Celebration Of Dutch Culture Spans Genres, From Street To Concert Hall

A five-day festival of Dutch culture in Moscow was the centerpiece of the Russia-The Netherlands Bilateral Year. It covered the whole spectrum of contemporary culture from art exhibitions in major museums to theater, concerts and street performances. Visitors can still attend some events.

The exhibition of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian at the Tretyakov State Gallery was among the highlights of the bilateral year. Mondrian was a significant contributor to the De Stijl art movement and group, also known as neoplasticism. According to Mondrian's theory, the artist should abide by the following principles: a strict geometrical order, a restrained palette variety, and a localized, non-representational coloring method. His unique collection under the name, "A road to abstraction," will be exhibited at the museum until the 24th November. Presented in this exhibition are approximately 40 of his greatest pieces, from his early 20th century stages as a rising artist through his maturity into abstractionism by the 1930's, all in all a truly stunning collection obtained from the Gemeente Museum in The Hague.

A separate exhibition of Dutch and Russian painters was shown at the Artplay exhibition center. Another exhibition, "Dutch Golden Age group portrait from the collection of the Amsterdam Museum," was opened in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. The most famous painting of this type, "Night Watch" by Rembrandt, shows troop chasseurs of Captain Frans Banning Coca and Lieutenant Willem van Reytenbyurga. It wasn't brought to Moscow but you can see other chasseur portraits and a group portrait of the male and female regents by Bartholomeus van der Helsta, whose paintings at the time were even more expensive than those of Rembrandt. These paintings leave Amsterdam very rarely, and viewers will have a chance to see them until 19th of January.

Without any doubt, one of the main events of the Dutch Days, in early September, was the performance of Kyteman Orchestra in the open air of Gorky Park in Moscow. Despite the poor weather and rain, a large audience greeted Colin Benders, his musicians and singers with great enthusiasm. Kyteman used to dedicate its music solely to hip-hop but that word vanished from the album covers when the repertoire broadened. The orchestra currently consists of 18 musicians, opera singers and a choir. As Benders himself puts it, "the sound ranges from hip-hop, opera, drum and bass, electro, minimalism and all kinds of other genres that I can't even begin to describe for I don't have the words for them." Among other things, Benders and his friends improvised an on-the-spot composition in front of the audience.

Gorky Park hosted several events of the Dutch Days. Summer theater "Pioneer" of Gorky Park brought pleasure to the fans of the Dutch film director and living legend Paul Verhoeven. The program consisted of his earlier works from the 1970's better known to true cinema fans ("Turkish delight," "Soldier of Orange") as well as 1990's cult movie "Basic Instinct" which featured a young Sharon Stone, and the more recent military saga, "Black Book." As a part of his visit to Moscow the director gave a masterclass and answered the questions of festival visitors.

A colorful, theatrical show was possible thanks to Close-Act Theater, an international street theater that was founded in the Netherlands in 1991. The group of designers, actors, dancers, choreographers and musicians performed a march-dance, "White wings", that has been performed at international theater festivals all over the world.

As a part of the theatrical show there was an exhibition of one of the most famous European Costume Designers Rene Beckers at the A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theater Museum. There were 25 costumes and about 40 sketches that represented his work on "Hamlet," "King Lear," "Othello," and other plays that were staged in the past 30 years in the theaters of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Most of the events during the Dutch Days were interactive or participatory. Street artists Hayes Frieling and Job Wouters created a 100-meter wall, at the center of which was a quote from Maxim Gorky, and another from the Dutch poet Jan Jacob Slauerhoffa: "Only the harbor is loyal to us."

Surprisingly they covered the wall with sturgeon on a rich, brown background. "The sturgeon are not random," explained Frieling. "We drew them simply because they are beautiful. Goethe said, " Every thought or theory in comparison with perception is nonsense." You have to find meaning in the contemplation of art, and I totally agree with that so when I see fish, I don't see a symbol: it's a mirror."

Frieling is an experienced and highly respected Netherlands artist, and an advisor to the chief architect of the country. It was not his first visit to Russia; he is connected with Russia through the images of slavic iconography that he uses in his work.

Job Wouters, also known as Letman, is best known for works that are at the intersection of typography, calligraphy and illustration. The Dutchman inherited the alias and love for letters from his youthful passion for graffiti. During that time he was struck by people who could write their names perfectly, in different styles. Wouters studied design and typography at the Royal Academy in The Hague and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. He worked with many well-known brands such as Audi, Eastpak, Tommy Hilfiger, Universal and others. Most of the Letman's works are handmade because, in his own words, this technique connects him more with his works and brings more pleasure.

Photographer duo, Ari Fersluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek, introduced a project that they called "Exactitudes." Since 1994 they have been documenting the dress codes of various social groups in the city streets around the world showing how people try to define their affiliation with some particular group through their clothes.

