A few years ago, the council of aldermen had scientists determine Schoten’s DNA. For Carolien Vandersteene from Zedelgem and Giovanni Bauwens from Wetteren, operating together as Art Collective C/G, this review formed the basis for their design to decorate the busiest roundabout in Schoten. But the two also consulted the Kasteeldreef neighborhood association, Beeldbank Schoen and other local sources before designing their steel entrance gates – because there are actually three.
“This work of art is certainly not a political prestige project of myself or the council of aldermen, but has been planned for a long time,” emphasizes outgoing alderman of Culture Charlotte Klima (N-VA). “This local government consciously invests in art. Later, a work by the renowned Schoten glass artist Joost Caen was also purchased. My preference or that of other directors did not count for the selection. Experts from our cultural council, academy and heritage council, among others, were on the jury. That not everyone likes it? There is no arguing about taste.”
The work of art had to be the crowning achievement of the center renovation that the Aldermen have been preparing for years. While that ‘cake’ won’t go into the oven until next year at the earliest, the icing is already (almost) on it. “The roundabout is located in ‘Schoten’s front garden’. This is how we came up with the idea of literally depicting this figurative gateway to the center,” say the artists. “The arrangement means that as a pedestrian or driver you always approach the roundabout with a glance through one of the gates. The three different dimensions, from large to small, represent heritage, nature and life.”
The creators also thought about the use of materials. “Each gate consists of two different steel elements. They contrast in color and design: sleek versus round. This symbolizes the equal contrasts in Schoten, which together create a special unity. An example of such a contrast: the castles, but also the small houses of Schoten.”
You will indeed find both ‘residential forms’ at the roundabout. Even the legendary hotel-café Terminus, located close to the work of art, served as inspiration. “This used to be the terminus of the tram line. We extend this imaginary by means of two light lines across the roundabout. In this way, the art installation not only connects the past and the future, but also the different neighborhoods and residents,” say the artists.
But do the people of Schoten also interpret the new steel tall houses in the same way? The currently raging discussion is reminiscent of the controversy surrounding the new and equally controversial logo that the municipality wanted to introduce this summer. There is a lot of harsh criticism. For example, the fact that public greenery was removed for that collection of ‘old iron’, although flowers would later be replanted. The comparisons with wharf toilets, toll houses or guardhouses are apt. Optimists still see the start of a playground in the shell of the ‘Access Gate’.
A referendum will probably not happen and it seems unlikely that the artwork, just like the new logo, will still be withdrawn – read demolished. But a follow-up in the municipal council – partly in view of the 80,000 euros of government money spent – is coming. The first calls for demonstrations and even urination in public are circulating. It is in the DNA of good art that it encourages thought and discussion, but was this the intention? The municipality is trying to provide information with information boards and soon also an exhibition.
Jack Vissers, organizer of the Scheldeprijs, is also not a big fan of the new ‘Gateway to Schoten’. Although he formulates it measuredly and diplomatically. “The ‘notification’ of the placement of a work of art on the Kasteeldreef roundabout near the arrival presents a new challenge, but as an organization we are used to dealing with this flexibly,” says Vissers.
“We had already decided not to place a double-decker tent here anymore and have now also found a creative solution to integrate the artwork into our renovated VIP site at the roundabout where Mathieu van der Poel and Lotte Kopecky will hopefully also be present on April 3, 2024. will rush past with loud encouragement.”