A moment of jubilation caught in PITCAIRN

the Pitcairn Museum of Contemporary Art

A moment of jubilation caught in PITCAIRN


Reading time 6 minutes


When approaching a work of art, an observer has a number of options. For instance, one might read the description beforehand, gaining certain context before meeting the work. Another would disregard the act of reading and focus entirely on the piece, so to say, allowing oneself to independently experience. The third perhaps would choose to only hear about the work be it from the artist himself/herself, another observer, an art critic, etc. The fourth would simply pass by the work not performing any action. 

The sequence in which these options are applied significantly affects the narrative that the observer forms about the work. Moreover, the infinite paths of interpretation that follow after the familiarization with the work call upon what Roland Barthes firmly stated in the essay “The Death Of The Author”, emphasizing the notion that the viewer is solely responsible for the creation of meaning-making1, and suggesting that the work of art should exist on its own. 



For the edition of Sara Postolle’s work Soon displayed in PITCAIRN museum of contemporary art, I have taken upon two options of observation:  having an open interpretation while solely glancing at the work. Thereby creating a personal narrative suggested by the artist’s installation. While for the second opportunity, inviting the artist for a cup of coffee. Meeting the work through the perspective of an artist. And searching for paths where both points of observation meet.


Warm brown sand and a lone palm tree appear to be the major indicators that PITCAIRN has morphed into a desolate, desert-like environment. There stands a replica of a bus stop- on its bench, a leftover book. The yellow lighting allows me to believe it must be warm. The billboard on the space’s pristine white walls, on the other hand, entices my full attention. It inquires a statement: “WHEN WILL YOU RETURN”. The main elements are displayed in an environment that coheres to the statement. Nonetheless, I must ask myself, “who are we waiting for?”. As if the whole scene is there for the protagonist to return. Yet the question is, who is this main character? 



The desert-like environment, the bus stop, or the voice of the statement on the billboard?



Could I be the main protagonist? 

Sit at a bus stop on a lonely desert. 

Knowing little if the bus will come, or where it will take me to. 

The sun’s heat soothes my body, thoughts begin to wander.

Am I ready to return? 






I continue to gaze. Perhaps, the statement “WHEN WILL YOU RETURN” embodies a symbolic hum emanating from desolate dwellings. As though Postolle’s abandoned environment invites reflection on the continuum of dislocation and constant population movements in search for (better) homes. 

Where the bus stop accommodates contemplation. The in-between, where one could have come from and where one has gone. 



However, when we met for a cup of coffee, the wanderings experienced within Postolle’s installation came into the conversation. After inviting Sara to share about the process of Soon, I was delighted to learn that Sara’s personal experience is closely related to being a continual migrant. Sara Postolle was born in Poland but migrated frequently during her adolescence. It has become a statement within Sara’s artistic practice when asked about her background. As for the exhibition Soon, a specific timeframe has been taken from Postolle’s memories. That of having spent her youth in Dubai. Intimate jubilation of memories left behind in The United Emirates has come into being through Soon. Nevertheless, the recurring use of the bus stop stems from a specific space located in earlier childhood memories. Delving deeper together with Sara into her recollections, the dominant character that kept coming up was her grandmother. In particular, the location of Sara’s grandmother’s place. The departing point of the creation of the bus stop comes from an existent bus stop that has been standing in front of Sara’s grandmother’s house. To take an excerpt from Sara’s bachelor thesis:



“My grandmother lives in house number 17, and if you walk through the garden and out of the back gate of this house, you will find a footpath with red railings guarding off the four lane two way road. Roughly twenty meters ahead stands a bus stop, which dons the colours of white, green and yellow, and accepts a multitude of people to wait under its shelter as they embark on a journey of transit from destination to destination.” 2



While dwelling together with Sara through her creative process, we have touched upon a subject of child innocence. Sara exemplifies the value of the utilization of imagination and fantasy, which allows her to travel to realms detached from linear time or fixed locations. In doing so, Sara is able to incorporate varying pieces of her past into different contexts and environments. As a result, Soon has evolved into an environmental hybrid that the artist’s fantasy allowed to create. The bus stop’s symbolism becomes a point of narrative for Sara’s reminiscence of the past. As Sara herself said: “The bus stop is Sara Postolle and Sara Postolle is the bus stop”. My curiosity that was fixated on the statement “WHEN WILL YOU RETURN” crystallized into what an inner child, deep within us, is asking. Intuitively, using Soon as the exhibition title, Sara answers the question. 

