once in a lifetime

12 May - 28 August 2016

There are countless ways of looking at the transience of our lives. Based on religion, for example, in which there is traditionally plenty of faith in a hereafter. Or based on humanism, in which humankind is the point of departure and the meaning of our once-only life on earth takes centre stage. And based on art, whereby artists represent and reaect upon our human condition. In the Once in a Lifetime exhibition, eight artists shed light on various aspects of life and mortality. What traces do we leave behind? How do we deal with time, memories, the things that are lost?

Four artists – Daniëlle van Ark, Amie Dicke, Job Koelewijn and Muntean/Rosenblum – created new work specially for the exhibition, seeking out meaningful places in the church to present their work. The curator Nina Folkersma also selected existing works by four other artists: Michaël Borremans, Stan Brakhage, Folkert de Jong and Yehudit Sasportas. These works of art offer diverse perspectives on the mystery of life and death. They urge you to be aware of what makes your life unique, fragile and inimitable, as formulated in the statement by the Belgian author David Van Reybrouck that serves as the exhibition’s motto.

It’s the moment that counts, the realization that here a fragile beauty emerges which is unique, fragile and inimitable, and in this age of data being perpetual re-retrievable it derives its unique existence from that which ends itself, occurs, reveals and unfolds in this particular moment in this particular place. – David Van Reybrouck

artworks in the exhibition

Daniëlle van Ark
It took us years to get there, 2016
Shoes, electroplated silver
Courtesy: tegenboschvanvreden
photo: Robert Glas

Danielle van Ark_
La mémoire collective, 2016
Wood, chicken wire, mdf, collection of found and made objects
Courtesy: tegenboschvanvreden
photo: Robert Glas

In the Kerkmeesterskamer (Church Warden’s Chamber), Daniëlle van Ark (NL,1974) has constructed an installation that sits midway between a domestic cupboard and a museum-like display case. This display case/cupboard, La mémoire collective, contains a collection of seemingly random found and made objects, including sawn-through ‘love padlocks’ from a Parisian bridge and glass negatives from the early twentieth century. They are objects that are symbols of commitment and love, but also for the desire (doomed to fail) to hang on to time and life. In the Spiegelkamer (Mirror Room), Van Ark has placed a dozen pairs of silver-plated shoes, evidently worn by dear friends of the artist. She is hereby referring to the first pair of baby shoes that people have had silver-plated as an emotional keepsake for later. Since her residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten – the State Academy of Fine Arts – Daniëlle van Ark has been using a variety of media and materials in her work, giving old photos, cards or trophies a new lease of life. She appropriates objects and places them in a new setting and a different context. Social status and outward display are recurring themes, but Van Ark also shows the upside of these phenomena by emphasizing the fragility and transience of life.


Michael Borremans_foto Robert Glas
Michaël Borremans
Everything Falls, 2012
Glass, wood, metal, metal paint, dust
Collection: S.M.A.K., Gent
photo: Robert Glas

Two grey, matte-finished busts, covered by a fine layer of dust, recline backwards like two Medieval gravestones. The bronze sculptures look as heavy as lead, but their forms are soft and well-nigh fluid. They each have a duck’s beak instead of a nose. According to the artist Michaël Borremans (BE, 1963), the beaks make the work’s dramatic nature more intense. Borremans had already painted recumbent figures and beaks, but here he has for the first time employed these elements in a sculpture. As in his paintings, these figures are shrouded in a mysterious atmosphere, as if they are not entirely of this world. Over the last decade, Michaël Borremans has emerged as one of today’s most prestigious artists on the international stage. His paintings, as well as his drawings and films, are often populated by figures who with a certain equanimity do strange things or perform bizarre rituals. This results in ominous yet mysteriously seductive scenarios: frozen fragments from an indeterminable and intangible time, devoid of bright colours, in which nothing is what it seems.


Stan Brakhage
Window Water Baby Moving, 1959
16 mm lm, color, silent, 12 min 11 sec.
Courtesy: Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper
photo: Robert Glas

In the film Window Water Baby Moving, Stan Brakhage (USA, 1933–2003) documents the birth of his first child. He filmed the first contractions, the moment of birth and the cutting of the umbilical cord with a 16mm camera. The film is not intended for the lily-livered; Brakhage shows everything, in jerkily edited, raw close-ups. He displays the start of life precisely as it is: a moment that is mixed with pain, blood, sweat and tears. But with great joy as well. It is all very intimate and moving, and the eventual result is an ode to life. Stan Brakhage is regarded as one of the most important figures in twentieth-century experimental film. Over the course of five decades he produced a large and diverse oeuvre in which he experimented with different formats, approaches and techniques (such as painting on and scratching the celluloid). In his films he explores life’s great themes: birth, sexuality and mortality.


Amie Dicke_staand_foto Robert Glas
Amie Dicke
Soaps, 2016
Display case, soaps
Courtesy: Stigter Van Doesburg & Anat Ebgi
photo: Robert Glas

Amie Dicke (NL, 1978) is showing a collection of soaps in the Sint Sebastiaanskapel (St Sebastian Chapel). There they lie set in a long, neat row: desiccated, full of little cracks, slimmed down and shaped by the hands that have massaged them time and again. The soaps are the frozen memories of their user, but for Amie Dicke they are also a memento of that one bar of soap belonging to her grandmother, which she deeply regrets not keeping. Dicke’s method of working is based on the notion that events and memories stick to places and objects. Dicke searches for traces, souvenirs and ‘after-images’, as she calls them, and renders them visible with subtle interventions – or highlights the invisible connotations of what is present. You could say that the artist creates ‘works imbued with soul’. In order to imbue her works with this overtone, she spends many painstaking hours searching for historical layers that have left their traces behind. Coincidence – in the literal sense: what happens to you or crosses your path – often plays a role in this.

