Removal of paintings at CE&C sparks great controversy

Last week’s news that several controversial paintings in a meeting room in Helix had been replaced with photographs and a cartoon caused quite a stir. PhD candidate Laura van Hazendonk, who had organized a playful stunt related to those paintings at the end of August, faced a lot of criticism. Tomorrow, Cursor will talk to Dean Kitty Nijmeijer and Managing Director Mark de Graef about the Board’s stance on the issue.

photo Lydia van Aert

‘Woke bullshit’, ‘a destructive form of activism’, ‘it’s art, keep your hands off it’, or ‘a beautiful, stylish room is transformed into a cold, hard space’. The negative reactions to the  paintings by Iektje Meijer (wife of TU/e professor Bert Meijer) being replaced with two pictures of lab setups and a cartoon in a meeting room of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Chemistry a few weeks ago are very diverse in nature. PhD candidate Laura van Hazendonk has received many negative reactions after Cursor’s article on the news received wider publicity. She told Omroep Brabant – and previously, Cursor – that the stunt at the end of August had led to a constructive debate within her department about the art on the walls. Van Hazendonk: “But this became quite a different story when the media outside of the university picked up on the stunt. I think it’s unfortunate that, as a woman, this means you immediately get bombarded with hateful comments.”

This Friday, on the website of Omroep Brabant, Van Hazendonk spoke of a trend, one that exists in the political debate as well. She is also politically active herself; she is number three on the GroenLinks candidate list for the Provincial Council elections. Van Hazendonk: “This is why most women think twice before speaking out on political matters and I think that’s a shame. Having a different opinion is both possible and allowed; and that’s a great thing. So let’s discuss these matters in a civil and respectful manner, just like we did at TU/e.”

She still fully stands by these views, she informed Cursor today. “I was expecting to get reactions, but what I didn’t expect was that they’d be so extreme. I’m happy with the support I receive from my colleagues and from the Board.” She feels no need to respond to all the criticism she has had to endure over the past few days.

CE&C administration

Professor Kitty Nijmeijer and Mark de Graef, CE&C’s dean and managing director, respectively, were both abroad on Wednesday, November 16, when Cursor published about the paintings being replaced, and could not be reached for comment at the time. Though on Thursday evening, the board members got in touch to prepare a response they intended to publish today, Monday, November 21. However, this response was shared with Omroep Brabant on Friday by TU/e’s spokesperson. In the meantime, various media had already covered the issue thoroughly and the news started to provoke many strong reactions on social media as well.

Spirit of the times

The Department Board let Omroep Brabant know that ‘a casual visitor should be able to understand without explanation why the exhibited paintings are on display. For example, a painting can be a reflection of the spirit of the times and represent something we now distance ourselves from. In that case, the historical perspective must be imparted to the casual visitor, either through the painting or the context. If the visitor can’t pick up on that at a glance, then the painting doesn’t belong in a public space at the department.’

Tomorrow afternoon, Cursor will speak with the CE&C administration about how they look back on this issue now.

Share this article