Having approached the exhibition Soon as an innocent observer and later meeting the artist, I have experienced varying layers of perception. The work’s independent narrative as well as the artist’s thorough story. While placing the two perspectives in relation to the installation, what has remained in my memory is the sincerity Sara revealed about the work. The work was revealed to me as a suggestive map of the artist’s lived experience. As of being a migrant myself, on the other hand, the observer’s narration allowed me to dwell into a contemplative mode of intimate feelings towards the longing of homecoming. 



Klaudija Ylaite 2022.


1.   Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” Image, Music, Text, translated by Stephen Heath, Hill and Wang, 1977, pp. 142–48. 

2.  Postolle, Sara. 2021. Suggestionalism.


Gedempte Zuiderdiep 132

9711 HM


Opening Hours

Opened Daily 24/7

Free of charge

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© Pitcairn 2022

Making a scene

the Pitcairn Museum of Contemporary Art


The artist………………………………. a character played by Sara

The curator……………………………. a character played by Wim

The recipient……….………………… a character played by Janny

The critic……………………………….. a character played by Maartje

The Scene


Sand. Everywhere up until the corners. Bright light lands on the red sand covering the floor creating an amber atmosphere. Left, in the front of the stage a bus stop, a booklet lying open on the bench, some papers pile out of the bin. Behind the stop a wall hiding the left side of the back wall of the stage. Right back a palm tree. On the back wall a canvas reads: ‘WHEN WILL YOU RETURN’.  The recipient is already on stage, reading this, with it’s back turned to us. While the recipient starts discovering the space, the critic enters from (somewhere) behind the wall.


The critic: There you are! Thank you for coming. Well, for being here, already. No problem finding it I see. I went to the exhibition last week. I am very curious about your experience.


The recipient: Quiet. Peaceful. That question confuses me. nods to the back 


The critic: Feelings?


The recipient: At first, yes. And no. Yes, the warmth, but no stimulus. 


Walks to the booklet in the bus stop, turns some pages and sighs.


The critic: Thoughts? What are you thinking now, like, the things that pop into your… mind?


The recipient: This light, have you noticed? pause This light is lovely. At first, yes. But then pause, facing down at the sand under the feet I look for water but I don’t see it. Just sand. It’s not warmth, it is drought!


The critic: What a beautiful reaction to this place. Rich… and also very complex.


The recipient starts panicking, walking to the center of the stage.


The recipient: Thoughts, feelings, questions. Let’s get out of here. I want to go. breathing heavily This warmth is killing me. Could it kill me? There’s no life here, no water. The critic points at the well, constructed with two large tires  Drinking water, yeah, for people. Buh! Not for plants. Where’s the greenery? It’s all gone! The critic looks at the recipient inquisitive and lifts arm to point again Fuck that palm. I need shade, real trees. The heavy breathing intensifies Doom… 


The critic: That’s big. Are you escalating? 


They now stand next to the well looking into the abyss. While the critic strokes the tires to investigate its texture the recipient’s glance disappears into the hole and the attention turns inwards. Dark places.


The recipient: Bare…  Eerie… Lonely. Now that I think about it, pause. Slowly turning upward again, staring at nothing but in the direction of the bus stop I’ve been to this place before. I can see myself reading that book. On my boat, disconnected from the fast-paced reality. Floating, free.


The critic nudges the recipient from the well to the bench. Their pace is slow, not cautious but thoughtful, the eyes of the critic focussed on the recipient. When the recipient is seated, the critic breathes a full unwinding sigh and starts walking again.


