In 1921 the 'Papegaaienbuurt' was built in Drachten (Zuidoost-Fryslân, The Netherlands). The architect Cees Rienks de Boer commissioned Dutch painter and designer Theo van Doesburg to design the interior of the houses. Following the aesthetic principles of de Stijl, van Doesburg used the three primary colours (primêre kleuren) red, yellow and blue, and the three primary values black, white and grey to create an ultra-modernist design.
Only one year later, in 1922, the unique design was PAINTED OVER and covered in white. The original design encountered the strong objection of the residents who had found it impossible to live with van Doesburg's colors. It took more than 50 years years, until 1988, until the original design was restored. Nowadays, the Van Doesburg-Rinsema house is part of Drachten's museum collection, and the entire neighbourhood is protected as a national heritage monument.
Why did the residents of the Papegaaienbuurt objected the original primary-colors design, which we today regard as a pinnacle of modernist aesthetics? Why did van Doesburg's ideas cause a public stir? Can we nowadays, with our cynical, (post-)post-modernist, and post-ideological standpoint, comprehend the Stijl's aesthetics, which is based on utopian 'isms' and is strongly committed to social principles?
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Inspired by dadaist freestyle / Frisian de Stijl, I stomped on the staircase, tapped on the window frames and scratched the (restored) paint in Van Doesburg-Rinsema house; recorded shaving machines manufactured at the local Philips factory; interviewed artists and art historians; and harassed the residents at Torenstraat and Beter Wonen neighbourhood – among which, tattooed teenagers living in a former socialist cooperative bakery – with questions about ideology and politics.
All sounds recorded in Drachten, Zuidoost-Fryslân (South East Friesland, NL), during May 2022, with the kind support of Stroomopwaarts (upstream) residency and museum Dr8888, Drachten.
Annemieke Keizer (chief curator of museum Dr8888)
Bert Looper (historian and former director of Tresoar, repository of the history of Fryslân)
Many thanks to
Lucienne Meinsma and Peter Westerhof (total sweethearts!), Hans and Akkeliene from Kloesewier (De Veenhoop), Abel Veldkamp, Annemieke Keizer, Lisanne van der Hoek, Bert Looper, Bé Lamberts, Joppa and Fokke from Torenstraat, Anneke Volbeda, and finally: Leonie Castelein and Sjoerd Wagenaar from Stroomopwarts, and Nieske Ketelaar from museum Dr8888.