(Un)monumenting: The Future Should Always Be Better Archived


On this page, you’ll find more background information about the artists and their works that are on display in the exhibition (Un)monumenting: The Future Should Always Be Better. You will also find links to additional content about the artists like interviews, video’s, and NDSM X podcast episodes.


With his work, Bart Eysink Smeets shows in a sharp, humorous way what is already there. The artist magnifies, observes, questions and reflects. With Follow the Sun, he creates a new work that is a monument to the sun and the planet it constantly shines on. On a large LED screen, the viewer sees a constant sunset via a live video link. By constantly switching to a webcam at a different place in the world, the sun will (for a while) never stop setting at NDSM. With Follow The Sun, Eysink Smeets wants to challenge the viewer to zoom out and look beyond their own habitat. After all, the sun is always shining, it is just not always visible. The artist reflects on the question of what visibility means, and whether a digital experience plays a role in this as we seem to increasingly take digital reality for granted.


It looks like this car landed with a big bang. Designer and visual artist Clinton Kabena‘s installation Landed Rock is about migration. By 2022, more than 100 million people worldwide were fleeing war and violence. They usually settle in an environment far away from home, which is unfamiliar and new to them. Kabena is fascinated by this crash into another culture. This was also part of his own story of arrival. Kabena wonders what impact does a big, forced change of environment have on people? The bags on the car symbolise the baggage people carry with them–sometimes heavy and painful, but also full of fighting spirit, strength, experiences and insights that help them rebuild a livable existence. Kabena’s work focuses on the transformative nature of travel, particularly African migration. 

 In the context of (Un)Monumenting, Landed Rock can be seen as a still moment in time, a crash in culture. A monument to the many migrants ‘invading’ a world they don’t know yet, especially with the history of NDSM in mind where many migrant workers worked in the shipyard. 

 A second part of Landed Rock can be visited at the Amsterdam Museum. The installation is part of Refresh Amsterdam #2: War & Conflict. Scan the QR code for more information.


With her neon installation The Future Should Always Be Better, Sharon Lockhart explores the notion of our future and its capacity to hold and reshape hope. By executing the title’s statement in neon, Lockhart recalls past utopian visions of a future characterized by technological, social and structural progress. Standing amidst the increasing impact of an ailing environment or a global pandemic, the installation’s statement is an invitation to consider humanity’s future — not only with melancholy, but with hope. 

The work is installed on the Y-Slope, where ships built at NDSM were launched. It is a place where memories, reality and dreams come together. Lockhart’s statement gains strength through the diversity of interpretation that its language invites. What does “should” mean here? How do our circumstances become “better,” and how is the term defined? The illuminated neon phrase makes its reference to NDSM and its conditions explicit. It also allows the message to reach further into Amsterdam, expanding its scope to the stories of the city’s inhabitants, and to collective social and political narratives.


Selby Gildemacher created Incotrans Speed – re-offshoring in his NDSM warehouse studio. This artwork highlights the last seagoing ship built at the NDSM wharf in 1979. The work includes an Augmented Reality (AR) app through which visitors can use their phones to see the ship in full size on the Y-Helling, where such ships were launched in the past. The ship was scrapped in 2009 on the beach in Alang, India. Commissioned by Selby Gildemacher, vlogger Mukesh Vlogs was asked to search for the remains of the Incotrans Speed, scrapped in 2009, with special emphasis on the ship’s horn. This video work can be seen in a shipping container in the NDSM warehouse. The work unites the past of the NDSM wharf with the present of Alang, India, and offers a layered story about (invisible) labour, globalisation and the relationship between history and the present.


For about eight years, Koos Buster has been making artworks from clay and has coined the nicknames ‘Clay God’ and ‘Minister of Ceramic Affairs’ for himself. In the past, he has realised works such as a cleaning trolley with contents, fire extinguishers, surveillance cameras, sockets, cigarette butts, a traffic spy, and an ATM machine. In his signature manner, Buster has now made a clay canta, containing a ceramic beer crate, Ajax symbols and other details. In his works, the artist looks for the perfection of imperfection, such as a packet of Marlboro Gold that has many precise details but is slightly too big. The canta, which is also used in the North of Amsterdam by people without medical requirements, is very popular, as you can use it to get on the ferry. With this work, Buster wants to celebrate the canta and make a tribute. Buster questions “Where do you find real Amsterdammers anymore?”. The city is becoming increasingly expensive, furnished and rented out to expats, he notes.”I am proud to have been born here, but somewhere, of course, that urban patriotism is also ugly and misplaced. With this monument, I play with this.”


