Maider López


(Español) Maider López. Varias unidades al mismo tiempo.

Sorry, this entry is only available in: European Spanish.

Unlocking the Joints of the Real. Fulya Erdemci

Why aren’t we bursting into laughter in Maider López’s projects although most of them borders on the absurd and intensely humorous? People from diverse walks of life creating a traffic jam as they gather at the Aralar Mountains, suiting up at an Ottoland polder for an impossible football match on a pitch crisscrossed with water channels, or trying to navigate an unbroken line of 86 swimmers in a pool in Rennes.

Instead of guffaws, as in the films of French director Jacques Tati, López’s projects inspire a smile at the corner of our mouths and a feeling of subtle joy in line with her quiet style of humour. She makes us experience the state of things when their orders are slightly shifted, altered, or displaced. Through the tiny details of everyday life, the spaces that surround us, and trivial ordinary interactions between people, in her projects, we develop insight into the structure and order of things and are surprised by the fact that how fragile they are and can be simply otherwise.

Self-organisation creates collective ways
Models of Sociability

López’s work often involves, and is structured around, the active participation of the audience, with people from diverse layers of society creating unusual, contrasting, and mostly impossible situations. By proposing specific models of sociability, she is able to inspire people to do things: for example, using red beach towels in Zumaia, coming together to temporarily extend (and thus simulate) the architecture of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, or making Budapest’s Chain Bridge disappear behind umbrellas the same colour as the Danube below.

‘So, each person came to the traffic jam for different reasons, and that’s what I am interested in. Normally, you go to a demonstration if you agree with an idea or ideology’, López stated in a conference , responding to a question on the Ataskoa project that she carried out in 2005 in the Basque Country’s Aralar Mountains. The project brought together diverse individuals, groups, community networks, classes, ages, and genders from all over the country, including Intza, the little mountain village. Even contrasting voices were present: both car lovers and collectors who enjoyed showing off their antique cars and environmentalists who took the event as an opportunity to protest against the automobile culture and the pollution it causes.
Although there appears to be an evident political cause for the environmentalist group in this project, the artist is actually not concerned with creating projects which walk the line between art and activism. She is more interested in the micro social models in which she foresees and creates possibilities for unexpected, intimate and unique encounters between people.

‘All works of art produce a model of sociability which transposes reality, or might be conveyed in it. So there is a question we are entitled to ask when faced with any aesthetic production: “Does this work allow me to enter into dialogue? Could I exist in the space it defines, and how?”’ Nicolas Bourriaud put forth the coexistence criterion when terming the art of the 1990s ‘relational art’, which he defines as ‘a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space’.

The ‘relationality’ of the artwork with its physical, urban, social, political and economic environment and historical context, moreover, its engagement with the publics, is also a focal point in López’s practice. In this respect, her work can be considered to be in the vein of ‘relational aesthetics’. However, although her projects are mostly based on mediating human relations, visuality and form are a significant part of her projects that embodies relational aesthetics with form. She initiates festive gatherings or event-based projects that allow micro socialisations in which there is always a strong visual component and in which spatial and formal organisation plays an important role, making each project a singular and unique work of art.

Articulating the politics of everyday life, in each project, she tailors specific strategies and plans in order to research and test how and in what conditions individuals from different parts of society can come together to act together, especially in the precarious times we are living in. However, López’s practice goes beyond cultivating human relations and empowering the publics to bring forth their capacity for change. She creates temporary situations to cultivate singularities and subjectivities, while creating a common platform that brings individuals together to act collectively.

Coexistence and hybridity underlie her work, as in the Football Field project that she developed in the context of the 9th Sharjah Biennial, 2007. Having converted an existing square into a football pitch in which the ordinary functions of the square continued to exist, and benches, lampposts and passers- by interfered with the game, she developed a situation where both the players and the square’s usual frequenters not only adapted to the situation, but also experienced the urban public space in an unusual way, one that created unique interactions and communications. Challenging the top-down design and set functions of architecture and urban public spaces, with slight alterations and interventions, she endeavours to reinvent public spaces through the actions, use and daily routines of diverse publics.

López starts her projects either from the spatial context and site-specific content of a place such as the Aralar Mountains, the polders in the Netherlands, or the bridge over the Danube river, and builds events from this starting point, or by spotting and highlighting existing public spaces that have the capacity for such temporary micro social confrontations and hybrid interactions. With In Situ (2012), for instance, she spotted 9 public spaces in Urdaibai where short moments of encounter are possible: for example, the water fountain where people went to fill their bottles, the level crossing where people would wait behind barriers for the passing train, and the two benches at the entrance of the Bermeo Town Hall that invite unusual encounters.

