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Satellite Dish Tolerance Zone

Circumstances in the Schilderswijk neighbourhood and around the Poeldijksestraat are paradoxical and bizarre. Concurrently with an active policy of improving the neighbourhood, a prostitution zone with its many lateral aspects is being tolerated. This is the cause of much distress and apprehension. The City of The Hague thinks it can do something about this situation by means of an artwork.
Following many complaints, the municipality wants to oblige by taking measures which, although not putting an end to prostitution, will screen the misery from sight. There is thought of an artistic closure of the Poeldijksestraat, a kind of curtain. To really close off the street is not an option for all kinds of reasons. With this practically unworkable paradox, an appeal is made to art. By asking an artist to hide the misery of the Poeldijksestraat from the eyes of the residents of the Hoefkade, the problem is casually transferred from politics to art; a manoeuvre which might appeal to the city council, but a rather transparent one as well.
The grounds on which the hope for an artist are based are unsteady and will probably turn into disappointment. The urinals in the Poeldijksestraat once were also installed with the aim of endowing the sight of a pissing drunk and a fixing junk with some cheerfulness. It is particularly these pissed-off urinals which demonstrate how erroneous such intentions can be. They candidly reveal an image of rancidness and the failure to do something about it.
A visual closure of the Poeldijksestraat will meet with the same fate. It is clear that one wants to get rid of the misery, if need be with the help of art. The artwork would demonstrate its own failure. It would fail to hide the sorry situation in which cheap prostitution, drugs and alcohol abuse dominate the scene. That is the image of the Poeldijksestraat and that image is a constituent part of its culture, poignant as it may be. An artwork could ‘set’ itself into this situation, but it would be hypocrite to deny this culture, impossible to hide it and pathetic to even try.
It is doubtful whether the question of art has been brought up legitimately here, but it is nevertheless worth the try to look at the situation from an artistic perspective. Zadkine’s ‘Destroyed City’ didn’t cause Rotterdam to be rebuilt, but it does have a function for that town. In a sense, it is also an honour to be confronted with a task politics can’t handle. This realism brings with it an exiting responsibility. Art’s reach, however, is limited, certainly when the question posed to it originated from a case like this. Although an artwork can never solve the problem, it can clarify the issue.
My proposal is to abandon the intent to visually seal off the neighbourhood from the scenery dominated by prostitution, drugs and alcohol abuse. The image of the Poeldijksestraat is part of a culture, which cannot be veiled by hypocrisy. Nonetheless, the design I want to present to you addresses the visual possibilities of the quarter with respect to the street scenery.
All houses of the new residential block on the Hoefkade, at the top of the Poeldijksestraat, will be provided with satellite dishes. Forty-eight functioning satellite dishes offer the prospect to direct the eye, beyond the drama of the Poeldijksestraat, to the world at large. Like protective shields against the misery of the street, the dishes are a manifest expression of the residents looking elsewhere. This artwork doesn’t visually close off the Poeldijksestraat, but opens up new vistas.
Last year, the city of The Hague had hundreds of satellite dishes removed, which did not comply with urban aesthetic standards. One judges whether or not a dish disturbs a street’s visual structure. The more or less aesthetically determined criteria can in this case be extended with a social-cultural one: the cultural image of a street. How representative is the gutter, as much the result of municipal rulings? Satellite dishes emphatically illustrate a population buttressed in their homes, and in that respect they are a silent protest against the street. Forty-eight satellite dishes on the Hoefkade make this protest into a statement which mercilessly acknowledges life. To you we pose the question whether there is room for a satellite dish tolerance zone in The Hague?

Source: Hans van Houwelingen, clarification of design ‘Satellite Dish Tolerance Zone Poeldijksestraat’, and letter to Stroom hcbk (The Hague Centre for Visual Arts) and the working group Poeldijksestraat.