The critic: But also alone! It seems like this place is made to come and go but I don’t see any of us coming and going. You were here before me. Floating around as if it is nothing. How did you get in?


Footsteps, no door, footsteps on sand: the curator.


The critic: Wow, we totally forgot the time. 


The curator: It looks like the actors have left. Peeped around the corner.


Without leaving the bench the recipient proceeds.


The recipient: I enjoy the absence of others. It’s mostly other people that make me feel alone. I actually never thought one second about who has been here. And whoever has been here, did not stay long. I know it for sure.


The curator: I guess they will return soon. The adventure has yet to begin.


The critic: Last week I was here, passing by on my bike. There was a woman in the room behind this place. She saw me and smiled. So I smile-waved back at her. It is actually weird that we could never meet her in this place although the stage is set perfectly.


The curator: That phrasing! It is the very first time that I see this place as a theater decor. It opens new perspectives. Possibilities of the place.


Suddenly the recipient arises and with a raised voice:


The recipient: What do we eat here? What’s there behind that left wall? And is it even possible to leave?!


The critic: I wonder where the artist is. She out there? Could you maybe ask her if she wants to talk to me?


The Curator: You better call her yourself.


The critic walks up and down the stage. Looking behind the wall. 


The recipient: It is no suggestion, we just should – not – be – here. Maybe it suggests that we shouldn’t be here. Are we able to leave?


While the critic decides not to give up looking for an entrance, the curator sits down next to the recipient.


The recipient: I’ve been here before, you know.


The curator: This place has been at my studio before.


The recipient: What?


The curator: The night before the artist had to put the things in order, I took this place to my studio. 


The critic: Yells in the hope this will reach the artist somewhere I was wondering… uch. I was wondering if you wanted to back-and-forth a bit on your exhibition!? We hear her falling behind the wall Hello?


The curator: There she was. The artist lives in Groningen so she decided to install all the things herself. She stood before my door armed with all the ingredients and a spoon. Ladle. Everything was well thought and figured out. Up until the very end. Then she changed her plans.


The critic crawls through the sand from behind the wall. Still yelling, now with no clear direction:


The critic:  I wondered… Where did that sand come from? Did the sand travel by your hands? What did you do with the grains and what does it mean? pause, sits down towards the canvas on the back wall Did you see how all this sand got into this bright space?


The curator: And the bus she brought, returned back home. The suggestion remains. Stands up, walks to the critic to explain After all, she doesn’t call herself a ‘suggestionalist’ for nothing. So yes, for the first time I saw someone decide on the most warm light this LED can provide. Nice how it enhances the orange color of the desert sand up to the point it involves the walls. A blistering void but also almost domestic, in contrast to the cold street out there. Squats down, runs sand through hand


The critic: On the one hand the warm color and the softness of this wavy surface is appealing, but I find it estranging too. I have trouble connecting to this place. Like I am not really here. I think I have a fantasy problem. It is because of the bus. It seems such a simple reference, a suggestion. Stop, bus, bus stop, bus. Do we know if it just left or that it’s coming?


All three start to look around, left and right, if the bus is near. By moving back and forth through the sand traces of their passing are formed. On the front of the stage, the critic stops for a moment. Earnest.


This quite impassable area would suggest to me that not many buses pass. I can imagine the bus but it is hard to put myself in here – believing the situation. It’s literally hard to move in sand, let alone for a bus. 


The curator is the first to walk back to the bus stop. With hands on the knees the curator sits down in the center of the bench, leaving the hands attached to the knees.


The curator: The adventure has still to begin. I expect the actors will probably come back soon…


The recipient returns to the bench too, grabs the book and sits down left to the curator.


The recipient: Now that I think about it. I have been here before.


The critic watches them over the right shoulder, then turns around and walks towards the bench.


The critic: It’s hard to move. 


The critic joins the curator and the recipient. They wait. Slowly the warm light dims leaving behind one hazy beam on the canvas. 

