Friday, May 25, 2007

Cultural gaps

Rotterdam has thirty four museums - apparently. Whatever the precise number, there are a lot. I have been to just one of them, the Kunsthal, which is an art gallery. I've been to it three times, but it is the only one I've visited. I am ashamed.

I have never been to the Doelen, the city's fine concert hall, nor have I been to the famous Rotterdam Film Festival as a visitor. I have been part of a film crew that was making its own film about the film festival, but I have never watched any of the films being screened at the film festival itself(is that enough films for you?). I am still more ashamed.

Now tell me where I can find a piece of history and I will seek it out - the monumental windmills in Schiedam, the Pilgrim's church in Delfshaven, the old VOC warehouse in the achterhaven; show me books of the pre-war city, immerse me in the tales of devastating floods and the building of the great dykes and you've got me hooked. I will even drive over a hundred kilometres to see ancient ship wrecks exposed by the draining of the polder (pity they were no longer there when I got to the place!). Why then, can I not find the motivation to go to the fantastic collection of musea that are just around the corner?

It is quite expensive. That's one possibility, but if I really wanted to it wouldn't put me off. I paid handsomely to go to the Escher and Dali exhibitions - and I'm not Dutch - yet. Maybe they are also too close, as in they are always there; I can go any time which means I go at no time. But no. I think the real reason is that I find museums and art galleries are often oppressive places, where everything is out of context. The artifacts in museums were all once part of people's lives while the paintings of the old masters were intended to grace the walls of people's homes. To me, the only art that is at its best in a gallery is the more modern, abstract art which is often designed to be observed in isolation. Art for art's sake. As for history, it should be alive and around us, not locked in cases in pompous, featureless chambers.

When it comes to music, I love classical concerts as well as rock and this is something I really should address. There are recitals, dance performances and symphonic concerts going on throughout the year in Rotterdam, and I should and will be there. That then is my resolution. I know it's a bit late for new year, but I think it's not one to be shelved until the next year is in. if I start now, my cultural gaps may be closing nicely by the time 2008 comes around. What about the museums, though? Well, I guess I'll save them for when the family is here in the summer. Then I can ooh and aaah along with the best of them and still sound as if I mean it!


  1. You can always find something new to ooh and aah at, at a museum. Rotterdam sounds like a city of music and art and lots of creative enjoyment.

  2. hello darling Val! I hope you can forgive me for not being here more often! It has been awfully busy lately!
    I love the vespa, and I do hope you start going to more concerts.. off all variety.
    I have only been toa few concerts. When I was 16 my mum took me to Zamphir... i was a total zamphir nut as a teen... him and Michael Jackson... what a combination. So Zamphir, then later Moe Kaufman, then Neil Diamond (and again about 15 years later) and most wonderfully, Ray Charles. But never a rock concert, until two or three years ago when I bought Ian tickets to Deep Purple for his birthday. Opening for Deep Purple: Thin Lizzy. My first rock concert experience. I was so naive. It completely shocked me when I realized people were passing joints around. Simply shocked I tell you! Ian got a laugh out of my reaction. And I didn't hear the same for about three days.
    So, I am bitten by the concert bug and am looking forward to another soon. So I heartily endrose you going! Actually, I heartily endorse you doing anything that makes your heart smile.
    Have to run. I better visit a few more people before bed or I am will cast out of blogland!

  3. Val i'm with you on this..i would much rather spoach round a ruined castle free will, than be guided round like herds of sheep constantly confronted with
    'DO NOT TOUCH' signs everywhere.

    And you know my fondness for derelicté.
    It's so much more of an adventure to find the beautiful treasures in the world yourself..yeah museums are interesting, but it's far more of a thrill to rummage through a junk shop.
    And like you, I could go and see the sex pistols one night and be just as excited to go and see Swan Lake or a Noel Coward play the next..
    Soo dont be ashamed we can be Bohemian and proud!!..

