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Jeanne van Heeswijk (1965, Schijndel, the Netherlands)

Jeanne van Heeswijk (artist)
How can an artist be an instrument for the collective reimagining of daily environments, given the complexity of our societies? This is the question that artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, of the Netherlands, considers when deciding how to employ her work to improve communities. Van Heeswijk believes communities need to co-produce their own futures. That’s why she embeds herself, for years at a time, in communities from Rotterdam to Liverpool, working with them to improve their neighbourhoods and empowering them to design their own futures—not wait for local authorities to foist upon them urban planning schemes which rarely take embedded culture into account. Her work often attempts to unravel invisible legislation, governmental codes, and social institutions, gradually preparing areas for their predictive futures. She calls it “radicalising the local” by empowering communities to become their own antidote.

Van Heeswijk’s work has been featured in numerous books and publications worldwide, as well as internationally renowned biennials such as those of Liverpool, Busan, Taipei, Shanghai and Venice. She has received international for her work, including most recently the 2012 Curry Stone Prize for Social Design Pioneers and the 2011 Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change.


(Excerpt from a text by curator Mirjam Westen in 2003)
Since 1993 Jeanne van Heeswijk has been working on socially committed art projects that take place in public spaces. She sees herself as a mediator, an intermediary between a situation, a space, a neighborhood and the people connected to these. Acting, meeting and communicating are key concepts in her method of working. She generates "interspaces", contexts and crossovers within which new relations and connections can be established between groups of people, institutions and conceptual frameworks that are always different. She herself has coined the term "urban curating" for her interventions. In the sedate Dutch art world in which all taboos appear to have been broken, her work - uniquely - arouses fierce controversy. Often, this is linked to the question of whether her interventions belong to the realm of art and how she stretches and shapes her art practice/ artistic strategy and positions her seemingly idealistic approach in an era which considers itself liberated from both ideology and idealism.
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