On the other hand, with Making Ways (2013), which she carried out for the 13th Istanbul Biennial, she excavated the spontaneous collective movements of the residents of Istanbul at the pedestrian crossing
in Karaköy, a central
transportation hub where
traffic and pedestrians
coexist side by side. She
made an aerial film of this pedestrian crossing, from which she extracted and highlighted the collective routes that pedestrians took randomly for two minutes and fifteen seconds between 6.03 p.m. and 6.05 p.m. on 2 August, 2013. Having revealed the latent potential in the daily practices of Istanbulites, the practice of self-organisation through simple daily actions, she created a ‘user’s manual’ providing possible instructions on how to cross the roads, and perhaps more: ‘Taking action is easier when a group is generated’, or ‘Self-organisation creates collective ways’.

The wall is our assumptions
Representational Regimes

Most of us are convinced of the need for social, spatial, and constitutional contracts that regulate common living practices. Moreover, we believe in their rationality and strict rules, underlying the architecture, cities (built environments), and societies we live in. From minor details to significant configurations, we aren’t inclined to question, but rather try our best to appropriate them. Taking such convictions as a departure point, López’s projects do not simply devise diverse places and situations to open up a genuine experience of space, but make ‘us conscious of what we agree not to see, i.e. take for granted’.
Regardless of their content and context, López’s projects focus exclusively on people and spaces, and how exactly they relate to each other. Her practice is marked by spatial interventions that subtly unfold this relationship that determine our perception, articulating the question of representational regimes with the experience of the audience. When we visit galleries or museums, our appreciation of and comments on the exhibition are almost always confined to the works exhibited and often do not touch on what we actually perceive: works of art and architecture. We usually perceive works on the walls of a ‘white cube’ that are physically abstracted and isolated from any possible connotations that can interfere with the form and content of the works. Thus, we tend to disregard the architecture and spatial organisation of the exhibition venue, taking them for granted as something which facilitates the ‘pure’ perception of the works. Furthermore, we are inclined to think that our perception is also unmediated and pure. In his iconic book on the ideology of gallery space Brian O’Doherty states, ‘The spotless gallery wall, though a fragile evolutionary product of a highly specialized nature, is impure. It subsumes commerce and esthetics, artist and audience, ethics and expediency… The wall is our assumptions’.

Through spatial interventions, López enjoys challenging our assumptions and expectations, interfering with the relationship between the audience, artwork, and space. She created unstable moving floors, influencing the initial experience of the visitors who stepped into the Italian pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennial in 2005, made extra walls occupying the whole exhibition stand leaving almost no room for audiences at the ARCO Art Fair’s Project Room in 2007 as an allegory of art fairs, and obstructed the exhibition space with 110 columns at the Caixa Forum in 2006. Likewise, in her most recent project, Displacement (2015), now at the exhibition hall at Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea, the unusually thick walls of the exhibition space are duplicated and moved forward by 140 cm and laterally by 190 cm. By doing this, she interferes with the perception of the audience, altering the relationship between space as the container and the artwork as that which is contained: the architecture becomes the artwork itself. As the walls are 50 cm high, they turn into abstract sculptural objects that can be viewed from above exposing the very size and scale of the walls with regards to the plan of the exhibition hall.

Her inquiries into the semiotics of space have been cultivated in a number of projects that she created for museums. Reading the entirety of gallery space as our visual arena, for instance, she pointed out the very existence of technical apparatuses such air-conditioning and security equipment, and the signs that visitors are supposed to agree to take for granted. In Vigo’s MARCO Museum in 2008, multiplying the already existing security cameras, she created an installation in which the placement of cameras mimicked fungus-type organisms that propagated throughout the museum space. And by attaching signs to signs in Christchurch Art Gallery within the scope of the 5th Scape Biennial in 2008, she pointed out the ‘user friendly’ policies of museums that sometimes go beyond the limits of their purposes.