  4. I think people tend to not take advantage of things like museums and festivals and things that happen in their own city. We are the same way - we have never been to the Tulip Festival here, nor the Bluesfest, and we only occasionally drag ourselves downtown on Canada Day to participate in the festivities in our nation's capital. I think subconsciously, it's more exciting to go somewhere different and see what it has to offer, rather than see what's under our noses.

    Wow, that shipwreck thing sounds awesome. Too bad they were gone when you got there. I'd drive to see that too!

  5. Hi Val,
    I think people do tend to think their own city or country can wait awhile since it will always be there. I've seen very little of Canada, for example, yet have been far and wide to other continents and countries. Funny how we are, no?

    Museums here in Toronto must, by law, have a time when they are accessible to the public for free- such is the mandate of public funding. Maybe if you could find out if that's true in Rotterdam, the price might no longer be an issue.

    That said, I'm more likely to look for castle ruins or outside parks myself...


    P.S. I fixed BBE for you!

  6. We are off to the London museums next week, although we did go to the maritime museum in Greenwich on Wed! I'm heading to a WHO concert in June, that's about it for culture for me!

  7. Grace, Rotterdam was cultural city of Europe in 2001 and it is surprisingly rich in cultural activity. It is in fact a very ancient city and received its first charter in 1340. I am fascinated by its history.

    Stevie! So great to see you here again. I've missed you! What a lovely story about your first concert! You must widen your experience and knowledge and go to lots! xx

    Yay Gypsy! Bohemian and proud! I love the sound of that, and yes, I thought you would probably feel as I do. When i come and visit you, you can take me to a few of your derelicté castles up there. I'd like that xx

    Haha Mary Beth, yes I was so disappointed that the ship wrecks had gone. They'd been moved to a...guess! LOL. When I was a student, I used to spend my summer holidays on archaeological digs and I've had a passion for things dug up ever since ;-)

    Anne Marie, firstly, thanks for sorting out the BBE site for me. That's kind of you! About this, I think that's marvellous that there is a free time for everyone to go to the museums. Unfortunately that isn't the case here, but you can get reduced rates if you are a student of a pensioner. Sadly I am neither anymore or yet ;-) You can also get a special Rotterdam card which allows entry for all sorts of events on certain days at cheaper rates, and I need to investigate that. That being said, I still prefer my art and history in situ so to speak!

    String! Glad to see you back! Did you enjoy the maritime museum? I actually think that one's pretty neat especially with the Cutty Sark there. I'm also going to see the WHO in June!! In two weeks and a bit to be precise. Yay!

  8. Hi Val,
    To see shipwrecks you have to learn diving really. There are about 6000 of them in the North See only. It is a great sight even in the North See and I can tell.
    But, Ships are better affloat. You will agree with me on that too I think.

  9. Val,

    I hope you had a very Happy Birthday - and the Vespa looks like fun!

    You do have a way of nailing a topic! I so feel the same about history and museums. I'd love to see the Field Museum in Chicago again and go to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC one day....

    ...but I'd so much rather go to Egypt and wander around Luxor and the pyramid city, or explore old castles anywhere or any ancient ruins on my own. In a museum or tour group, it's difficult to stand on a turret for several minutes and get lost in imagining what a place was like when it was 'in time'.

    I was able to get away from our group for a while at Fort San Lorenzo in Panama...was that really just two months ago?... and it was very cool. It gives a kind of perspective that you can't get otherwise. Context is so important.

    Judging from your photos of Rotterdam and the places in Belgium that you go, these look to me to be much more interesting and fun than any museum I can imagine - and nobody shusshses you!

    Yeah, Bohemian, derelecte and proud! I like it!

    Oh, yeah, I'm gonna go buy your book now....


  10. Ah yes, Erik Jan, shops are definitely better afloat, but I do like to find buried treasure too ;-)

    Rache!!! How wonderful to see you again. We've missed you a lot around here. Does this mean you have a computer again and we will see you more? Thanks for the empathy on the museum thing. It seems quite a few bloggy friends feel the same way, which makes me feel better about it altogether! Thanks so much too for the support on my book.