Children had their share of fun too. The "Soundwave" installation transformed sound into a physical wave. The project was an initiative on the part of the Dutch Film Fund Children, Cinekid, to demonstrate to the little ones what sounds look like. The installation transformed sounds into a visual spectacle: the louder a child screamed into a microphone, the stronger the wave began to move, created from wooden crossbeams suspended at the length of six meters. The project was developed by artists and specialists of the Social Interactive Installation Collective, SIIC.

Life, People And The Small Screen

Interview with Paul Verhoeven, Dutch film director.

Royal Netherlands Embassy

You gave a masterclass in Gorky Park as part of the Dutch Days. What was the reaction?

I met interesting people, a lot of them seemed open-minded. I had a great time. It was a lovely atmosphere, people were respectful, and it was well-organized. Maybe it was raining too much!

The movie you were going to shoot with Milla Jovovich, in Russia, was delayed and then cancelled. What happened?

I read this book of Boris Akunin, "Azazel." My daughter had read it in Russian and she was saying that it was such a wonderful funny book. Of course I couldn't read it in Russian. Shortly after it was translated into French, I read it, and then I approached Mr. Akunin and we got the rights.

We were supposed to start the shooting. We had done the location work, which was mostly in St. Petersburg and London. And then two things happened that killed the project. Milla decided that the movie was not so important to her and got pregnant. And since she was an international star, it had to be based on her, and that fell apart. So then one of the producers, I will not name him because I am very angry with him, slashed the budget in half and that made it impossible to make a good movie. The idea was to make a real statement about Russian architecture at the same time as about the characters. I wanted to make it so that people would see the real beauty of St. Petersburg and be seduced by a great story that Akunin wrote. But it should be an international movie with power, not on the cheap, you know.

Did you like the Russian version of the story for televison?

No, I didn't like it. I thought that they didn't acknowledge the beauty and the strength of the story.

What are you working on now?

I just got back from Europe. There are couple of projects that I am trying to set up for television which is now a bit more interesting than film, because clearly television is more about people. One of the projects really looks promising; it will be two-hour television program, a sexy thriller. We got it only three weeks ago, so we don't know anything about the cast right now. I just got the list of actors and actresses who might be starring there.

Why did the critics hate Showgirls when the viewers liked it?

I think, because of too much nudity. Naked girls dancing was something that American critics absolutely hated, they were disgusted by it, people wrote that they basically had to throw up in the bathrooms (laughing). I think it was so blatantly in your face, so audacious and never done and will never be done anymore, not in the United States, so I think they couldn't stand it, so they tried to kill it.

But the critics loved Basic Instinct?

Yeah! The story in Basic Instinct was much better than the story in Showgirls. There was more perfection there. The nudity in the Basic Instinct was not so much in your face, whereas in Showgirls it was right there, there was no distraction from it. In the sex scene between Michael Douglass and Sharon Stone, for example, there was always hanging this Sword of Damocles, the possibility of killing, a certain threat. Because of that I think it was easier for people to accept it. They were partially distracted by the suspense, and the nudity was easier to absorb. And I said later of Showgirls that we should have made it into a murder mystery. There should have been somebody guilty, and the story should have had a detective element, then the movie would be much more accepted. Too late now, of course.

You said once that now as you became older, you are more interested in making movies about people?

In the United States they make a lot of science-fiction movies. As I got older I got bored with these movies, the special effects and all that stuff. In the past couple of years I have been more interested in people's behaviour, in relationships and real life: the life we live in, the politics we live in. The movies I made in Holland before I moved to the U.S. in 1985 were all realistic, they were all about people. I want to go back to that, to be an observer of life, to interpret life, not dwell on superheroes.

Apart from being a director, you are many other things, including a writer. Is it your second skill?

I've been doing a lot of articles that have been published in books, about old movies and stuff like that. I have never had the feeling that I was born to be a writer. I have been leaning on writers my whole life. I've never made a movie based on my own ideas. I always based them on the ideas of other novels, autobiographies, creations of the scriptwriters.

Why did you write about Jesus?

I wrote it because I was really interested in Jesus. I wanted to make a movie about Jesus and I saw that nobody would take the time to do the research, so I thought that if I want to make an interesting movie out of it, I should do the research and write it all down. But I did not make a movie. The book was based on 40 hours of interviews and it was done with Rob Van Scheers. He is my cowriter, but in fact, he is more writer than I am. I talk and he writes.


Russia - Holland 2013
Russia - Holland 2013
The Moscow Times is releasing its new "Russia - The Netherlands 2013" supplement, dedicated to economic and cultural cooperation between the two nations. The current edition is published in partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
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