The poem is a message (1988) Het Rotterdams Kunstgesticht

Otto Snoek
About the artwork

Rotterdam has a number of remarkable initiatives in the field of poetry and visual arts. Artists are regularly called in to design a poetry rule and, for example, they contribute to the visualization of poems. The line of poetry Everything of value is defenseless van Lucebert has had a prominent place on the Blaak high above the city bustle since 1978. Seen from the moon, we are all the same size is the text placed above a meter-high portrait of Multatuli on a panel painted by the Rotterdam artist Mathieu Ficheroux, which hangs in the Van Oldenbarneveltstraat. Another remarkable initiative was an idea from Hans Abelman, then head of BKOR at CBK Rotterdam. His idea was to provide Rotterdam garbage trucks with a poetry line. Poetry that is not in a static location, but can be transported to every corner of Rotterdam. A greater contrast seemed unthinkable; the garbage truck with a poetry line. Poetry in the form of just one line and with an appearance that at least does not inspire people for poetry, but which teaches people to love poetry. The project owes its name The poem is a message to the line from the poem of the same name by Jules Deelder, which was placed in 1988 as one of the first lines on a garbage truck. The idea was discussed with Martin Mooij. He was the director of Poetry International at the time and they had contacts with poets and poetry. The idea was received with great approval. A first meeting with the management of the Roteb led to great enthusiasm and many discussions at all levels within the service. Opponents were convinced and the Rotterdam Art Foundation was called in to elaborate and shape the idea. The initiative was brought to life through drawings, texts and models. Special exhibitions on the subject stimulated the discussion among the staff of the Roteb. In close collaboration with Poetry International, poetry rules were selected and implementation could commence. Both Roteb and poets contribute to the quality of the public space in a very unusual way. On 27 January 1988, the Roteb received twelve new garbage trucks, which were fitted with a closing line. At the same time a new logo was revealed to make the municipal cleaning service even more recognizable. Transfer and unveiling became a big spectacle with a helicopter and fireworks and a few hundred people on the side and with many on the roof of the Roteb building. The project has become such a success that it was decided in 2013, on the occasion of the 25-year cooperation between Poetry International and Stadsbeheer (Roteb merged with Stadsbeheer of the Municipality of Rotterdam) to provide almost all Stadsbeheer cars with poetry rules. In addition, on November 14, 2013 became the neon poem rule Cities do not hide when it rains on the Stadsbeheer building on Kleinpolderplein. An anniversary bundle has also been made with a special overview of twenty-five years The poem is a message. In total there are more than three hundred lines of renowned Dutch and foreign poets through Rotterdam. The poetry rules often come from the annual Poetry International Festival, one of the most famous meeting places for poets and poetry lovers in the world. From 19 October 2016 the project has been adopted by the German city of Frankfurt under the title Müll & Poesie. This makes Frankfurt the second city in the world after Rotterdam, combining poetry with waste and bringing it into public space.

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About the artist

The Rotterdams Kunstgesticht was a collective of four visual artists at the end of the 80: Michiel Brink, Corinne Boureau, Véronique Declercq and Gerard Immerzaal. They all also had their own individual professional practice, but in this collective they mainly collaborated on the production of art in print. The Kunstgesticht actually had a graphic workshop. The first step towards the expansion of activities outside the production of booklets and prints was the assignment for the lines of poetry on the wagons of the Roteb.

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