López interferes not only with the physicality of the spaces to alter our perception of them but also directly with our perception through delicate shifts in perspective. In Off_Sight (2008), through an open call she invited the residents of Christchurch to come together in the city’s main open-air shopping centre on 4 September, 2008 to conceal the signs of the shops and companies. She choreographed the positions and postures of the people and had them hold ordinary objects such as an umbrella, a flowerpot, a birthday cake, a guitar, luggage, or balloons; from a certain viewpoint, all the signs disappeared. The project aimed not only to bring people together in a community atmosphere to cover the signs in the public domain, but also, in the artist’s own words, to ‘create an awareness of the capacity that people have to transform urban spaces and construct the city’.
Although the resulting scene (with people in strange poses with different objects in their hands stretching, sitting, reading, walking, or standing on top of a post to cover the commercial signs) creates a situation that would be extremely improbable, even absurd, it still signifies our ability to transform the environment through our actions, even though they may seem insignificant at first glance.

Follow someone wearing glasses until they arrive somewhere
Mapping Out

The complex relationship between structure and chaos, the rational and irrational, causality and coincidence, marks López’s practice, which highlights the surprising need for coincidence and the influence of chance happening on events of life. A situation that appears to be quite improbable may actually be the one that is most likely to happen, yet the excavation of such situations requires serious patience and effort, as exemplified in her Crossing project, which she carried out during a 2006 residency programme in Rotterdam.

Having noticed a juxtaposition between the colour of the clothes of a person walking in front of a building and the colours of certain elements of the building, she began to think about this relationship, which generates a camouflage for the person walking by. In order to increase her possibilities of finding such juxtapositions, she either spotted a person wearing garments with a distinctive colour and followed the person until such a coincidence happened, or she selected a building facade whose colour seemed promising and waited for someone to walk by wearing clothes the same colour as the building (or containing a similar colour combination). Although we may not be able to understand if there are any rules behind such chance happenings, or make deductions on the inhabitants’ cultural choice of colours in this case, at least we can have an idea of the process of creating such a project, how the artist interacted with the city, ‘drifting’ from one place to another, following or searching for one colour after another. She creates her own game of wandering around the city, similar to the Situationists’ drift (dérive), an unplanned tour of the city following the feelings that a specific architectural feature, the urban texture of a corner, or the spatial organisation of a street evokes, rather than following official city maps, which not only categorise the cities in accordance with commerce, tourism, and ideological interests, but also frame our experience of them.

‘Follow someone wearing glasses until they arrive somewhere’ is one of the ‘instructions’ on the postcards that she produced for the Another via project carried out in Jerusalem in 2009. In giving such specific instructions referring to extremely common features that we can come across very easily at any moment in any city, López aims to unleash the boundaries of a given structure to allow us to get lost and enjoy this ‘planned’ unplanned tour of the city. She furthers her tribute to the Situationist International in How Do You Live This Place? (2010), producing a ‘psychogeography’ map of the town of Huntly in Scotland created by its inhabitants. She asked people to place colour-coded stones (for example, red stones meant ‘I would like to change or improve this place’ and blue ones indicated ‘Something important in my life happened here’) in different parts of the town in accordance with their unique remembrances and experiences of these specific places, seeking to generate a collective map of the town which would make the town’s residents’ invisible subjective perceptions visible.

In the Moving Stones (2015) project, she alluded to the invisible transformation of the landscape in Uçhisar, Cappadocia, an extraordinary geography with unusual geological formations and soft rocks that resulted from super-volcanic explosions and other natural phenomena. It is said that the surface of the rocks erodes by two or three centimetres each year due to rain, snow, and wind. Inspired by this invisible yet considerable change in the landscape, she performed daily walks during which she moved stones from one location to another. Her unplanned, spontaneous routes were documented through dual GPS coordinates and photographic duos recording the original location of the stone and the place she moved it to. ‘It is not any special stone’, she says, ‘it is just a stone, it becomes special from the moment it is chosen and carried’. The stones were not particularly special or valuable, nor did the movement of small stones make a substantial, visible change in the landscape. Just as, for instance, marble from Italy is transported to other parts of the world to create art and architecture, and obsidian is taken from Anatolia for speculation and to create precious objects that are also out of sight (and therefore invisible to us), she moved stones that would otherwise stay in place for hundreds or thousands of years until a natural phenomenon occurred. From this perspective, she changed nature physically, ‘measurably’, and permanently, though on a very small scale, reminding us of the inevitable impact that our tiniest actions may have.

