Free sailing! Monument for the trade union leader Edo Fimmen (1998) Ben Zegers

photo Otto Snoek
About the artwork

In 1997, the Vervoersbond FNV conceived the plan to present an image to Rotterdam as part of the centenary of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). This statue is a monument in memory of trade union leader and racism fighter Edo Fimmen (1881-1942), who between the two world wars was chairman of the ITF, founded after the boat workers' strike in Rotterdam in 1896. Fimmen gained great fame as a fighter against racism, fascism and colonial oppression. A passionate idealist, he championed an internationally organized working class to confront the excesses of capitalism. In the monument that the FNV had in mind, the image of Fimmen had to be recognizable. Moreover, it had to radiate its ideas without falling into personality cult. Ben Zegers' design was chosen from three sketch proposals. He has assumed the shape of a lying and an upright boxing glove. Zegers has stylized these metaphors for steadfastness and drive into two geometric-abstract images, in which the portrait of Fimmen and profile has been incorporated. The title Free sailing! is derived from a magazine for German railway workers: "Fahrt Frei". Zegers wanted to give the image many associations: tackling, wrapping, waving goodbye, lugging, fighting, rebellion and resistance, a safe, an oven, a chimney, a fender and a fighting machine. For the location of the monument, the Buizenpark on Katendrecht has been chosen: a place by the water, the harbor and the working class neighborhood. Free sailing! Monument for the trade union leader Edo Fimmen was unveiled in the European year against racism on 28 November 1998.

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About the artist

Ben Zegers (Utrecht, 1962) was educated at the Academy of Art and Design St. Joost, after which he spent a working period at the Ateliers '63. In 1988 he settled in Rotterdam and in 1993 he was given a solo exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. In his work he disturbs the measure of things, makes everything that is dimensionally stable and makes everything that has depth flat or vice versa. His images arise from clippings or photographed models of famous scenes. They are images that are on their way to their destination, not to be interpreted by their ceaseless play with recognisability, proportion, function and meaning. Zegers has realized several works for the public space of Rotterdam. His work can be found in collections of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Haags Gemeentemuseum and the Caldic Collection. He is also a member of the Executive Board of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Zegers lives and works in Rotterdam.

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