Out of Focus
The renovation of the House of Representatives has big implications. Also for this small work by Norbert Rademacher. His level is in a stone column in the Plein parking lot on the side of the Houses of Parliament. That column is currently hidden behind a large fence surrounding the Binnenhof construction site. And with it, this work of art is also temporarily hidden from view. When the renovation is over and the fence is removed, it will reappear. That will be toward the end of 2026, or early 2027.
Plein, Den Haag
52.08012347002, 4.3152035693115 View on map
Inconspicuous. That is the spirit level that German internationally renowned artist Norbert Radermacher has installed in the wall of a ventilation shaft in the car park under the Plein. It is the tube closest to Sociëteit de Witte and the Mauritshuis. The spirit level is embedded in an elongated brass plate in the hardstone lining.
Normally, the balance between water and air in the spirit level indicates the horizontal position. But at this spot, so encased in an unwieldy and as unsightly as it is unclear, this measuring instrument acquires something enigmatic and poetic. For what is a spirit level doing there? Does it stand alone and refer purely to balance, or does the artist use it to refer implicitly to the government in the Binnenhof, which is responsible for the stable management of the country?
The latter cannot be ruled out if you look at the rest of Radermacher's oeuvre. Since 1980, he has been devising 'Stücke für Städte', small, often almost invisible interventions full of symbolism, usually in places that attract little attention in the public space of European cities. His interventions are comparable to the compass rose that can be found in the pavement in The Hague near the Hofvijver, opposite the Haags Historisch Museum. A bluestone slab in the cobblestone pavement forms the compass, together with a few arrows and the letters N, O, W, S for the different wind directions. If you don't have an eye for it, it is easy to overlook.
Radermacher made the spirit level within the project 'de Campagne' (1990-1993) organised by Stroom Den Haag. The aim of this project was to investigate how art in the public space could be applied if it was not subject to the usual percentage regulation. Artists could now choose a suitable location for a work of art themselves. Moreover, it was investigated whether temporary works of art could also be used in public space. In Radermacher's case, the temporary only lasted a little longer.