Through minute details, López inspires us to map out and untangle the complex web of the relationships that structure the way we live. Her projects lie somewhere between the useless and the impossible (but they are never unserious or loose), between the irrational and the coincidental (but they are never nonsensical or unreasonable), and between the triviality of everyday life and existential metaphysical questions (but they are always tinted with wit); her work unfastens the joints of the real to expose the possibilities of the imaginary, which can actually transform reality.

Anne–Claire Schmitz: Polder Cup, 2011

When Maider Lopez responded to the invitation by Witte de With and SKOR to develop a project for the series Between You and I, it was no surprise that the artist proposed a work that forced us to engage more directly with the public realm, and in fact with a non-art public. It is no secret that such artistic positions tend to present institutions with practical and ideological difficulties. Public institutions such as Witte de With are constantly aware of the difficult balance between the desire to ‘go public,’ and the fear of landing on populist grounds and approaching art from a utilitarian perspective.

In our view, Maider Lopez’s proposal, Polder Cup, was successful in mediating between these two poles, not least because the project required that a contemporary art institution takes the challenge of engaging and connecting with other publics. Witte de With and SKOR initiated Between You and I in order to give more public presence to the kind of discursive approach to art that both institutions support and engage with.

Why – one might ask – would Witte de With sometimes accused of cultural elitism decide to involve in a project structured around a football tournament in the Dutch polders? Because we were deeply convinced Maider Lopez’s practice would succeed in activating the universal language of football and the iconic and symbolic power of the traditional polder landscape as a terrain for processes of re-appropriation, re-interpretation and transformation of public space.

Projects in which participation is so open are unique as they open doors to all kinds of interpretive potential. During the process of making it, Polder Cup was taken over and at times actively appropriated by the public domain – volunteers, players, visitors, supporters, media, etc. Without this notion of appropriation Polder Cup couldn’t exist, as it is built by the experience of those who engaged with it: the media, which massively covered the project, highlighted its impact of transformation of the Dutch landscape or emphasized the experience of a unique sport event; more than forty individuals turned their motivation and curiosity into a volunteer experience; football teams were formed out of individuals or groups of artists, architects, colleagues, students, local inhabitants, café friends, existing football teams, … playing for the sake of art, the landscape, camaraderie, friendship, village spirit, or just fun. Far from participating in a banal “collectivity,” each of these protagonists activated Polder Cup by forming a diversity of actively engaged positions.


Anne–Claire Schmitz — Witte de With


Ixiar Rozas: In Situ, 2012


1. Iturriondo fountain. Gernika

A body moves from side to side to the rhythm of each step. A beautiful morning, I don’t know exactly at what time, I put my visor on my head, leave the writing room and go outside. [1] Steps, spatial lines, temporal lines, a narration. Soon I come to a fountain. They say that Maritxu dressed up as Bartolo and Bartolo as Maritxu, and that they decided to celebrate themselves, compose a song based on the traditional one. Malleable and porous song to be sung by a celestial choir, but also added decadent karaoke. They saying it as if it were a spring, a contiguous mantra. A dog takes a drink at the fountain. He looks up at the clouds. When the water, that common good which is so mistreated, rebels, it shows its indomitable self. Floods are not a whim of nature. I imagine a country submerged in water every day of the year, any invisible city. The dog steps on a stone. Fill the fountain with white wine and let it run.

2. Level crossing. Gernika

I would like to organize a wedding at this place. A royal wedding without royalty. A ceremony that intertwines everyone who has nearly been run over on these tracks. Survivors. A wedding that puts the survivors on one side and the people who built the railroad on the other, separated by a line of oblivion. The ceremony would end with: “I declare you…”. This text is not premeditated and if I had to write it again I’d leave it as it is.

3. Rosario’s stall. Market. Gernika

Talking about a photo album may seem old hat. An album with bodies, faces, hands, feet, fingernails, teeth, hair, bones and marrow, in the middle of the immaterial age, the lack of bodies, smells, innards, of your flesh and mine in the dead of night. Occupying a rectangular space once a day. Occupying that space, filling it with bodies, with things. Placing yourself in the centre of the rectangle and from there, looking at all of the angles of the lives affirmed by their presence.

4. Letterbox. Betrokolo. Mundaka

A letterbox can be a home for ants and insects. I walk, I trace a line of time and space, a diagram for ants and insects. Out of the redness comes the blue. [2] From inside the letterbox I look outside. I listen to the murmur of the water. It seems like a very fertile stream. Dogs barking, lots of dogs. In this movable choreography, there is no staging, the situation falls into place at each step. I could also say Out of the blue comes the redness and think that things could have a slight feminine accent with the scent of meat.

