hey paarth, what about the atom bomb? / 2015
Seventy years after the use of the first atomic bomb, artist Hans van Houwelingen made a film on decisive metaphysics underlying the use of a weapon of mass destruction. The title: hey paarth, what about the atom bomb?
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the architect of the first atomic bomb that was detonated at Los Alamos in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, likened the immense destructive power of the bomb to Shiva’s appearance in the Hindu epic Bhagavad Gita, to the episode where Shiva assumes the form of omnipotent destroyer of worlds in order to convince prince Arjuna wage war. This 2000-year-old holy text, whose wisdom, by its own account, dates back to the earliest days of mankind, announces the Kali Yuga, the ‘era of the demon’, that began in the wake of Arjuna's massive war.
This epoch of degeneration and massacre includes our present age, where humanity is furthest removed from its ideal state. hey paarth, what about the atom bomb? resituates the Bhagavad Gita’s knowledge of humankind within the social and political circumstances that permitted the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima - a historical fact that continues to defy our thinking, the notion of an ethical progress of humanity.
In Between Blue Waves and Green Corridors / 2021
In 2017, the Municipality of Arnhem in the Netherlands plans to demolish the iconic environmental seventies artwork Blue Waves by artist Peter Struycken, to make way for a new park-like interior within its Green Corridor project. Artist Hans van Houwelingen recruits a group of art students and young artists that start a research on the context in which this development takes place. The central question is how Dutch cultural heritage relates to the interests and responsibilities of its users and owners. What does cultural heritage mean, what is its value and who is determining this? In short, what factors and actors decide on the fate of public cultural heritage?Between Blue Waves and Green Corridor started as a temporary workshop with art students from BEAR fine arts, the bachelor's program of ArtEZ art academy. In 2019, the academy board officially distances itself from the students, whose political activities interfered with real estate interests. Secretly the academy supported the demolition plans of the city. The project then was continued independently of the academy and grew into a two-year study by an autonomous group of young artists that called itself: the ArteZTeam. Many municipal council meetings and many hours of interview with politicians, historians, local residents, schools, commercial companies, lawyers, heritage institutions, architects, art institutes, art lovers and art haters, show that nobody really knows the rules and codes of conduct to take care of public cultural heritage. Are there any at all? Experts have more questions than answers. Stakeholders randomly collect arguments to their own benefit. Politicians produce their own lying narratives. The recordings indicate a spectacle of opinions and assumptions, mostly from an evidently opportunistic nature. Usually a work of art moves within a conventional cultural, economic and political framework. In this film the roles are reversed, the framework plays the leading role. All the actors that we know for enabling art – those who assess and safeguard art – are here themselves protagonists in an inscrutable drama: of the “culture” in which cultural heritage is prayer. Implicitly, but above all, the interviewers themselves - the young artists who also consistently filmed themselves - outline the contours of a vulnerable new generation in an impenetrable politicized artistic climate. This group of artists however managed to play a crucial role.