fold #02 on Commons with Willem de Haan


fold #02 on Commons with Willem de Haan

Willem de Haan, Me also Me 2021. Image: courtesy the Balcony

23.10 – 28.11



This exhibition is part
of SEA Foundations’ longer-term
research on art and sustainability
in fold #02 on Commons.

Together with Willem de Haan, Tudor Bratu
and SEA Foundation
enter into a collaboration
with project space
The Balcony in The Hague.



Me also Me

Visual artist Willem de Haan’s van is big and blue. “When you have got yourself a company car it is necessary to think about designing a logo for this important investment”, according to de Haan. When he noticed that the colour of his van is almost the same blue as that of the highway direction signals, he took this idea as a starting point for the logo. Since his artistic practice takes him all over Europe, the motorway is the natural environment of Willem’s can. Through copying, and adapting the imagery of direction signals and by using plotted vinyl the De Haans’ van, became a work of art in its own right. It is big, blue, completely integrated, and even camouflaged when present in the public space. This project is a typical work that fits in perfectly with Willem de Haan’s artistic practice.


The artist explains that he sees images and artistic interventions as scripts for public spaces because, with the presence of an additional image, something changes in the daily life on the streets. Almost all of de Haan’s work originates in the studio and connect to a specific location. The finishing touch takes place at the location for which the work was made. That can be done by developing, assembling, or installing a large sculpture, alternatively, a work can become activated through performance or interaction with the public. In other cases, documenting the work is the finishing touch.

During the pandemic, physical meetings were discouraged. The audiences refrained from visiting cultural events. The use of public transport was discouraged and many art institutions closed their doors. The virtual distribution of imagery depicting works of art via photographs. Video was widely used and replaced in parts the connection to audiences and art. Although some paintings look appealing in photographs and in moving images, one always has to see a work of art in real life.

Staged photography

Willem de Haan thought it therefore a good idea that the documentation of the process and the photographs produced in the course of action can be perceived as the original artwork. This is how de Haan started with staged photography as an end product in his practice. For example, in 2020, De Haan created a staged artwork on the beach with the main character in the foreground holding a large sign of a photograph of a cloud against a blue sky. Willem de Haan shared this image on social media and the artwork was republished by strangers numerous times. In some occasions the image was publicly shared in combination with a republishers’ personal note right next to, or over the original image. There were copies on paper as well as shared edits on several social media accounts. In this way, the public created extended imagery with a new personal layer every time they shared or re-posted the work of art in the public realm.

The contribution by Willem de Haan for fold #02: on Commons, in the combined exhibition programmes of SEA Foundation and The Balcony, explores different perspectives on copying and appropriating imagery as a form of collective labour. ‘Don’t you start copying me, copying is my thing’. 

Internet memes

The idea for some of the new works on show at the Balcony in The Hague and at SEA Foundation is based on viral internet memes, in which an image gets picked up by the online community and is rapidly used as a context to express a wide variety of ideas, comments and ideals. When this happens the question arises; How does an artist connect to his or her own work, once this work is published online and as accessible to anyone as well as to the initial creator?

Although the idea that the re-use of public imagery alludes to pre-existing stories and narratives and by using it for personal narratives in itself is unfettered, it can be argued that these images cease to be entities in their own right. At the same time, the use and re-use also points to something interesting and personal. Whether that something is a story, a feeling, an idea, or simply the expression of the additional creator to confirm her or his presence and thus make the image anew publicly accessible and again common property. Questions arise such as: Who is the creator, Are there common rulings in place that regulate re-publishing? To whom should we refer to as the creator, and should first-line (if there are any) creators, welcome this particular form of collective labour. Moreover, should we collectively as well as individually be grateful for the ruthless digital copy-paste facilities ?

This text is partly copied, translated, reworked, and added to by Riet van Gerven, using the website We Like Art. Willem de Haan added alterations.

Willem de Haan

Willem de Haan (1996) graduated BA Fine Art from ArtEZ in Arnhem, the Netherlands in 2017. His works have been exhibited at Nieuwe Vide (Haarlem), LOOP (Barcelona) and Stichting NDSM (Amsterdam), SWAB (Barcelona), Karsi Sanat (Istanbul) amongst others. He worked as an independent curator for De Player (Rotterdam) and Showroom MAMA (Rotterdam). He was artist in residence at ZK/U (Berlin), and SAM (Saint Petersburg). His work has been widely published amongst others in De Volkskrant, NRC, VICE, and MetropolisM. Check his insta profile @thankswillem and find out more about the large and small disruptive installations he produces at a rapid pace in all kinds of exhibition spaces and in the public domain.

Willem de Haan website
Residency Willem de Haan and Tudor Bratu
Read more on Tudor Bratu’s Project

logo Gemeente Tilburg
Amarte Fonds
Mondriaan Fund SEA Foundation Netherlands
WIllem de Haan art in public space at SEA Foundation
Highway-Camouflage-Willem de Haan