22 Nov – 21 Dec 2003

Beta Vulgaris

Katie Holten

The former transvestite club, and the former guesthouse of W139, at Warmoesstraat 131, is now opening its doors as Beta vulgaris. The Warmoesstraat, in the heart of Amsterdam, is the ideal location for Katie Holten’s new project commissioned by W139.

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During the project, Katie Holten has been living in the appartment in the Warmoesstraat. As a new resident of the red-light district she has been exploring the city. The results of her investigations form the core of the show which will include a public garden, soup and an archive.

Beta vulgaris, literally Latin for sugar beet or sugar, can also signify a compliment used to disguise, or render acceptable, something repulsive. Formerly a transvestite club, then a pizza shop that never sold pizzas, the appartment will be demolished in January 2004, as part of the renovation of the Blaauwlakenblok in the Warmoesstraat.

Katie Holten’s project will be the last event to take place in the little building. The Warmoesstraat is one of the oldest streets in Amsterdam and the name originates from ‘warmoes’, an old Dutch word for both a vegetable dish and a vegetable garden. One rarely sees gardens in the centre of Amsterdam, and as space is limited they tend to be small and hidden. It has been proclaimed that gardening is the new sex (The Times, 2002) and in the heart of the red-light district Katie Holten now is creating a public garden - for residents and tourists alike. She is taking weeds from vacant sites and wastelands around Amsterdam and planting them inside the building. This will create a living, green space in the front room that opens onto the street. A local cook will make vegetable soup (pumpkin, warmoes, potato) that visitors to the Beta vulgaris can help themselves to. In the back room of the club some objects from the Tûp Archive, a project that Katie Holten has been developing since 1997, will be on display. At a time when we are being bombarded by flickering images, computer generated photographs and videos, Katie Holten has begun making actual things again. Not as a primitive gesture, but rather as an acknowledgement of the flashy lights of the electronic-age, the artist is rendering material in a low-tech, hands-on way.

The objects on display in the Beta vulgaris will be chosen for their specific relevance to the site and the renovations that will take place in the months to come. Katie Holten’s art practice often includes collaboration with a diverse range of people. In Amsterdam she is meeting residents of the Warmoesstraat including local horticulturalist Renee Windig and the Sisters of Augustinus who give warm meals to people in need.

Katie Holten’s sculptural installations often combine diverse and unexpected elements such as soil, transplanted weeds and text. She repeatedly articulates through silent, discarded materials, which at first glance may seem worthless. In a similar fashion to the nearby massage parlours, the Warmoes 131 Club offers nourishing relaxation and the possibility to forget oneself in the garden of transplanted weeds and Beta vulgaris.