World Artists and their Story, 20 - Ingrid Rollema

Ingrid Rollema is a sculptress. In the city of The Hague there are several statues of her. And also in other cities. For the celebration of 100 years Peace Palace in 2013 she made a sculpture of the radical pacifist Bertha von Suttner, which was presented in the Atrium of The Hague City Hall.

Ingrid Rollema was director of the Vrije Academie and, with Wim van Krimpen, director of the Gemeentemuseum, founder of GEMAK at Paviljoensgracht The Hague. Occasionaly she still teaches at the Royal Arts Academy The Hague. Rollema: “I always ask my students. In what world do you want to live? If you know the answer: make it! I my own work I want to relate to current issues that matter. That is Lampedusa, the war in the Middle East, the exploitation that un unlimited capitalism produces.”

It isn’t surprising that she mentions ‘Violence’ as her central theme. Rollema: “There are many forms of violence. One form is that people are forced into a situation that they do not want. I go already twenty years to the Gazastrip, every year three or four times. There you are confronted with war. I myself was under shelling. A special experience, I can tell you.”

Two images are still on her mind. “I’m sleeping and hear a tank entering the street. The tank maneuvers, then I hear the gun barrel rotate. The walls behind me are like tissue paper. I am tense to the bone. An image of my father holding me above his head flashes past. I hear a scream. A flash. A whole family was wiped out.”

A second image. “We are at the border of Israel with the Gaza strip in Erez. Near us is a couple of young women. One of them carries a baby of a few years old.  The baby looks bad, is ashen. We call for the guards. ‘You should let us go’. But they didn’t. I heard ‘Who is in charge here?’ I stepped forward. A young soldier grabbed my suitcase and opened it. ‘Undress’, he cried. In the face of all the bystanders I had to do that. Meanwhile, the dog of the soldiers was drooling in my suitcase. When it was over, the baby had died. I was with a few Palestinian docters. When we were in the evening in our hotel in Jerusalem, there still was a tense atmosphere. Those doctors felt so humiliated. There was a kind of sadism. I thought: this brings out the worst in people. It disrupts society. This is not the way to do it.”

Cast Lead

How it should be? “I’ve learned that you have to be very careful with each other. I decided to be even more careful with people. To be nicer. And also to try to live according to your conscience. Then you have to take a position.” The war didn’t occur in her work. But one morning she began to work in her studio and it was all about war and violence. This became the key work Cast Lead.  

“It has become a joint project with more artists. It is a reaction to the Wikileaks images of shellings from a helicopter in Baghdad on innocent civilians. Cast Lead is an artists’ initiative which opposes violence. Her arms are theater, visual art and common sense.

The excessive violence that is taking place, is linked to our cities who have been victims of horrific bombing. They commemorate it in a special way. We chose Dresden, Guernica, Coventry and Warsaw to show our art. Stef van Bellingen and Erwin Jans have declared the artwork to be a public space. ‘Artwork = Public Space’.  It’s a meeting place and a place to let ideas come up. See also:

Another key work is ‘The Nomadic Holy of Holies’. “A very small open sculpture, where you clearly feel that it promises a certain content. Solidified brainpower. Here the nomadic and the sedentary touch each other briefly.”

The Wrong Decision Theater

The project with the name The Wrong Decision Theater is the most recent key work. The theater is a fusion between art and theater and manifests itself in short film productions. She works with more artists, including Marsel Loermans. Rollema: “The artists behind The Wrong Decision Theater try to give new meaning with the oldest material – clay – in the newest medium – the moving image.” 

“It is an experiment from the Low Countries. The subjects in the films are linked to similar situations in the plays of Shakespeare. Echoes of a distant past resound in the here and now. It is an introduction to a world of imagination with the knowledge that every situation exits by virtue of the context in which it takes place. If we can change the context, we can address our problems. Thus Shakespeare acts as a transcultural questions machine.” See also:

Theater Academy

Ingrid Rollema feels herself an artist since the second grade of the primary school. “Then I tought ‘I’m not going to participate’, as regards the normal career path. I thought I’d go to the theater. I was for a while at Living Theatre and I did a year Theater Academy in Amsterdam. I realized that – if I went on with it – I’d say night after night what has concocted another. Actually, I wanted to be a writer, but as a young girl you don’t have that much to tell. I decided to make sculptures. ’That’s it for me.’ I’ve made quite a development in it.”

She not only attended the Academy of Fine Arts, department of Sculpture, in Rotterdam – a very good practical training – but later International Law at Leiden University, Philosophy of Art in Amsterdam and the postgraduate program Applied Ethics at the University of Leuven.

Asked about the artistic life in The Hague, she says “It has become apparent more professional, less wild. The municipality interferes with the studios in a market competitive manner. That makes experiments – especially of young artists – difficult. Let those people make use of vacant buildings. The average level is good. There’s quite a lot of good visual artists in the Netherlands.”


When we talk about her artistic philosophy, she says “I think that things get really interesting as a medium and subject enter into a relationship and bring each other on a level that wouldn’t be possible if it was done separately.Then you are on the right track.” She illustrates this with her recent commission: a sculpture for Okinawa, at the southern tip of Japan. “It is an island that the Americans have occupied. From Okinawa, amongst other places, the Middle East is being bombed. My client is a large industrial who wants to give good works to society. We are talking for quite a while already. It has been an intensive exchange of views. He is thinking with me, the depth comes in.”   

She has completed a project in Matsue and was previously in Japan. “I made a speech of fifty minutes in a room with several Nobel Prize Winners. With the client I talk about the next artwork. I met him at the 100 years Peace Palace event. He sees a task to Japan for world peace. “We were a warlike country, but after World War II, we have disarmed. On that path we want to continue and even set an example for the rest of the world.” We are thinking about an appropriate artwork on the theme ‘Disarmement’. It will come on Okinawa.

Photo 1 till 4 made by Marsel Loermans




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