*The realization of this artwork is made possible by the help of Hotel Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam.


Folkert de Jong_
Folkert de Jong
Heritage, 2009
Styrofoam, pigmented polyurethane foam, customized europallet
Collection: Rabo Kunstcollectie
photo: Robert Glas

In the work Heritage by Folkert de Jong (NL, 1972), and older man and child are sitting on a stack of pallets. Downcast and timid they stare straight ahead. In the monumental church they seem particularly vulnerable and lonely. Where do they come from? What are they waiting for? What is making them so dejected? By calling the work Heritage, Folkert de Jong is alluding to the fact that we are not only responsible for our behaviour in the present, but are responsible for the behaviour of our predecessors in the past as well. Typical of Folkert de Jong’s work is his use of coloured styrofoam and polyurethane foam. These materials are not intended to last for eternity and are not environmentally friendly whatsoever. It is this disturbing property that intrigues the artist. In his sculptures he often refers to dark events in the past, which he then relates to contemporary events with an ironic twist, connecting the history of art with the present day.


Job Koelewijn_staand_foto Robert Glas
Job Koelewijn
Celebration (you only live once)(you only die once), 2016
Flowers, vases, booklet
Courtesy: Galerie Fons Welters
photo: Robert Glas

The new work that Job Koelewijn (NL, 1962) has created especially for the exhibition consists of an installation of vases with colourful, fragrant flowers. The vases are placed carefully on the church’s tombstone floor, in memory of the dead who were buried here many centuries ago. Flowers are used at many moments in life as an expression of joy, but they are also used at moments that are coupled with sorrow, as an expression of love and solace for the bereaved. In the church the flower arrangements leave a solemn, serene and at the same time slightly absurd impression. Who are we commemorating here and for whom do the flowers provide solace? Job Koelewijn’s work is often conceptual in character, but is at the same time strongly sensual and always alludes to reality. The subjects of ‘time’ and ‘timelessness’ play an important part in his work, which ranges from photos and films to small objects and space-filling installations. Koelewijn often uses materials that appeal to our sense of touch and smell, that possess a great fragility and ‘purity’.

*The realization of this artwork is made possible by the help of Bloemenwinkel Jemi Amsterdam.


Muntean_Rosenblum_foto Robert Glas
Untitled (Lives were changed …), 2016
Black & white crayon, acrylic on canvas
Courtesy: Galería Horrach Moyà
photo: Robert Glas

Muntean:Rosenblum-foto Robert Glas
The Twilight Of Our Heart, 2016
Mixed media.
Courtesy of the artist
photo: Robert Glas

The painting Untitled (Lives were changed …) by the artist duo Muntean/Rosenblum (AT/IS, 1962) portrays a group of youngsters dancing ecstatically. They seem to have just stepped out of a modern lifestyle magazine. At the same time the subjects’ poses are reminiscent of classic poses from Christian iconography. ‘We try to distil a sense of spirituality from the superficial, alienating spectacle of consumer culture, in which everything is about ‘adapted behaviour’, about everyone doing and liking the same,’ according to the artists. The new work that Muntean/Rosenblum created especially for the exhibition consists of a panoramic painting of a blanket of clouds opening up above a desolate motorway, just outside the city. During the opening there was a performance with five singers who performed a sacred motet, a work for voices alone, by the Renaissance composer Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500–1553). In line with Muntean/Rosenblum’s desire to create ambiguous images – images full of pathos (the Greek word for suffering or emotion) – this new work also tests the public’s emotions and raises questions about our existence. Whence do we draw hope? How do we give meaning to our lives in the light of our mortality?


Yehudit Sasportas_foto Robert Glas
Yehudit Sasportas
The Lightworkers, 2010
Two-channel full HD video projection, 10 min loop.
Courtesy of Yehudit Sasportas; Sommer-Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv; Galerie EIGEN+ART Leipzig / Berlin and Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen
photo: Robert Glas

The video work The Lightworkers by Yehudit Sasportas (IS, 1969) shows us an ominous landscape, composed of more than 150 drawings, full of strange, dreamy elements. The trees and swamps are dark and light, delicate and heavy, lyrical and gruesome, dead and living – all in the same instant. The searching light of a torch shines amid the trees, where superimposed vertical lines and black bars, which are reminiscent of barcodes or scanners, topple over one by one. The video installation immerses the beholder in a psychological space that appeals strongly to feelings of loss and unconscious fears. In recent years Yehudit Sasportas has built up an intrinsically multi-layered and complex oeuvre of drawings, paintings, videos and installations. The relationship between the conscious and the subconscious is an important theme in her work. She is interested in creating a ‘topography of the human psyche’, an existential investigation of the ‘wounds, hidden feelings, and memories that surface from time to time’.


Once in a Lifetime is curated by Nina Folkersma and the result of collaboration between Oude Kerk and the Humanistisch Verbond (the Dutch Humanist Association). The exhibition is made possible by Amsterdam Funds for the Arts AFK , the Sluyterman van Loo Fund, the KunstenIsraël foundation, the Embassy of Israel in the Netherlands, the Mondriaan Fund and the Prins Bernhard Culture Fund. With special thanks to Finbar van Wijk.

Photo: Folkert de Jong, Heritage (2009) at Oude Kerk, 2016 © Robert Glas.