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Houten, old guard for new art
Thursday 5 June 2008

Optreden in Houten, 5 juni 2008The site of 'terrain 14' is situated to the north of the bridge across the Amsterdam-Rhine Channel, to the right of the crossing with the Houten bypass. The monument, which signifies the 14th and last in a series of modern artworks to celebrate the archaeological remains on top of which they're created, signifies the link between history and one of the finds still in the soil, a Roman villa. Houten, southeast of Utrecht.
Houten, southeast of Utrecht.
Detailed image of the area.
Detailed image of the area.

The TRAP route. Click to enlarge.After the unveiling of the 'Roman couch' two years ago, I had not been to an event in my home town for my employers, the local council again. Although it was a bit last minute, we were glad to cooperate with the unveiling - it's always nice to do something this local - plus I enjoy being employed as a Roman by my own boss! I took the kids with me, since both of them are already very familiar with what I do, plus we had a job for them. This monument, like the last one we did, is the last in a series of 14 modern artworks (the other 13 from the hands of local artist Marijn te Kolsté) for our local touristic cycling route, known as the TRAP-route (see map).

The artwork is shaped like a big signpost, 8 metres high and 11 metres wide, on which one can read “Hier wordt gewerkt aan geschiedenis; intussen vervliegt de tijd, onherroepelijk”, which translated means "here history is being made, meanwhile time flies, irrevocably". The sentence itself is derived from the famous line of the poet Virgil: Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus, which means, "But it flees in the meantime: irretrievable time flees", which is the source for the famous quote 'tempus fugit - time flies' (Georgics 3.284-5).
However, the nifty thing with the whole monumnet is that it shifts when you pass by it - suddenly instead of the words one sees the outline of a Roman villa. This very clever effect is the work of
Jeroen Schipper Architecten (JSA), who were commishioned by Houten to build it. It was done by building the wole surface of the sign from rows upon rows of 6500 little blocks, painted white or black, that act like pixels and from a distance create the visual effects. the terrain itself is left untouched, to be excavated in future only. the whole artwork itself does not go deeper into the soil than one foot.

Arriving just after 3 at a still next to empty site. Dressing up Jeroen.. .. who turns into hieronimus. Fittting the ocrae, always good for the bling bling look. Helping Marrit into her Roman shoes..

We arrived just after 3 pm, with just the catering present, plenty of time to dresss the kids 9who got out of school early for this) and myself. Mid-day event like this are always a bit hectic, and as a result I forgot to take the helmet with me. No great loss in the end, for it helped my collegues to recognise me better.. We dressed up fairly quickly, for the first guests had begun arriving: the local councillors, the direction as well as lots of collegues, the local archaeology groups, the press and of course the people from JSA.

.. and she turns into Ariana! The site is ours! Fectio at terrain 14. Jan Koudijs does the introduction. Climbing the stairs - not so easy! After the show, back down again. The 'pixel-blocks' that create the visual effect.

The guest having arrived, the show was taken further by alderman Jan Koudijs, who introduced the audience to the political and cultural background of the ceremony and the site. The kids then offered him a large Roman jar, on the bottom of which he founda pair of Roman scissors, to festively cut the blue ribbon and unveil the artwork. We then all climbed to the top, not easy because both Jeroen and myself wore out newly hobnailed shoes, which do not easily climb iron stairs! At the top there was another speech, which we closed by reading the Latin original and the Dutch translation of the words below us. When the architect in turn had held his speech we could finally descend again, not too soon because it was kinda chilly up there!

All in all a very fruitful afternoon.

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