Barbeeldam, Den Haag
52.062094450115, 4.4115686618821 View on map
For a moment you think: shops? Here? Only to realise a second later that this is not the case. This is what happens to the passer-by in the new housing estate Leidschenveen when he walks along the corners of the Libelsingel, Leliekeverstraat, Bootmanstraat and Meivliegsingel. The artist Milou van Ham has installed sunken windows at the corners of the houses along these streets. These are the large windows that you used to see regularly in the neighbourhood, where a local greengrocer or baker would sell his wares.
Although there is plenty to see in Van Ham's shop windows, piles of tins, a refrigerator full of milk and butter, racks of T-shirts on sale and rows of wine glasses, you can't buy anything there. No entrance door in sight. Moreover, there are texts on the glass. Some of them read like poems, others are just lists of words. One window, for example, has dozens of names of plants on it, while another says 'Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens'.
While other artists mainly use paint, stone or video, for Van Ham words are the material of choice. Behind words lies a fascinating wealth of agreements, meanings, interpretations, choices, misunderstandings, structures and connections', she says. Crucial is the context in which a word functions.
For years, Van Ham has been collecting words and placing them in groups and categories. From this collection, she selects the most appropriate categories for the assignment and adapts their arrangement to the assignment situation. Whether they are subsequently applied to textile or concrete (or a material in between) again depends on the circumstances. This complete alignment with the context means that her works of art are completely integrated into their surroundings. And because of that, they are experienced as very natural.