5. Rocks at Txatxarramendi

Medusa was beheaded for her beauty and also to use as a defensive shield. The legend of Medusa has been used since then as a symbol of unity and as the face of brutality. Turned into a shield, she becomes a guardian, a protector. It is said that language, our words, will turn into stone if we don’t look at them in the face. It is said that money is made of stone from all of the times we have looked at it in the face and that it is waiting for someone to redeem it. Her, the bodiless mask, the mask in search of a headless body. The encounter happens at the edge of the sea. There are shears and now she is looking at us from a rock.

6. Boat to Laida. Txorrokopunta. Mundaka

I ask someone to tell me a memory from their childhood, and memory that begins here. “Everyone tells me that I took a boat ride after I was born, when I was only five days old. I flailed my arms around and since I had long fingernails, I scratched myself and began to cry very hard. My sobs bothered though woman sitting beside me, she wanted to enjoy the landscape. The woman changed seats, I stopped crying and by that time we had arrived.”

7. Banister, The Watchtower. Mundaka

Ways to use a banister:

  1. Touch it
  2. Slide down it
  3. Salk on tiptoes
  4. Pass by without touching it
  5. Hang from it
  6. Suck it
  7. Lie down on it
  8. Break it
  9. Take a piece of iron
  10. Use the piece of iron to break a paving title
  11. Use the piece of iron to hit someone
  12. Use the piece of iron to hit someone without hurting them
  13. Skate
  14. Coat it with oil and cook on it
  15. Cover it with class and build a fort

8. Ballcourt, The Watchtower. Mundaka

Once I put my hand inside a sculpture by Basque artist. It was a metaphysical space in the shape of a ballcourt. The iron was cold. We were separated by years, time and an imaginary ball speeding past the two walls that made up the rectangle. My hand filled its empty space, in a compulsive horror vacui. Someone is walking slowly around the perimeter of the ballcourt. From there, to look at all of the angles of the lives affirmed by their presence. Die Ursache, the cause, there is no Ursache.[3] The things slide and are still there.

9. Bermeo Town Hall

We are Moors, writes Joseba Sarrionandia, we are Moors among the mist. We too are Moors, he says, all of us are Moors to other people. He writes that there are good Moors and bad Moors. “We are not all the same, not all Basques are the same either. You’re black, says the owner of the house, so that the black man has to say that not all black people are that black.” [4] Sailors separated by the line of oblivion. Die Ursache, the cause. (Ur)gauza, the thing of water. I listen to the murmur of the water. I once wrote about the atopia, my way of referring to the lack of spaces and utopias that would enable a transformation? Changing something for nothing? I recall that I wrote: we live the atopia in the increasingly privatized streets of our towns and cities, with the feeling that the ground is moving below our feet, with an epidermal discomfort. Now, wherever you are, I hope to continue reading you, but particularly, I wait for. When our eyes meet, is it night or day?


[1] ”Translation from the Spanish of the beginning of the Robert Walser”, El paseo (1997), Siruela, Madrid.

[2] I am referring to the sentence “Out of kindness comes redness” an excerpt from Tender Buttons: objects, food, rooms by Gertrude Stein (1914).

[3] Interpretation of an excerpt from Cixous, Hélène (2009) El amor del lobo y otros remordimientos, which in turn refers to an autobiography by Thomas Bernhard.

[4] Sarrionandia, Joseba (2010), Moroak gara behelaino artean?, Pamiela, Iruñea, p. 702. Translation from the Basque.

Theo Tegelaers: Polder Cup, 2011

Football in the Polder

Maider López’ Polder Cup project arose from a collaboration between the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art and SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain. In 2009 both institutes decided to work together on Between You and I a project that was developed for the facade of the Witte de With and which played out on the boundary between the public and institutional domains. An interface was created between the audience and the general public by using the facade of the building as a billboard for a long-term Witte de With programme that centred on the topic of Morality.

