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A Tale of a Tub: 'Poetry is a new way of looking at the world.' @poetry_en Rotterdam offers fascinating collaboration with visual artists

What lies on the ground, spread over a white sheet? Hard to determine. Shrapnel? Aircraft parts? Battered remains? Upon entering A Tale of a Tub the impression is unsettling, and slightly overwhelming. A crime scene, but unclear who, what or where it is about.

They appear to be plants, but enlarged and cast in bronze. But you can only really see that when you float above them. Or from the walkway above where yet another work demands special attention.

Suzanne Wallinga photo Ernst van Deursen

In this podcast, I walk with curator Suzanne Wallinga through A Tale of a Tub, an art presentation institution in a very special place: the - as far as I can tell - first gated community in a big city. The Justus van Effenstraat in Rotterdam West is a building block around a bathhouse, and you can't enter the street if you don't have a key. Except on days when A Tale of a Tub is open, because this public building simply cannot be behind a fence.

Plant monument

Suzanne Wallinga talks about the unique works on show during the coming period, and about the special collaboration with Poetry International Rotterdam.

Eric Peter, Economy as Intimacy, 2018, publication and reading(s) as part of Assemblages of Intimacy. Photo: Fabian Landewee

Abbas Akhavan's plant monument in the small building enters into a conversation with the poetry of Eric Peter, who presents a collection entitled 'Economy as Intimacy' in which lines are also blacked out. The poet talks about it (not on the podcast): 'Sometimes I felt I was too explicit in my wording and the emptiness of the black bar was what I needed-instead of fewer or different words. Withholding something from a reader, owing something as a writer. It also reinforces intimacy, a 'secret'.'

You can also hear his poems when you call him. You can find his number at the back of the collection. But then you have to buy it.


Iranian artist Abbas Akhavan's work won't let you go. With 'Study for a Monument', he created a bronze reminder of for plants that were once indigenous to the Euphrates Delta, but have disappeared due to constant wars and irrigation works.

Eamonn Harnett, Hopes for unity, self articulation and sustainability of a group (2018), installation photo A Tale of a Tub. Photo: Fabian Landewee

Above this monument, the bones of a llama are surrounded by the work of Eamonn Harnet. In his 'Reflections upon an unknown country', this Irish-Dutch artist shows parallels between his parents' llama farm on the Irish coast and the sea anemones growing in the Maas estuary near Rotterdam.

In the basement of A Tale of a Tub is an even more impressive work if possible: Mikhail Karikis' Children of Unquiet. It is a sci-fi-like video installation featuring images from Italy's Valley of the Devil. The volcanic area in Tuscany, which inspired Dante's description of hell, was enriched last century by a geothermal power plant. People once worked there too, before everything was automated. Mikhail Karikis has the children of former workers provide a beautiful and haunting sound set to the desolate images of their parents' former workplace.

Mikhail Karikis, Children of Unquiet, 2014, installation photo A Tale of a Tub. Photo: Fabian Landewee

Patricia Lockwood

During Poetry International, the now quite well-known American poet Patricia Lockwood, among others, will perform in A Tale of a Tub. That can't help but be special. How does an art institution like A Tale of A Tub get so poetic? For Suzanne Wallinga, the collaboration with Poetry makes perfect sense: 'Our work is the visual arts, but poetry appeals to me a lot. It was actually always there. I used to study Industrial Design in Delft and there I was always told I was too poetic. Then I thought: I am just ahead of my time.'

Good to know Good to know

Assemblages of Intimacy is still on show until 24 June. More information.

During Poetry International, A Tale of a Tub is part of the Poetry & Art Tours, in which work by poetic artists and performances by poets can be seen in various Rotterdam galleries. More information.

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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