Tower of Babel: meet the artists! Edition 3 – Rianne van Duin

For the project Tower of Babel at NDSM, we enter a conversation with eight artists, who each contributed to this art installation in their own way. Through a variety of workshops, they invited Amsterdammers to reflect on their vision of the city of the future. Together, they created multifaceted artworks that will be displayed in an eclectic wooden tower construction at NDSM, on display from September 18 to October 17. In this third edition: designer Rianne van Duin.

Next to this video interview, Teus Hagen met with each artist for some more in-depth questions. He met with Rianne at NDSM; a familiar place for her. Indeed, she has had her own studio in the Lasloods warehouse for ten years.

We asked each workshop participant the following question: what does your ideal city look like? How would you answer this question yourself?

My ideal city is a mix of everything that exists. I already live in my ideal neighborhood, in the Nova Zemblastraat. Different ages, classes, backgrounds, we have everything there. And greenery, water, and a good view are always nice.

What is your connection with NDSM and how well do you think this project fits in a space like NDSM?

Of course, I know the story, but I had to look it up again and see how it all went. I have heard about it through various channels. I was not raised a Christian, but half of my family lives in Harderwijk, and every time we were there we got fed quite a bit of context. We’d go to church when we were staying with our grandma. But I also got told a lot of Biblical stories at school.

It’s not really a positive story. It actually says, “We are arrogant and want to be better than God.” That doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. But the idea that you are going to build together does. Together you get to further distances and greater heights than you ever would on your own.

The original Tower of Babel story symbolizes a balance between pride and ambition on the one hand and humbleness on the other hand. (Humanity yearns to achieve the highest possible by building a tower to heaven, but God punishes them by being for being overconfident and too ambitious.) As an artist, how do you balance pride/confidence with modesty/humbleness?

I mostly experience a lack of the former, haha! So maybe, for me, that tension should exist a little more. But although I could maybe use a bit more vanity, I find modesty more charming. It’s more about a balance for me, as long as that balance moves more into the direction of modesty. At the same time, self-confidence is also something you get more of over time, so maybe one day I’ll end up with that 50/50 balance.

Maybe adult journalists should let their inner child speak a little more

Being an artist can sometimes be an individualistic line of work. However, the Tower of Babel project is about working with a collective and bringing many different works made by many different people together. How do you feel about this collective approach to creating art?

I think it’s fantastic to work in a collective, and the most fantastic thing is to do it with children. Together you come up with things that you couldn’t have thought of on your own, let alone carry out. Also, in a collective, you are always surprised by the mix of ideas and people, and I find that even more fun with children. That’s what I like doing the most: creating a framework in which you guide the children a little bit, and then something comes out of it that surprises me even more than it surprises the children themselves.

This then comes together in a newspaper that we will make with typewriters and stamps. It is printed on real newsprint paper, which makes it look professional. This is extra cool for the kids; to see all that they can do. They might not have been able to do it without me, but they are the ones ultimately creating all the content.

In your opinion, are there certain lessons that adult journalists could or should learn from children?

Haha! Well, for Into The Great Wide Open festival, for example, I create the Kolderkrant, and I do get to hear from almost all of the artists (who are interviewed by the kids), “Well, this was the most interesting interview ever, with questions I never heard before!” So maybe adult journalists can let their inner child speak a little more. What do you really want to know, but perhaps don’t dare to ask? Of course, for children, it might simply be more acceptable to ask things like “do you make a lot of money?” or “how many people do you hit on per week?” So there is something to be learned from that openness and spontaneity. Or maybe adults could just collaborate a little more with kids.

In your view, how does arts education for children contribute to a diversity of voices in the city?

Art education with children is only half of what I do. The other half of the time, I’m individually crafting, cutting, pasting, and making pop-up books. I love that combination; I wouldn’t want it any other way. Everything I make myself is for children, and they give me back a lot of inspiration.

Children obtain a louder voice through projects like this. Suddenly, they could be in the newspaper and they have all kinds of things to say that we should take a bit more seriously.

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