Maider López leapt at the opportunity to temporarily cover the facade of Witte de With as a way to evaluate the aspirations of an exhibition institute for contemporary art that operates in the public domain. To a large extent, the involvement of SKOR, which is specialised in the public domain, legitimised her choice. López’ proposal seems simple: a football tournament in one of the most iconographic manifestations of the Dutch landscape: a polder. At first it appeared to be a rather unimpressive location, but it became evident during the development of the project that this was the result of a carefully considered strategy. Maider López hung a gigantic banner with a photographic representation of football fields on a polder on the facade of the Witte de With. This not only announced the project, but it simultaneously referred to the polder in Ottoland close to Graafstroom in the Netherlands where the event would be held. Witte de With became the coordinating centre where participants and volunteers could apply.

The polder was to be the place where SKOR and Witte de With would engage with a new social context in which football serves as a medium to bring people from different backgrounds together.

The Dutch are famous for their culture of consultation, i.e., seeking agreement through discussion that aims to create a consensus with the minimum of inconvenience for all involved. In the public space this phenomenon is frequently expressed through excessive regulation, with the result that very little room remains for spontaneous or ambiguous interpretations relating to the use of the public space. The consensus culture offers very little room for individual interpretations because these are rapidly thwarted by regulations. The lengthy discussions and negotiations about who determines the regulations and how these are implemented typify this approach.

Maider López hopes that Polder Cup will disorganise familiar activities and alter the traditional agrarian function of the polder landscape into a recreational function, in this case, a football pitch. In doing this she relied on the power and visual impact of the image; in fact, the work was developed from the image. The public space is her working space and she acts as a director of that space. She uses the locations she selects for her projects as temporary studios that first have to be organised. This requires painstaking attention to detail during the preparation stage, certainly when realising Polder Cup. In addition, the social context also plays an important role. The openness of the event and its unusual character convince people with an adventurous and open disposition to participate.

Some may regard Polder Cup as nothing more or less than a well-organised event and a reason to enjoy a joyful and relaxing day in each other’s company, while other participants will contemplate the possible implications raised by this project. For Lopèz it is ultimately about creating new images; images that have the power to pose questions about social factors in art, about the role of the public in the public space and about the relationship between the collective and the individual.

When organising the public space, we frequently sidestep the question of whether the public space really does fulfil all the necessary requirements. For example, do the changes that are introduced provide opportunities that facilitate previously unforeseen uses of the public space? Moreover, we sometimes fail to notice how these changes influence social conduct. To what degree does the public space guide our behaviour?

Maider López wants to break traditional behavioural patterns with her projects and interventions in the public space. By introducing new rules she wants to address people as individuals and as members of a community. Her projects stimulate interaction and communication. Communication between artists and art institutes, between governments and social groups and ultimately between individuals themselves are vital elements in her work. In this context, visually appealing images can play a decisive role.


Theo Tegelaers



Ilse van Rijn: Polder Cup, 2011

Disordered play

The facade of the Witte de With art institute in central Rotterdam was adorned with a grass-green banner featuring images of meadows marked with white lines and criss-crossed with straight ditches. Together, the meadows formed four football pitches, one large and three smaller, and the chalk lines appeared ragged compared to the perfectly straight lines of the ditches. The ditches divided the playing fields into asymmetrical blocks that were dotted with hollows and bumps. The banner invited passersby to participate in a football match in the polder, but the unconventional playing fields were a warning that the rules would have to be adapted to suit the situation.

Passersby were confronted by the changes to the rules and the disruption of recognisable scenes. The football pitches re-divided the familiar landscape of parcelled polders, and the ditches and the marshy ground that characterise this typically Dutch landscape determined how the game was played. The announcement of the work at Witte de With also resulted in the art institute itself becoming a subject of discussion – and being redefined again. Not only did the ‘scenic landscape’ on the large banner contrast starkly with the architecture of the institute, but the large ‘poster’ for the sports event also implicitly rechristened the Centre for Contemporary Art as the official information centre of the tournament. This is where potential players could sign up, and the bus that transported the participants to and from the playing fields in Ottoland, in the Graafstroom district, departed from here. The events at the Witte de With were therefore part of Polder Cup, a project developed by the Spanish artist Maider López (1975) and commissioned by SKOR in collaboration with Witte de With.

