A CONTRIVED PAST
The current urban landscape in the Netherlands is more and more derived from neo-traditional architecture: complete suburbs are built in this style. The houses appear old but gleam with newness. Project developers do not sell individual houses but ‘images’ that look familiar and safe. Colourful artist’s impressions on billboards with appealing slogans win still hesitant buyers over. Many picturesque examples from the history of Dutch architecture are nonchalantly copied and some locations could be mistaken for Disneyland. Examples from other countries are also popular; colonial houses from the southern United States and the ‘Medieval’ Tuscany village are most in demand.
Korrie Besems documents this new urban landscape in her photographs. The guiding principle is the need to show the artificial and unnatural transformation process of the densely populated Netherlands. Our country has been self-made already for centuries by land reclamation, the struggle against water, a close-knit infrastructure and good housing. The Netherlands is designed in every detail to every farthest corner of the land but even so, partly due to international pressure, it constantly soon gets turned upside down again. Subsequently the ‘shelf life’ of landscapes and residential areas seems to be becoming shorter and shorter. The question arises of what this means for the general historical consciousness as well as the cultural value and meaning of earlier developments in architecture and urban planning.
Besems’s sharply-focused photographs betray an ambiguous attitude of disgust and admiration and with that acquire multiple meanings. Besems tries to unravel the resistance to the neo-traditionalism and place it in perspective.