Who wants to know more must eat words (2008) Toni Burgering

photo Max Dereta
About the artwork

On September 20, 2008, a light artwork was unveiled by Carlos Gonçalves, chairman of the former district of Delfshaven. Since then, a line of poetry by Gerrit Kouwenaar in neon has been displayed on the facade of the public library. The work fitted into the 'Mathenesserkwartier' lighting plan, which CBK Rotterdam had designed by artist Toni Burgering. The plan was to illuminate the entire neighborhood with artwork and neon stripes. The CBK carried out this with a number of artists. Previously, artists and shopkeepers already designed light boxes for shops on the Grote Visserijstraat and the Mathenesserweg was decorated with a neon light line, also based on an idea by Burgering. The line of poetry Who wants to know more must eat words comes from the collection “A smell of burnt feathers” (1991) by Kouwenaar. The whole poem reads:
“Anyone who wants to know more must eat words
After his word had unlocked the dream, he made the cupboard with the secret drawer
After the flesh weaned him, he confessed to the continuity of matter
After the page was written empty the lethe evaporated, whoever wants to know more must eat words ”
The Lethe from Greek mythology is a river in the underworld, from which the dead drink to forget their earthly life. During the unveiling, poetry waiters walked around reciting poems of their choice. The line of poetry was turned on shortly after sunset and Toni Burgering recited the entire poem by Gerrit Kouwenaar.

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About the artist

Toni Burgering (Barneveld, 1937 - Leiden, 2017) was educated at the Academy of Visual Arts in Rotterdam. For a long time he worked and lived in Rotterdam. Burgering worked with colored neon light. Among other things, he wrote the line of poetry by Lucebert 'Everything of value is defenseless'in 1978 on the roof of a former insurance building on the Blaak. Burgering fell under the spell of neon after a stay in the 1960s in America. He witnessed the launch of the Apollo 11 at Cape Kennedy.

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