The Tower - Be[com]ing Dutch

The Tower. Be[com]ing Dutch

The Tower Be[com]ing Dutch

09/11/2007 - 03/04/2009
Curators: Charles Esche, Annie Fletcher


The Be[com]ing Dutch project is a learning process, not only for the museum, but also for the participants and for every other interested party. It is a process that investigates whether art can create a new way of thinking about issues of culture, identity and society in the Netherlands. A wide range of people from different backgrounds including philosophers, artists, curators and the general public think with us about these questions.

Every activity, debate, symposium, workshop and art project in the Be[com]ing Dutch series will be documented here in the Tower. The ‘washing lines’ that run from the lower floor to the third floor provide a chronological overview of the Be[com]ing Dutch project, and as the project progresses in the coming year, they will be expanded accordingly. We invite you to wander through the Tower and become acquainted with the various sources of information that are on hand: books to read, videos to watch and Be[com]ing Dutch dictionaries on every floor that you are free to take with you.

The lower floor houses a collection of documentary material, with a computer showing video fragments of everything that has taken place so far in the Be[com]ing Dutch project. Here, you will also find the Be[com]ing Dutch dictionaries that are freely available for you to take away. The other books on hand will put the project into a broader context by, for example, juxtaposing it with other projects elsewhere in the Netherlands that have addressed the same issues.

Please visit for more information concerning the project, plans for the future and to add new words to the dictionary.

Be[com]ing Dutch was awarded the Development Award for Cultural Diversity by the Mondriaan Foundation in 2006. The awards ceremony and the media attention that surrounded it is displayed on the ground floor alongside our own vision of the project and its future. These two differing stories concerning the project are projected on two hanging screens with headphones hanging from the ‘washing line.’

Three video screens on the middle floor will show the first Be[com]ing Dutch project activities that were ever organised: two internal seminars – ‘Curating & Diversity’ (October ‘06) and ‘On Nationalism’ (December ‘06) – and ‘The Gatherings’ (January ‘07). During the internal seminars, the role of the museum was discussed on the basis of such subjects as identity, diversity and daily life in contemporary society. External expertise and the accompanying reflection resulted in the first large-scale public debate called ‘The Gatherings’, during which a larger and more diverse audience discussed the future potential of the project.

Two monitors on the upper floor will show fragments of the third and fourth internal seminars: ‘New Cultural Citizenship’ (May ‘07) and ‘On Collecting & Identity’ (September ‘07), the latter of which was organised in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage to look at the extent to which changes in society are reflected in the composition and management of a collection. Does the collection need to be a reflection of the society in which we live?

The third monitor will show documentation from the first edition of the youth talkshow ‘Creative Citizens’ (May ‘07), a debate that took place outside the museum (in Area 51) in which the young people from Eindhoven expressed their opinions about a number of problems affecting contemporary society.

On the third floor will show videos of the presentations and workshops that were part of the ‘Eindhoven Caucus’ (November/December ‘07) (Caucus is borrowed from the Native American word meaning a very pragmatic form of democracy in which everyone in small community gathers to enter into discussions about the future). The discussions at this meeting were the basis for art works to be made and activities to be undertaken in a fusion of art and society. Public events were also organised in the weekend with speakers and artists.

Photographs will be on display that show those parts of the Be[com]ing Dutch project that took place outside the museum, such as ‘Museum as a Hub’ (a collaborative project with the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York) and ‘Artists Beyond the Walls’ (artists’ projects outside the museum). And we are already looking towards the future with our plans to bring out a publication of the project, documented in its entirety, in autumn 2008.  

In conclusion, we would be delighted if you could participate in Be[com]ing Dutch by giving us your reaction to the project and by adding a new word to our dictionary.

? Be[com]ing Dutch was developed by Charles Esche, Annie Fletcher and others in and around the Van Abbemuseum.

? The documentation project in the Tower was designed by Ons Jan, Design studio Nathalie Schellekens () en Studio JanJannes ().

? The project has partnerships with BAK, Basis voor Actuele Kunst [Utrecht], New Museum of Contemporary Art [New York], Goldsmiths College [London], Kosmose [Eindhoven], Gate Archive [Eindhoven], KKH [Stockholm], NSF [Cork] and the Interart Foundation [Arnhem].

? In 2006, the Van Abbemuseum was awarded the Development Award for Cultural Diversity for the Be[com]ing Dutch project by the Mondriaan Foundation. A total of thirteen institutions submitted nine plans.

Supported by the European Union’s Culture Programme.

The Tower is part of :

Made possible in part by

  • Culture 2000 program