Selma Selman‘s works are sometimes sensitive and at other times harsher or more ironic in order to reveal discriminatory stereotypes and expectations. In the process, she makes her body and identity the medium for personal or civic subjects that articulate political resistance and feminist emancipation. Always working with scrap metal and its recycling, Selman questions how we assign value to material objects and labour, and how we relate to both. In the video performance Mercedes Matrix, Selman and her family demolish a car. In this work, art becomes a tool to question her family’s work and her work as an artist. Ultimately, demolishing the car helps both the artist and the family with (financial) survival. Her family depends on this labour where metal and engine parts are sold in scrap yards. Since Selman has had a very personal relationship with metal since childhood, her works of scrap fuse with impressions from everyday life, art history, and her personal experiences.


Hira Nabi is a Pakistani artist and filmmaker who addresses fragile ecologies, working conditions, memories and temporality in her films, installations and prints. The video All That Perishes at the Edge of Land is set on the beach of Gadani in Balochistan, Pakistan. Here, many condemned ships are dismantled. On a temporary basis, without any firmness or safety standards, Pakistani men are put to work extracting usable resources from shipwrecks and dismantling them. In the film the voiceover of the container ship Ocean Master narrates about dreams and hope saying “Where is the end of voiceless beings?”. Local workers in the film tell stories and demonstrate daily realities that contradict the voice over’s words such as “I am speaking to you as a worker, not as a human.” 

This (ship breaking) industry is unpacked as the site of contextual inquiries: into the destruction of marine ecology, exploitative labour practices affecting a migrant labour force, a network of linked industries aggregating wealth, engaged in the practice of toxic trade, and an imbalance of power tilting in favour of the industrialized North versus the poorer Global South. – Hira Nabi


The objects that Oscar Peters creates are often both humorous and sinister, as well as vulnerable. His installation The Urge is based on erotic movements, associating food with genitalia. Not without some self-irony, the artist touches on the fragility of the male performance drive embedded in the one-dimensional interpretation of the sex act. The rattling constructions have something menacing about them, as if things could go wrong at any moment, but at the same time the works are funny, playful and carefree. Is it perhaps an anti-fallus monument, or a monument for vulnerability? This work can also be seen as humorously addressing a new feminist phase, seen from a male artist’s point of view.


Elsemarijn Bruys is interested in how space and material influence each other and the effect this has on architecture. With Volume 2.0, she creates a cube of air that seems to be bursting at the seams, fighting for space. Caught between the pillars and the ceiling of the industrial warehouse, the semi-transparent inflatable seems to be both permeating the environment and blocking its view. The work is part of her research into how space can be distorted by a temporary intervention that affects human movement. In addition, the pressure, which can be felt whilst looking at Volume 2.0, refers to the question of who and what can and should occupy space when there is only limited space. In this way, Bruys fleshes out themes of changeability and temporariness, many of which form the basis of her practice. 


Bas Kosters creates worlds inhabited by radiant, disturbing and endearing figures that reflect his social commitment. Many monuments consist of heroic men on horses, confirming the power structures of the time. For (Un)Monumenting, Kosters creates a gender fluid human figure on a plinth in Kosters’ colourful and recognisable style. Anyone can be a hero, Kosters wants to say, beyond the normative thinking that now mostly underpins monuments. It also offers reflection on today’s society in which the ‘I’ figure is central, think of the selfie cult, but where at the same time there is also a need for more collectivity. It’s Me captures the tension between the spotlight era of the individual and the need to shake up old systems, power relations and dominant positions, but also questions whether individualism is a sustainable solution.


Known for his rebellious, theatrical style, Maarten Baas occupies his own position in the field by integrating conceptual art, craftsmanship, installation, public space and performance into his oeuvre, depending on the context. In the LESS LESS LESS light installation, different styles, colours and fonts of the word Less tumble over each other like advertisements, fighting for attention. After all, what do green design and mass consumption mean today? In this work, Baas addresses a contemporary dilemma: the duality between the desire for more in these current times, while simultaneously asking for less.


Krijn de Koning‘s work addresses the question of how we can experience place and space differently and make them visible. In his sculptures, the artist is inspired by the architecture of certain locations. They are often made on-site as temporary installations, such as now in the context of (Un)Monumenting in which they intervene with the environment. De Koning experiences the NDSM warehouse as a large monumental sculpture, with lots of details that actually disappear. With ‘In here/Up there’, two works for (Un)Monumenting, he makes physical interventions in the space that change the organisation of looking, highlighting and questioning some of its specific elements. The artist adds a new dimension to the space and gives the visitor a different perspective of the NDSM warehouse.

I want to strengthen the attention for a place, by breaking the conditioned way of looking. – Krijn de Koning

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