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Rokin Station

Dewar & Giquel, ‘The crocodile, the melodica, the pike fish, the high heel pump, …’, 2017

Rokin Station | City

The archaeological research during the excavation of the construction sites on Damrak and Rokin has yielded 700,000 archaeological finds, dug out of the Amstel. An unprecedentedly large collection that depicts the socio-economic history of the city from its earliest beginnings.

The finds sketch a picture of the daily interactions in a busy economic and cultural centre with dwellings, workshops, shops, churches and pubs. The finds offer a connection with various periods from the past, but at the same time provide a recognizable image that has not really changed: the Rokin is still a collection of shops and department stores, bars and clubs, cultural locations and tourist attractions.

The connection between the daily objects of the past and present was the common thread in the commission to the artists. And close collaboration was expected with the city archaeologist Jerzy Gawronski. The goal: together to develop an organizing principle for displaying the finds, which were being returned to where they had been uncovered, in large installations between the station’s escalators. This part of the commission focused on making the history of the city vivid and tangible at a glance. The second part of the commission focused on the long platform walls and challenged the artists to design a two-dimensional, contemporary representation of the city, in a visual rhyme with the archaeological objects.

In flux

Artist duo Daniel Dewar (Forest of Dean, GB, 1976) and Grégory Gicquel (St. Brieuc, FR, 1975) were allowed to develop their design. The artists first explored the position that they as artists took in relation to the finds and contrasted this with the position taken by an archaeologist and historian. This yielded an interesting and relevant exchange about studying and interpreting archaeological discoveries and about how the cultural information of which the finds are carriers remains open to new interpretations and revised insights.

This exploration led to a design in which the artists draw a parallel between finds and words: the order in which you organize them gives them meaning, but all individual elements remain open to interpretation. For the installations, the artists therefore proposed as an ordering principle a refinement of the archaeologist’s chapter classification: in both installations the finds were arranged as one long sentence, not hierarchical but strictly equivalent to each other, with equal spacing and evenly illuminated, on a continuous, flat surface.

A stream of images

The design for the 120-meter-long platform walls consists of 33 apparently random motifs. Again, the artists draw the parallel with words and sentences: the motifs form a long, run-on sentence of images that we ‘read’ in the same way that we intuitively ‘read’ the daily stream of images that pass before our eyes on the Internet. The images all have their own scale and perspective, and all have their own carefully chosen colour and pattern. Some images are placed further away from each other than others, like double spaces in a sentence. The work invites the viewer to spend time to compare shapes of the different images, to search for content-related connections or to ask questions about the meaning of the whole.

As true crafts artists, Dewar & Gicquel, until the commission they received for Rokin, had made all their works in stone or ceramics themselves. They decided, however, to have the platform work for Rokin fabricated industrially. All the different types of stone were carefully chosen by the artists – according to colour, vein and technical suitability, in keeping with the motif and the part of the motif. The selected types of stone were machine-cut in France using a water-jet technique, and then inlaid and fixed on granite slabs.


The installation of the wall piece | Photo: Jorrit ’t Hoen

About the artists

In their work, Dewar & Giquel dissect every day and seemingly insignificant objects and recombine them. They treat the objects with a certain sense of wonder: as if they have come from another planet and do not know the meaning and function of the object. This results in witty works, such as their monumental sculpture in Bordeaux of a pair of legs in sweatpants and loafers on a pedestal. Dewar & Gicquel have exhibited at Centre Pompidou and Musée Rodin in Paris. In 2012 they won the Marcel Duchamp Prize.

About the works

Title of the wall pieces: “The crocodile, the melodica, the pike fish, the high heel pump, the sportswear shoe, the rear derailleur, the tie, the sandal, the ballpoint pen, the pipe, the shrimp, the garden tigermoth, the pair of dice, the leopard frog, the sewing machine…” “…the Welsh Corgi Pembroke dog, the calico cat, the flat-twin car engine, the rattlesnake, the French horn, the teapot, the wetsuit, the handheld fan, the mallard, the diving flipper, the paintbrush, the nutcracker, the whelk shell, the fishing lure, the foxglove, the umbrella, the dragonfly, the badminton racket.” | Opening: 23 March 2017| Material: various natural stones, machine-cut and inlaid and fixed on granite slabs. Measurement: Two panels, circa 4.5 x 120 m.

Title of the installations: “Below the surface”. | Opening: 8 March 2018. | Material: circa 10.000 archaeological finds in two display cases. The remaining circa 690,000 finds are preserved elsewhere in the station.


Detail of the try-out arrangement of the archeological discoveries | Photo: Jorrit ’t Hoen