    I've just written to complaining about the length of time it has taken them to do my order, as they say it should be shipped within 3-5 working days, and it has now been at least 6 if you don't count weekends and public holidays. I hope they haven't ket anyone else waiting.

  11. 34! Well I'm impressed.

    I agree with you about the nature of musuems, but I suppose as repositories of treasures they are invaluable. I like "living museums" though, like those Maria is featuring on her blog at the moment. Seeing objects in situ as they were used is wonderful.

    In Ballarat (a big regional city here which has its origins in the gold rush days) they have created Sovereign Hill. Americans might call it a theme park I suppose, but the only rides are on horse-drawn drays or in coaches, and it's much more than that - a whole town rebuilt, complete with diggings, tents, pubs and shops, each aspect showing life as it was at the time. (If a bit cleaner). I remember being enthralled by it as a child, and a bit scared of all those rough miners and loose women hanging around.

    Of course, it you live where you can see the real thing preserved rather than a reproduction, that's so much better.

    I'm a bit lazy with concerts at the moment - perhaps pressed for time is more accurate. Luckily, we tend to see a lot of concerts through Mads and her friends amd that keeps us from stagnating. This month I've been to jazz, prog rock and classical gigs. Keeps me off the streets (and out of bed!).

    Sorry if this comment makes no sense - I'm just checking in quickly while I should be doing other things. Only meant to post a comment on the latest WW chapter and I got sidetracked heeheeehee.

  12. It's ok mama we can skip the museums.
    Love you tons
    6 weeks to go...
    love Momo

  13. Margie, yes, I have to agree that museums are good as respositories. In fact essential, and thank the lord we have them as they also do tremendously good work in the preservation and restoration of our historic treasures, so I shouldn't be too critical. However, your re-built gold rush town sounds like a terrific way of seeing how life was really lived and looking at all the artefacts in context too. We had a couple of those in South Africa - Gold Reef City being one on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

    By the way you've been to Jazz, prog rock and classical all in one month? Dear Margie, You call that being lazy with concerts!!! By comparison I'm a positive sloth haha!

    Momo, we've got other fish to fry I know - like cycling across the afsluitdijk - yippeee it's getting closer every day. I've booked our tickets to SA for your wedding too now, so that's even more exciting! ;-)

  14. Love the Vespa - and huge congrats on getting African Ways into (real)print. There is just something about black & white words on bound paper!

  15. I go to museums but...

    I think one of the reasons might be that while museums often contain great treasures from the past, those treasures are separated from their proper context. Objects in a glass case and a plaque on the wall explaining a bit of history do not make history alive as well as, say, the windmills in Schiedam which have stood in their place for generations.

  16. Hi Val!

    We have a tiny museum here that I have yet to visit.
    As well, there are hundreds of exhibits, hikes and sights to take in throughout Kootenay and Banff National Parks.
    I have driven by them many times, but have never taken the time to stop and discover.

    It is my resolution to take in as many of these natural - and free, I might add - exhibits as possible this summer.
    It's interesting that your resolve is so similar.

    Pack a lunch, gather the kids and off we go...

  17. Hi Val,

    Your story is typical. Many people don't enjoy what's in their backyard. I for one have been guilty of that. But, this year me and three of my friends decided to make an effort and go to museums and events here in our yard. Our next event is Saturday for a festival called Luminato.

    As well, I find that the more adventurous often go and do things that are not readily packaged, like going on side trips and seeking the less travelled roadways. In the end, that is often more interesting than seeing things in glass encasements totally out of their culture in museums.


  18. Guy! Thanks so much. You have contributed much even if you weren't aware of it, and you're right. A real book beats everything.

    Maria, I love your living history in Finland. Give me that every time.

    Dale, go for it and enjoy it. Now's a good time to do all those things you've been putting off!

    Lesley, that's great that you have started going to museums and exhibitions. It shows great resolve ;-) I must do it, but as you've realised, I also prefer to go further afield and see my exhibits in more natural surroundings or at least in the context for which they were intended.


Apologies for switching on comment moderation, but this is to make sure everyone can comment without jumping through captcha hoops! However, anonymous comments will not be published, so please would you sign your name.