welcome... ...stranger


The Stadhouderskade on the edge of the city centre, near a busy crossing. Traffic rushes by. On one side water with houseboats, on the other stately houses with interior design on the ground floor. Access to no. 112 is between the shop windows of a furniture shop. Behind the anonymous metal front door, a company rather than a house seems to be hiding. One nameplate attracts the attention: 'Welcome Stranger'. Inside, a steep, dark staircase leads to a narrow landing. In the kitchen, a glass, a knife and a coffee filter roam here and there. The house seems abandoned but used: as if the residents have just moved in or have yet to move in.

Through the open door to the front room, a peculiar staging is visible. Two large objects fight for space and attention. A steel frame with hard and stiff leather tongues hanging - a boxing ring, a seat or a gymnastics machine - is besieged by a cockpit coming out of the ceiling.

Like a submarine or spaceship, it spies space through its portholes. Yet this strange bulge does fit in with the interior. Its neatly plastered surface makes it acceptable for part of the ceiling to hang lower.

Here, too, are clear traces of habitation. Empty curtain rails, bare walls, a halo of fingerprints around the light buttons. Forgotten to remove or deliberately maintained? That question keeps returning. 

The smooth, pink dot of chewing gum next to the frame in the middle of the wall only attracts attention at second glance. Like a stinging crankbait or a clownish figure with a pointed hat, it sticks out of the wall exactly at mouth height, smooth like the leather of the tongues, but also supple, chewy and malleable. Small as it is, it imposes its absurd presence and interferes in the struggle.
Compared to this hustle and bustle, the back room is almost empty. Attention is drawn to the space itself and to the incidence of sunlight. In the middle of the wall opposite the chimney, a second stick of chewing gum sticks out to the front. The contrast with the front room is so great that the whole floor seems to tilt towards the street. From the landing, the stairs turn to the second floor. In the front room, the submarine appears to be a sitting pit with cushions of glossy fabric and skai. The atmosphere is distinctly homely, a young interior, in fresh colours with a wooden rack full of houseplants in front of the window. Only the name cards next to the plants turn them into objects on display. On the wall opposite the chimney a third chewing gum sculpture, adapted to the atmosphere: soft green.

The seat is pleasant and soft, an intimate place for two. Through the built-in washing machine windows, the shadows of the visitors on the ground floor are visible. Vice versa, the same thing happens: whoever sits in the pit knows they are being watched from below. 

An open door gives access to a windowless intermediate room, lit by light bulbs. A second plant rack stands in this unreal, pink glow. A list of light measurements on the wall makes the intention clear: the plants have been installed on light sensitivity. In the back room, the series of plant racks continues. On the window sill a bottle of Pokon and a plant syringe. Leaves, white wood, sunlight and the plaster on the wall (with a white chewing gum sculpture at the familiar spot) create an impressionistic greenhouse atmosphere here.

(Schwartz, Ineke (1993) Welcome Stranger, p.29,30)