Artwork 'ONLINE' unveiled in appreciation of all EUR teachers

The artwork 'ONLINE' was recently unveiled on the tribune stairs next to the fountain on Campus Woudestein. Artist Hester Oerlemans was commissioned by Erasmus University Rotterdam to make the work in the context of the Education Prize 2020, which was awarded last year to all EUR teachers in recognition of their enormous efforts in digitising education during the COVID-19 crisis.

For the Education Award 2020, the jury preferred a tangible object on Campus Woudestein that should serve as a lasting reminder of the corona era, as stated in last year's jury report. This eventually resulted in the work 'ONLINE' designed by artist Hester Oerlemans on the tribune stairs next to the fountain.

The works of artist Hester Oerlemans (1961) are interventions on everyday reality. In a playfully poetic, but also critical way, she reveals her perception of the world. In her works, she plays with the contrast between recognition and alienation.

The artwork consists of different icons, what is their meaning?

Oerlemans: "The 95 icons in this work of art symbolise the event in which we have had to learn how to teach or take online classes in a short space of time. They serve as a means of communication in the virtual world and facilitate the way in which we interact with the computer. The world of icons is a whole visual language in itself. Because of the metal colour they look a bit like hieroglyphics."

How did the choice of these 95 icons come about?

"Before I started my search on the Internet, I first thought about which icons I knew myself. You soon end up with the usual icons such as Skype, e-mail, wifi and so on, but of course there are many more. In addition, the university itself also provided a few icons that strongly emphasise working as a team. Communicating as a team is of course very important."

"There is also an icon of a university building, which represents this whole campus. So I interpreted the icons a bit more broadly than just the usual icons of online teaching or learning."

Was it immediately clear that the stairs by the fountain was the place for this work of art?

"Yes, the place was immediately clear. I know that this staircase is actually a grandstand and that it is also often used to sit on, so I thought it would be nice to give these icons a very real place in the world. It is always a great honour for an artist to hear that they are allowed to make a work for such a wonderful place. Because what could be more wonderful than a place where young people live and work? They are at the beginning of the world, they make new discoveries, the future is here. I consider it a great honour to be able to contribute to that." 

How do you look back on the process? Are you satisfied with the end result?

"It is always an exciting moment when you are working towards the end result, but I am very happy with how it turned out. It was quite a challenge to figure out how to attach the icons to the stairs. At first I thought they should be on top of the stairs, but the architect of the campus pointed out to me that you can see the icons much better by using the rise (difference in height between two successive steps). Now it seems as if the icons are floating and they are really part of the staircase."

"I have already received many reactions from people who don't recognise certain icons, but I think that's a good thing. That way you can keep discussing the meaning of the icons. I hope that as a whole it is clear that they stand for 'online'. In that sense, the title refers to online teaching, but the artwork also consists of lines with icons on them. I like the fact that the artwork has both of these in it."

More information

The Erasmus University Rotterdam has a collection of approximately 2000 works of art, which are spread over campus Woudestein and Erasmus University College. For a number of highlights from the art collection please take a look at this page.

More information about the Education Prize can be found here.

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