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Sarah van Sonsbeeck opens exhibition in the Oude Kerk
Installation view. Photo: Gert-Jan van Rooij.


AMSTERDAM.- In its early days the Oude Kerk was a port church where ships were christened, prayers were offered for a safe return, and numerous seafarers and naval heroes found their final resting place. From 19 May to 17 September, Sarah van Sonsbeeck is bringing the sea back into the Oude Kerk with this information as a leitmotiv.

What connects the history of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam with the topical question of migration? This question inspired artist Sarah van Sonsbeeck to consider how the Oude Kerk is interwoven with the ocean. In times gone by the church was one of the few public, covered places where sails and nets could be mended, and a place where naval heroes were buried. The barrel vaulting was also fabricated like the inverted hull of a ship using shipbuilding techniques. And it is not for nothing that the main section of the church is traditionally known in Dutch as the 'schip', or nave. In the church there are actually fragments of paintings that feature motifs found on sailors’ tattoos.With this exhibition the sea is entering the church anew, in order to prompt visitors to reflect about the monumental building’s earlier significance, as well as its current meaning.

Emergency blankets
In 2012 Van Sonsbeeck created her Anti Drone Tent from emergency blankets, a material used to keep the body warm and render people invisible to drones. The news concerning refugees has significantly altered the meaning of the golden Mylar blanket. The media regularly show refugees cloaked in gold, like abstract forms, after a terrible sea crossing. It is on this golden protective material, as eye-catching as it is wafer-thin, that Van Sonsbeeck is keen to reflect in the Oude Kerk, a centuries-old building that in origin also offers protection and shelter.

Sarah van Sonsbeeck
Sarah van Sonsbeeck (b. 1976) gained her MA in Architecture from TU Delft and a Bachelor in Visual Art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. From 2008 to 2009 she was one of the residents at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten – State Academy of Fine Arts – in Amsterdam. Her work has been exhibited at the Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam (2017 & 2013); De Nederlandsche Bank, Amsterdam (2013); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2013); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2012); Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (2011); De Paviljoens, Almere (2009); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2009) and elsewhere.

Oude Kerk
The Oude Kerk is Amsterdam’s oldest building, set in the midst of the Wallen or Red Light District, at the heart of the Dutch capital’s renowned historical centre. Since 2013 contemporary art has taken centre stage here, in a continuous programme of monumental, site-specific exhibitions. In its programme the Oude Kerk interconnects heritage and art, past and present, thus presenting an opportunity for contemplation and astonishment. The church exhibits contemporary art that enters into a relationship with the Oude Kerk’s cultural-historical qualities and denotations (supposed and otherwise).

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now (quote attributed to Martin Luther King)






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