White Flag (Investigation of particular places)

2014. The Hague.
material: wood and textile

An attempt of carrying a white flag through The Hague

Flags are generally used to mark and claim territories. The white flag is part of The Hague Convention. For many centuries it has been a symbol for surrender, the offer to negotiate, and to mark the act of transporting the wounded from a battle field and thus requiring ceasefire.

The Hague is described and branded as 'The City of Peace and Justice', being home to the International Court of Justice and The Permanent Court of Arbitration. They are located in the Peace Palace, a building dating back to 1914. Probably due to several international and institutional bodies, the city of The Hague is to an exceptional extent covered and monitored by surveillance cameras and police patrols. Despite of these international and juridical institutions, there have never been as many armed conflicts worldwide as nowadays.
Here in The Hague, the white flag is proposed to function as an insertion. It appears as a blank canvas and unwritten sheet of paper and highlights certain areas. As soon as leaving the studio, the flag started to cause immediate reactions, e.g. by security personnel next door: 'Are you from Greenpeace? Go away!'
Site selection is a crucial process. Robert Smithson used the term in the 1960ies when he described his process of selecting a site: 'I'm interested in making a point in a designated area....the fringes or boundaries of the designation are always open.' In The Hague, sites for the flag were chosen based on a personal sensation of alienation, contradiction and juxtaposition – atmospheres causing disbelief, unease and the immediate wish to react.
Amongst the selected sites are:
- the former storage space of the files collected on the case of war crime in former Yugoslavia, now an office space, an exhibition space for the art festival, and changing rooms for the surfing community
- the dunes of Kijkduin, being on one hand a large fresh water filter, on the other hand the area of the Atlantic wall defense system with a huge amount of bunkers right underneath the surface, clearly being visible as document of recent Euorpean history
- the beach undergoing a complete renovation after the summer season, with cargo ships waiting on the horizon to sail into the harbour of Rotterdam – a state of constant flux and economic turnover
- the office blocks next to the central train station being relatively new yet empty and disused despite of their location right in the middle of the city
- the European lawn, the only official meeting place for demonstrations
- a busy square surrounded by a heavily guarded embassy, a shopping mall, popular cafes
- and of course the Peace Palace

Thank you to The Danish Arts Foundation for their support, and to people in The Hague at DCR, wander and Satellietgroep.