fighter during the Second World War, was a Dutch-Surinamese writer, composer, journalist and politician. He regularly stayed in Huize Frankendael in Amsterdam Oost with his daughter Cecilia van Vliet-Lichtveld, who is also included in the artwork.
Artwork: You Are Here
Artist: Martijn Sandberg
Measurements: (lxwxh) 80cm x 80cm x 40cm
Project: Legacy of the Twentieth Century
Realisation and completion: 2019
Location: Oranje Vrijstaatkade, Oostpoort, Amsterdam
Commissioned by: Amsterdam Municipality, District Oost