A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Finally a field trip again! I cannot remember the last time, I had the chance to go on a fieldtrip with my class and hence I was overly exited make an excursion to Amsterdam. As part of my course “War and Peace” in the Honors College, we went to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam – a museum for modern and contemporary art – to see the exhibitions “Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden“ and “Bad Thoughts” with pictures from the German painter Anselm Kiefer.
Coming from The Hague it is most convenient to take an Intercity to Amsterdam Zuid, from whereon I switched over to tram 5 and got out at stop Van Baerlestraat. The tram stops in the middle of the Museum Quarter. I arrived almost an hour early so there was plenty of time to explore this artistic, stylish and fascinating area of Amsterdam. Despite the cooold wind, I strolled around in the area and I was captivated by the art that was exhibited on the streets and the whole atmosphere in the Museums Quarter.
In the focus of our fieldtrip with the course “War and Peace” stood the artworks on the topics of Violence, War and Holocaust. Based on the texts about representation and memory of war, we discussed the artworks from Marlene Dumas and Anselm Kiefer (i.e. his piece “Hermannsschlacht”). Their art did not necessarily take my personal fancy, but to explore the meaning and thoughts behind the artwork it was fascinating!
We also addressed how the artistic representation of war changed during the course of the last centuries. In the Middle Ages for instance, it was more common to show actual battle scenes of the warfare itself, often from the victorious perspective.
After the World Wars then, art also sought to address the totality of war, now also depicting the suffering of the civil population and psychical long-term consequences of total warfare.
I left the Museum with mixed feelings, on the one hand, I was impressed by the power of art, on the other, all these sinister paintings representing the horrors of war and violence, dampened the mood quite a lot. Though this gloomy atmosphere didn’t last for long. Our tram ride through the beautifully illuminated Amsterdam lifted the spirits again!