Maartje Terpstra 2022


Gedempte Zuiderdiep 132

9711 HM


Opening Hours

Opened Daily 24/7

Free of charge

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© Pitcairn 2022

The travel of the lost child

the Pitcairn Museum of Contemporary Art


reading time: 8 minutes


This text hopes to set the tone for successive writings. It is, indeed, the first of a series of reflections related to PMCA’s exhibitions program. I hope, dear reader, that you will excuse its lengthy introduction: I justify it for the importance of sharing the story that brought me to define my own method, and its peculiarity.


All started while discussing the art-critical project Arcade with my fellow friends and writers Maartje and Klaudija. In order to allow a multiplicity of perspectives on the same subject of inquiry (aka each single exhibition), we came up with the idea of pursuing a specific critical path of experimentation each. I could not but consider my own position: within the team, I am the only one who is not based in Groningen, the city where the Pitcairn museum is located. In fact, I am writing from Italy, near Milano. Instead of following my usual procedure, I decided to challenge my own rules and use the distance involved in my situation as a tool, translating geographical separation into a methodological device: I chose to limit my “working material” to remote sources: PMCA’s website and Instagram information.

I had the feeling of being a detective of a cold case, looking for traces in order to solve a mystery. But this feeling quite soon turned into something uncomfortable, and the very metaphor went bad. Sneaky assumptions carried by it had become problematic: that an artwork had to be looked at as if it were a puzzle, as if it were a problem waiting for a solution. I asked myself: Do I need to find clues to solve the artwork, or is the artwork a clue to solve a mystery? Can it be solved at all?



I still do not know the answer, but I found some benefits in changing perspective, which I share with you: I realized that I was less a detective than a cartographer. This metaphor better conveys how I feel about art criticism, and hopefully it will also stimulate your curiosity. It keeps the thrill involved in dealing with something new, but it dissipates the belief (even the need) of decisive elucidations. The similitude could spark further interpretative features, but I’ll just expand on its role in defining how images – the effective material of this text – are approached here. Images, and their playful transmissions, are the generator of these words, which do not depend on analyses of the artist’s oeuvre or person, nor from the exhibition in itself (which I did not even see). Echoes and linkages between images are at the core of the process. One picture called for another, and following my intuition, I came to connect disparate fields, starting from the thumbnail of Sara Postolle’s exhibition Soon – a lonely girl sitting straight, while waiting at a bus stop – and ending up with a cacophony of visual references.


For this text, I hijacked iconography, or better flirted with it: the methodical research of sources, the reconstruction of classifications, and the reference to art historical movements were abandoned, while the importance of the subject matter was kept dear, together with the consequent understanding of representation as continuous developments of visual repertoires, and constellations of schemes and motifs. Aby Warburg spoke of pathosformel, a term that refers to the pictorial functioning of cultural memory,  a mechanism where the conventional expression (form) of an emotional content (pathos) creates recognizable figures, which travel through time and space. Inspired by Warburg and his last unfinished project Mnemosyne, I let myself wander between a forest of pictures, following a path of resemblances, in order to find a relevant figure, a trope. I have charted this land, creating visual mind maps, so to share this journey with you. One map is general, it presents the whole of pictorial constellations developed from the starting image. The next paragraphs will attempt to reconstruct the passages and linkages that build the map’s core elements. The other map -on a black background – is a visual bibliography, which reunites at once texts dear to me for both this theoretical framework, and other books connected to my interpretation of Sara Postolle’s project [link]. These are tools which aim at offering inspiration for further explorations and reveries.



The following reflection is mostly based on a small parade of three characters/images: Sara Postolle’s previously-described thumbnail, Chihiro – the 10-years old protagonist of a phantasmagorical series of adventures – from japanese animation Spirited Away (2001) by Hayao Miyazaki, and Shinji Ikari – the traumatized teenager whose destiny is to pilot a huge humanoid robot to protect humanity – from ’90s mecha anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-96). Sara, Chihiro, and Shinji do share a visual thread. But what do they exactly have in common? And how are they connected to children’s stories such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince and traditional tales like Hansel and Gretel (other classics belong to this train of thoughts, like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)? If you are curious to know, please continue reading.


