Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen gave the Antistrot artists’ collective a free hand for the ‘Hidden Track’ mural in the museum’s Espresso Bar. The artists reflected on the image culture of today’s society with cartoon-like pictures. Antistrot finds inspiration in present-day media like the internet, television, comics and fashion photography, and in striking images from the past, such as pornography from the nineteen-seventies.
Antistrot was set up in 1997 by six students from the Willem de Kooning Academie (WdKA), Rotterdam. Dissatisfied with the ‘graphic straitjacket’ in the Illustration Department, they decided to combine their creative strengths. Over the course of ten years Antistrot has transformed from a rebellious group of like-minded people into a well-established collective. Work by Antistrot can be seen and heard at alternative festivals and in museums and exhibition spaces such as the GEM (The Hague), 3rd Ward (New York), Sara Tecchia (Rome), Zedosbois (Lisbon) and the Winzavod Contemporary Art Centre (Moscow). The current members of Antistrot are David Elshout, Charlie Dronkers, Bruno Ferro Xavier Da Silva, Marco Kruyt, Michiel Walrave, Paul Borchers, Silas Schletterer, Johan Kleinjan and Iddo Drevijn.
Reaction as the objective
In the initial period Antistrot produced its own magazines with drawings and distributed them in the street. Soon the artists’ collective began to involve other disciplines. Antistrot has by now created an enormous number of drawings, murals, installations, performances and musical events. Antistrot combines serious topical themes such as violence and less serious themes such as fare-dodging, impotence, adverts for curing spots and hair loss in drawings and provides a commentary. The underlying theme of their work is the reaction to modern society’s idiom and direct contact with the spectators and listeners.
Antistrot magnifies existing images hugely or cuts them down to size and ridicules them in parodies and fantasy images. By extracting meanings from their context and combining them with a different content Antistrot constantly wrong foots the viewer. Humour and satire are vital ingredients in the drawings, and certainly in the performances and the musical events. And they are not averse to clichéd images and toilet humour. ‘We try to involve the audience in an almost Situationist happening in our flights of fancy and provide them with an experience that goes one step further than telling a story,’ says Charlie Dronkers. Like the Situationists in the 1960s and 70s, Antistrot puts ‘the crass stupidity of life itself’ into perspective with disorganized, satirical images.
City Collection curators
The curators of the City Collection are inviting different Rotterdam artists, designers and collectives to create a work on the walls of the Espresso Bar. The Antistrot artists’ collective is the first. The series of murals is an initiative by Saskia van Kampen and Louise Schouwenberg, the curators of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s City Collection, whose projects focus on visual art and design from Rotterdam.