Potential participants could sign up for the football tournament as individuals or with teammates. Each Polder Cup team chose its own name and shirt. Referees ensured that the matches were played fairly and a ‘ringmaster’ called out who should be where and at what time. He announced the score after each round, with quarter-finals being followed by semi-finals and then the final: ‘and the winner is….’ As well as being demarcated by the white chalk lines, the boundaries of the football pitches were delimited by real corner flags and real goalposts. Balls that ended up in the ditches were recovered with nets and missed shots were retrieved from the banks using canoes and oars. Spectators shouted encouragement from the stands and there were plenty of sandwiches, cakes and soft drinks. The entire occasion was carefully coordinated, with very little left to chance. This attention to the organisation of the tournament ensured that the players could fully immerse themselves in the game.[i] Ditches could be leapt during breaks as a form of recreation. The atmosphere was superb, and the weather was onside; in one of the videos López shot of the day, two tractors can be seen chugging past against a background of clear blue sky.

On the one hand the game activated and actualised the geometric polder landscape of ditches and meadows, investing it with a degree of individuality. The event transformed, in De Certeau’s words, a stable and incontrovertible ‘place’ (lieu) into a dynamic ‘space’ (espace).[ii] On the other hand, as López’ footage shows, locating the football games in the polder resulted in a drastically other appearance of the expansive landscape. Indeed, the familiar polder landscape was briefly traversed and interrupted by the game. The players could put aside their everyday concerns and lose themselves in the moment. As in all López’ works, the players, game and setting of Polder Cup were placed against an ingenious backdrop.

Although the public nature of the event or the overwhelming shared experience of her projects might almost make you forget it, the visual component is vital to López’ work. Formally speaking, Polder Cup is reminiscent of Ataskoa (Traffic Jam, 2005), a project situated in the mountains of Spain’s Basque Country. Following an appeal in newspapers and on the radio, as well as a flyer and poster campaign, 160 drivers and their cars assembled close to Mount Aralar (Intza, Navarra) on 18 September 2005. The vehicles blocked the road for four hours on this particular Sunday.[iii] The absurd traffic jam formed a colourful, glinting garland at the foot of the mountain. Like Polder Cup, Ataskoa was staged in natural surroundings, actualising, embellishing, emphasising and interrogating the landscape. The seemingly spontaneous activity derives its power from the participation and cooperation of individuals.

By taking place during the 2010 World Cup, Polder Cup served as a foil to the official football tournament. It criticised the spectacle that sport has become, and its nonsensical practical context and daft rules (by professional standards) parodied the official game. In Polder Cup the tall grass, the pollen and the squishy ground restricted the players’ movements. The ditches not only transect the pitches, but the presence of water also meant that the official rules of the game have to be ‘rectified’. Players were not allowed to leap over the ditches, which meant a defender could never move to the opposite side of the pitch. Consequently, the players had to discuss and revise their tactics and devise new strategies in the heat of the moment, without them being formalised. Moreover, all the pitches were different, which produced new forms of interaction between the attackers and the defenders of a given team, as well as between the competing teams, resulting in a new (football) language.

The question arises: what game was it exactly that was being played in López’ Polder Cup? Like Ataskoa, this work not only demonstrates what a group of individuals can achieve as a group, but also reflects on the here and now and on the traditions of a specific game or on sports in general. Furthermore, as in AdosAdos (2007), in which López and the Friends of the Guggenheim created a temporary gallery for the museum in Bilbao, Polder Cup places the institutional structure and limitations of the art institute under scrutiny. In Polder Cup this is achieved through the use of the green banner and its implications for the Witte de With art centre. In the case of AdosAdos it was done by giving each of the Friends a large panel to carry that was apparently made from the one of the materials that was used to clad the museum itself, namely titanium. López arranged the participants in an elongated shape alongside the building. In this way the Friends’ financial support was reflected in a structural (in the architectural sense) counterpart. In Polder Cup the football game is reduced to endless negotiation. It is a wink at the notorious Dutch bureaucratic culture, also referred to as the ‘polder model’ to which the polder landscape setting refers metaphorically.

One might say that Polder Cup presents a playful model as well as a serious proposal. The work intervenes in our workaday, accepted reality. The game brought together individuals with different backgrounds and perspectives – the amateur footballer and the art lover, the villager and the urbanite, the artist and the curator – and all of them were at the mercy of the unusual rules specially created for the event. The diversity of players highlights issues surrounding autonomous action and personal motivation to participate. But the football tournament also demonstrates that conventional forms and situations (urban or rural public space, a game or organisation) can be approached and adapted in unexpected ways.

