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Friday March 16 2012

Art on the Observatory of Felix Meritis in 2013

Felix Meritis celebrates 225 years of Merits, Connection and Enlightenment in 2013 and contributes to Amsterdam 2013.

During the festive year Amsterdam 2013 we look back on the construction of the canals 400 years ago and their importance to the city. Felix Meritis is situated right in the centre of this area, in what is now the World Heritage zone of Amsterdam.
 
Merits, Connection and Enlightenment
The Felix Meritis Society (Felix Meritis is Latin for ‘happy through merit') was founded by forty keen and prosperous citizens of Amsterdam in 1777. In 1788 they moved into the purpose-built Neo-Classical city palace which they called the "Temple of Enlightenment". Here major cultural and scientific progress was made and the society was to become a flourishing centre for art, culture and science for almost a century. The beautiful concert hall was the capital's most important music temple where Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Brahms and others performed.
   
Pictures Thomas Schlijper

Nowadays Felix Meritis' mission is still to redefine the ideas of the Enlightenment. International networking, international debating and daring new projects have made the building once again an important cultural centre in the heart of historic Amsterdam.

Felix Meritis is an independent European centre for Art, Culture and Science as well as an (inter)national meeting place in Amsterdam. In Felix Meritis art, culture, philosophy and politics are discussed every day. Under the slogan Connecting Cultures we foster the European dialogue and participate in national and international cultural networks.

225th Anniversary
Felix Meritis celebrates its 225th anniversary in 2013, when Amsterdam celebrates the 400th anniversary of its canals.

It is going to be a spectacular year in which Amsterdam will bring culture, innovation and commerce together not only for the people of Amsterdam but also for the millions of visitors who come to the city every year. As one of the biggest public monuments on the canals, Felix Meritis will fulfil a central role in the programme Amsterdam canals 400 years. The coinciding of this festive year with our lustrum is a unique opportunity to show the monumental building in all its diversity and all the activities that take place in it, its historical function and its function today.

Observatory: a short reflection
The Observatory of Felix Meritis is the spot where the "Felixians" studied the celestial bodies and where Arthur Schopenhauer enjoyed a splendid view over the city.
 
Pictures Ron Dijkman

During the day the observers pointed their telescopes at the city, during the night they pointed them at the sky. The Observatory is the oldest astronomical observatory in the Netherlands that was designed specifically for scientific observation and which still exists today. Since then the Observatory has not been accessible to the public. With this jubilee project the Observatory will be open to public once again, after more than 200 years, and finally retrieve its original function as an observation post and meridian of the city.

The artwork  ‘Amsterdam of  above_Amsterdam of below'
With this installation on the Observatory, artist and philosopher Joseph Semah will complete the final part of his three-piece artwork in Felix Meritis. Part one, Closed/Open- After Sovereignty, Fear, Hospitality and Friendship, is in the hall of Felix Meritis, part two, Autobiographical Memory, was placed in the lift shaft on the 220th anniversary of Felix Meritis.
     
Part I and II of the three-piece artwork in Felix Meritis by Joseph Semah

This latest art installation marks the significance of Felix Meritis for the city, its pioneering role in the development of the Dutch academic practice of astronomy, and especially its international and interdisciplinary approach to art, culture, science and commerce.

With this work Joseph Semah aims to add a physical element to the Felix Meritis slogan Connecting Cultures, and to unveil one of the city's best-kept secrets - the magnificent view - in a special way.                            

A marble floor on which the celestial sky is displayed will be placed on the Observatory, interwoven with the canals of Amsterdam. Four extraordinarily shaped telescopes will be attached to this to afford a view of the whole of Amsterdam. However, instead of being pointed at the sky, as in the old days of the Observatory, these telescopes will be pointed at prominent historic and modern buildings.
             
Drawings by Joseph Semah

Citations from world literature will be attached to these buildings in blue neon letters. In this way, literature will be connected to architecture, the modern will be connected to the historical. The citations cannot be seen with the naked eye, but must be read through the telescopes of the Observatory.

The Citations
The citations come from books and writings that have been of significance for the city and are indissolubly connected with the rich history of Felix Meritis. These texts connect the past with the present and future of the city and its innovative culture and creativity.

The festive opening of the historically significant Observatory, that still offers one of the highest vistas of Amsterdam, is planned for April 2013 as a kick-off event of the anniversary activities of Felix Meritis and the celebratory year in which Amsterdam commemorates 400 years of canals.

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