The Layered City


200 monuments on the map

Art in public space often symbolizes a special moment: the opening of a subway line, the completion of a building block, the development of a new urban district. Art as a layer in time. In the case of monuments, the perspective of time is even stronger. They honor moments, events and persons from the past. If you keep your eyes open, a walk through the city can take you on a journey through time in a layered city via the art and the monuments.

The concept of the city as layers of time is reflected in the work of visual artist Gert Jan Kocken. Kocken made a series of map images of various cities in wartime. His maps are assemblages of various strategic, tactical and inventory maps made in wartime by different parties, the occupiers but also the allies. They show where lines of defense were set up, where bombs had to be dropped but also where the Jewish population lived, the infamous ‘dot map’, made by the municipality of Amsterdam for the German occupier: an accurate overview of Jewish homes in the city. The map shows with dots the number of Jews living in each street of Amsterdam. One dot stands for ten Jews. The map that Gert Jan Kocken made of Amsterdam – Depictions of Amsterdam 1940 – 1945 – an ongoing document – now brings together 101 maps, plans and aerial photographs and shows with incredible precision the horrific mechanics of war.

On the occasion of 4 and 5 May this year, at the invitation of the Amsterdam 4 and 5 May Committee, graphic designer Corine Datema used the map that Gert Jan Kocken made of Amsterdam to add yet another layer to Kocken’s layered reality: a layer that makes visible all 200 war monuments that the city of Amsterdam has today. The new map – Commemorating Walking in Amsterdam – by Datema/Kocken invites you to go out into the city, to look for these monuments, the stories that go with them and to make a journey through time. That journey is given even more power by a series of podcasts that are linked to the walking route. 26 narrative podcasts are linked to the historic sites and tell about the wartime in Amsterdam, persecution, occupation, oppression and resistance. The walking map(s) were added to newspaper Het Parool  on May 1st as a special supplement and can also be viewed online from that moment; a new beautiful and valuable monument in time.