Pim Lammers - Tear Me Down
Eighteen young authors have brought nineteenth-century artefacts from the Rijksmuseum to life. They have taken inspiration from the question: what do you see when you look at these objects with an eye for invisible labour? Pim Lammers offers us an insight into Gerrit Schouten’s Model of the Memorial of J.F. de Friderici from 1812. ‘Has anyone opened a tin of red paint yet?’
Gerrit Schouten, Model of the memorial of J.F. de Friderici, 1812 © Rijksmuseum Collection, Amsterdam
Tear me down
Not that long ago, a visitor asked the guide where my definitive version could be seen. The word ‘model’ had just been dropped.
He probably hoped it wouldn’t be too far away. Did he have ropes in the boot of his car? Had he prised open the lid of a tin of red paint that morning?
‘At the Koepelkerk,’ came the answer.
Perhaps I was imagining things, but the visitor’s eyes lit up. From the Rijksmuseum to the old Lutheran Church – that’s walkable, even with a full tin of paint.
But the guide hadn’t finished: ‘… in Paramaribo, Surinam.’
That’s a longer walk.
And still the guide wasn’t done: ‘…where it was lost in a major city fire, so now all we’ve got left is this little guy.’
Then he moved on to the next object. Slow shuffling, bored whispers.
A final glance in my direction. Maybe this one…?
But my museum label protected me.
People who managed to escape were hunted down, punished, murdered by him. He was decorated for it, promoted, given countless compliments and pats on the back. And don’t get me started on his thirteen plantations.
The ‘heroics’ have become atrocities. What was once read out with pride doesn’t pass lips without horror these days.
Once in a while, someone will have a go: ‘But he did a lot for lepers! He even founded a library!’
Leprosy is a thing of the past, but doesn’t everyone think reading is important?
‘Agenda item 32: How do we stop them from being so angry?’
I picture a meeting – men, suited and booted, power ties.
‘We’ll add more labels and call it education.’
What can I teach them? I’m not a textbook, I wasn’t made to teach.
I was built in honour of, not just in memory of. We don’t need reminding; we’ll remember the perpetrators’ names.
Where are the monuments for the victims? Or the models of the statues of victims? Those people have become a statistic, or they’ve simply been completely forgotten. No statue, no face, no name. As if history hadn’t been cruel enough.
Has anyone opened a tin of red paint yet?
Don’t hold back. Cover me in it. Splash it all over me. Give my exterior the shame it lacks.
‘The museum isn’t a plinth,’ they plead.
But look at me! The light on me hasn’t been dimmed. I’m visible to all.
I ceased to be a model a long time ago. Real sketches, actual models are discarded after use. So what am I still doing here? I’ll never be recast, I don’t want to be recast.
My mirror image has been lost, yet here I am. And I was made with the same pride.
So pull me down. Tear me down. You don’t even need ropes to do it. Rip me into a thousand pieces.
You’ll still have the museum label, right?