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Utrecht's Letters: How the Dutch are converting a city into a book again to show that each of us is the hero of a poem
Utrecht's Letters: How the Dutch are converting a city into a book again to show that each of us is the hero of a poem
Temples of Utrecht through the eyes of Jan Hendrik Verheyen

For the last twenty years, it is believed that street art has been developing especially rapidly and reaching new heights - and this is all because people began to regard the city as “their own”, and not “government”, space and strive to master it in one way or another. Most often we are talking about street art, but the inhabitants of the Dutch city of Utrecht enchanted the world - again - with another poetic project.

The Dutch are going crazy over poetry again

The Utrecht poets started the project in 2012. It consists in the fact that together with the city, the poem grows week after week and year after year. This poem is added one letter at a time - for which the poets gather every Saturday. The letters are carved into the cobblestones of the pavement. One new proposal takes up to three years. If we take purely physical dimensions, then in a year the poem becomes five meters longer.

The project was created by the Utrecht Guild of Poets (which is not surprising), and the authors of the first words and lines were Ruben van Gogh, Ingmar Heyze, Chrétien Breuker, Alexis de Roode and Ellen Deckwitz. Ingmar Heyze is famous for being the official poet of the city for two years, and his poems can be seen on the walls of some houses in Utrecht - perhaps in imitation of Leiden's poetry project.

Fragment of a poem by Utrecht

A font was specially designed for Utrecht's poem, and the masons carve a new letter in the cobblestone, referring to the sample. Here is a rough translation of the part already carved in stone:

“You have to start somewhere in order to give more space to what was - less and less of it remains for what is. The further you go, the better - well, go on.

Leave a trace behind you. Do not think about the moment in which you are - the world creeps under your feet on an eternal road. Once there were other ways - their time is gone.

And you've changed already. The protagonist of this book that lasts without knowing the end. Time is yours, the book is yours. Read it and write it.

At every step - talk about yourself. In this story, each of us will disappear except you. And these letters, sealed in stone, like the letters on our gravestones.

The cathedral is crumbling down. A finger lifts to the sky - to point out the culprit or to demand a little more time. He gives us direction - just like a canal bed for passers-by.

Stop looking at your feet. Look higher! There, above the ground, the temples of the glorious Utrecht soar. Above your hands! Let them be like the bell towers of these churches. To be, to be now - the weather is so good …

Let the look fly away - further, to the horizon, as proof of life. Every step you take is new writing in memory of what happened."

It is assumed that the line of letters carved in stone will be formed by the first two letters of the city's name - U and T. The townspeople collect money for the work of bricklayers, and if they do not get tired, then maybe there will be enough poetry for the full name of Utrecht. How the already cut lines will continue, the poets keep in the strictest confidence.

Fragment of a poem by Utrecht

Social sculpture: a highly relevant genre of our time

The project is already called one of the most significant and interesting examples in the genre of social sculpture. Before the Utrecht poem, almost the main project in the genre was the German seven thousand oak trees - that is how many trees were planted by volunteers of the German city of Kassel in the eighties, providing each with a personal small basalt slab.Although the trees in the city, it would seem, are not able to surprise anyone, but seven thousand oak trees have radically changed the appearance of the streets.

The oak symbolism is especially vividly perceived in Germany, where this tree was sacred in pre-Christian times. Thus, the artist and his team emphasized that the planet is of great importance, it is subject to desecration, which must be stopped - cities should not be dirty on the body of the Earth.

Joseph Beuys, the author of the project, plants trees

The genre of social sculpture involves not only the use of art in order to draw attention to current or eternal problems, but also the active involvement of a large number of people - either they are involved in the creation of the project, or the sculpture provokes them to interact, prompting them to touch, examine from all sides. making them initially confused about what they see in front of them - and all so that people, as a result of interaction with the project, involuntarily think about it.

Social sculpture suggests that this is very important - that everyone can be a bit of a creator, and this makes many people working together collectively to create big projects. Manipulation of an already created sculpture is seen as a continuation of the act of creation.

Holland, it seems, chooses of all possible forms of modern art to turn cities into books and even libraries: How the hometown of the great Rembrandt was turned into a giant book in different languages.

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