OTTO buttons

The Artworld is Full

2004, Buttons


The Art world is Full

When the Stedelijk Museum CS opened on May15, a button was being distributed among the attendees. Stedelijk Museum Bulletin has a short interview, by e-mail, with its creator, Otto Berchem. He is an American artist who moved to the Netherlands when there was still some room to spare.

Can you tell a little bit more of the creation of the button-project?

It was initially made at the invitation of Ann Demeester, director ofW139, for the Amsterdamprijs voor de Kunsten award ceremony. W139 was the recipient of the ‘artists initiative’ award, and like the other prize winners was asked to make a presentation at the City Theatre. “The Art World is Full" buttons were part of my contribution.

If it is true that it was inspired by the right-wing slogan ’Nederland is vol’ (Holland is full), could you tell me then, what your response is as an American to this Dutch ‘folklore’?

Seeing as Pim Fortuyn has only been dead for a little over two years, I think it's premature to use the term ‘folklore’. Perhaps the real ‘folklore’ is that the Dutch are tolerant, and Fortuyn and the LPF managed to finally dispel that myth?

I hope that's not the case, but then again these are not the best of times for tolerance and civil liberties in the western world in general. As a foreigner living in the Netherlands, regardless of my nationality, I was, and I still am, concerned by how the Netherlands dropped its facade of ‘tolerance’, and let loose the dogs of xenophobia.

Why using that punky typeface?

It's a combination of things. The fact that 1. I'm not a designer, so for me it was ‘non design’, 2. The aesthetics of ‘resistance/anti-authority/etc’ for me will always be punk aesthetics (fanzines, t-shirts, buttons, etc) - it's what I grew up with, 3. The fact that W139 started as a squat.

Do you really believe the art world is full?

About as much as I believe in slogans like ‘if you're not with us you're against us’, or ‘we are the world’.


Interview with Jelle Bouwhuis,

Originally published in the Stedelijk Museum Bulletin, 04, 2004