The Whale Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla

Harlingen
‘Our visit to Harlingen taught us that whaling played a big role in the maritime history of the city. At one time the whale was an object of trade, but for romantics it also symbolised the sublime power of the sea. Today whales are the victims of human omnipotence and control over all forms of life. These huge, magnificent animals, who never belonged in the Waddenzee in the first place, are now being cast ashore in shallow waters. Instead of hunting them, people now are trying to save their lives.
New cultural heritage
in eleven Dutch cities
New cultural heritage
in eleven Dutch cities

The fountain we envisage, a true-to-life sperm whale in the harbour, is a reference to this situation. This life-sized sperm whale is located at the Zuiderpier and has seemingly gone astray, but the powerful stream of water it spouts at irregular intervals shows it is very much alive. It would also be splendid to hear a choir of Harlingen locals sing to the whale from time to time, softly and lovingly, as part of your personal experience. In this way the Whale Fountain recalls the city’s history and summons up the many stories having to do with shipping and whaling that are part of its heritage. But it also bears witness to the enormous influence humans have on everything that lives in the sea. Perhaps it will cause us to focus our collective attention on the consequences of our interference in the natural systems that far transcend human interests.’

Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla (United States, 1974, and Cuba, 1971) live and work in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Allora & Calzadilla are versatile artists who work in several artistic disciplines such as sculpture, video and performance. They are known for their often outspoken political and social engagement. They made one of their most talked-about exhibitions in 2011 when they represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. It consisted of an upside-down army tank placed in front of the American pavilion with an athlete running on the caterpillar track as if on a treadmill. The couple have exhibited worldwide, including at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and have taken part in numerous group exhibitions, among them dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel, the São Paulo Biennale and Performance 9 at the MoMa in New York.

Fountains