Polder Cup can therefore be regarded as a blueprint for change. But it does not present just a single topic. As a conceptual game it is also a representation. First and foremost, in a football tournament ‘the actor is his audience’ in the words of the German artist Franz Erhard Walther,[iv] with whose work López’ is often compared. But Polder Cup also addresses a wider audience. In a sense, it breaks down one of the four walls that guarantee the closed character of a football tournament and ensure that the player can focus seriously on the game. A duplication takes place: in Polder Cup the supporter of the match is replicated in the viewer who looks at López’ images of the event. This undermines the characteristic structure of the game and its ‘seriousness’ is brought into doubt in a humorous way.

The viewer of the photographs and films of the football tournament is also undermined. Whereas the unusual staging in the images suggests a film set, the photographic and filmed material itself – related as it is to football cards and sports coverage – suggests that the viewer is a fan sharing in the aftermath of the tournament. Once again, it becomes clear that opposites have only an apparent existence. When opponents are brought together, they overlap and are capable of disrupting fixed structures and breaking open conventions. The game of football remains an effective metaphor for signifying this disorganising role. In the words of the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, ‘ball games will be with us forever because the ball is freely mobile in every direction, appearing to do surprising things of its own accord.’[v] Categories no longer exist in Maider López’ Polder Cup, in which the contrasts create entirely unexpected twists and turns.


Ilse van Rijn

April 2011


[i] ‘Play fulfils its purpose only if the player loses himself in play. […] seriousness in playing is necessary to make the play wholly play’, in: Gadamer, Hans-Georg, Truth and Method. Continuum, London/New York, 2006 [1975], p. 103.

[ii] Or: space is a practiced place. [italics  MdC] De Certeau, Michel, The Practice of Everyday Life. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1988 [1984], p. 117.

[iii] Although it does not concern public transportation, the beginning of De Certeau’s chapter ‘Spatial Stories’ is nevertheless relevant in this regard: ‘In modern Athens, the vehicles of mass transport are called metaphorai. To go to work or come home, one takes a “metaphor” – a bus or a train.’ De Certeau, 1988 [1984], p. 115.

[iv] Franz Erhard Walther, lecture De Ateliers, Amsterdam, 19 April 2011. Rosa Martínez has already compared López’ work to that of Walther, see ‘Maider Lopez’, in: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Collection. Tf. Editores/Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Madrid/Bilbao, 2010, pp. 476–79.

[v] In: Gadamer, 2006 [1975], p. 106.

(Español) Belen Ruiz Garrido, 2009

Sorry, this entry is only available in: European Spanish.

Pablo Fanego and Pedro de Llano, 2008

The Museum as Medium / MARCO, Koldo Mitxelena. (Fragment. Page 276)

(…) Her work constitutes a reflection on the visual codes that govern space where urbanism, architecture and design meet. Whether inside or outside the museum, her pieces always seek to emphasize aspects that normally remain in the background but are no less relevant because of it. Cámaras de Vigilancia (2008) consisted of copying and multiplying the security cameras installed in the MARCO’s galleries. Starting from a central “nest” made up of a great many such replicas and situated on the outer ring of the panopticon, the artist created a “plague” that spread into different areas of the museum. Although the cameras did not fulfil their true function – not one recorded what was happening in real time – Maider López’s work invites us to reflect on the limits of control and security in a highly specific context – that of a former jail – which in the past helped to establish the bases of contemporary reality. In this way a comparison is immediately made between the history of both institutions, the museum and the prison, through the similarities they share regarding their respective conceptions of order and space.


Maider López’s interest in space is derived from a natural expansion of the pictorial language and of post-minimalism. Another example of this is her specific proposal in San Sebastian: Sala 1 (2008) is a labyrinthine architecture slotted into the dimensions of one of the galleries of the Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea which is an exact replica of the design of the floor on which this space is found. It is, therefore, a sort of architectural mise en abyme that repeats inwards, like a painting, the same arrangement of volumes, walls and corridors that order the movements of the visitor around the entire gallery. To help the visitor orient himself and encourage the association between both architectures – that which is perceived in that moment and that which is recreated by memory- the labyrinth has an average height of 164 cm, which permits a depth of vision of the space and establishes a subjective perspective that is alterated with each new spectator.


Pablo Fanego and Pedro de Llano


Cámaras de Vigilancia Project
Sala 1 Project

(Euskera) Tania Pardo, 2005

Sorry, this entry is only available in: Basque.

(Euskera) Sergio Rubira, 2005

Sorry, this entry is only available in: Basque.