That sitting figure, silent in its loneliness and stillness, was not new to me. The mixture of departure and abandonment related to the picture was also conveyed by other little human beings I had already met somewhere in the past. The pose sparked the snapshot of a character from Miyazaki’s animations: after a short image search, it appeared to be Chihiro, traveling on a train, patiently waiting to reach her destination, accompanied by supernatural creatures. Sara and Chihiro both sit straight, naked legs as a repository of resting hands. It is a composed and self-controlled posture, almost wistful or pensive. Almost. Look at how they are silent and  lonely, no matter if they travel by themselves or with others. The images fluctuate, out of their narrative context. But there seems to be some narrative elements in common, or they might be sharing the very power of narrativity. Sure: it is a travel, there must be a story. But it is not just a story that they share, there is something else. A reason, maybe, surely a vibe, suffused with solitude and nostalgia.


Their differences seem to be of little significance, almost a proof that what matters is a common emotional core. Sara is waiting for the bus, Chihiro is already sitting on a train. Although different, these moments belong to the same continuum, a personal journey caught in its thoughtfulness. The instant is that suspended condition typical of passive travels where presence and absence, movement and stillness interact and intertwine. It is both a time and a space for reverie and reflection. Here Shinji appears, protagonist of agonizingly long sequences of train trips throughout many episodes. He spends a considerable amount of time sitting on express trains: sometimes alone, albeit surrounded by many passengers, sometimes in an apparent dialogue (actually a visualization of his own inner monologue). In one early episode, he just keeps staying on the train for the whole railway circuit: refraining from social interactions makes him lost in a journey with no final destination. In later episodes, his doubts take the form of conversations with a fellow pilot, the eerie girl Rei Ayanami.


Soon, Sara Postolle, 2022, Website image, detail. Courtesy the artist.



 As a group of related pictures, Sara’s thumbnail, Chihiro’s travel and Neon Genesis Evangelion train sequences depict what I call the trope of the lost child’s travel: the figure of a child in the stillness of a sitting journey, and all the emotions it carries within. I cannot but emphasize how this peculiar trope thematizes the condition of traveling in relation to childhood and loss: all these figures are not adults, even if they move in an incomprehensible adult world. Its emotional scope intertwines two main dimensions – traveling as waiting, and departure as abandonment – within the domain of childhood, a land where child-like emotional stances are recollected. The powerful symbolism of a journey appears here in the passivity of a traveling child, and is perceived as a waiting moment, a condition for daydreaming or staging the hallucinatory dimension of a suffering consciousness. It strictly relates to the dimension of departure as abandonment.


Stepping back from the images, we can see that these children share similar stories too: they are all abandoned in more or less literal ways. Sometimes like Shinji, it is a crude fact  (his mother dies, and his father transfers his parental rights). Other times, they are left alone by their parents – as not being heard or cared of. Chihiro, for instance, is obliged to leave her friends behind due to her father’s relocation in a remote town. Several degrees of  grief subtly color the act of traveling, as if it were set in motion by absence and loss.

Stretching, maybe with a hazardous move, this reflection, many stories of and for children appear to match this trope’s complex emotional atmosphere: Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, as well Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classics, but also old tales like Hansel and Gretel: their protagonists are children who happen to be traveling through wondrous and frightful adventures – perhaps reveries or hallucinations – once left alone by adults, for any kind of reason.



Sara Postolle’s exhibition project started this journey, setting the suspended time for trains of thoughts to occur. After all these words and what they managed to evoke, the time has come to say goodbye. Please, close your eyes and let childhood memories take your hand. Savor the reveries brought to mind, embrace the nostalgia: you earned the ticket for this fantasy ride. The bus is coming. Soon.



Elisabetta Cuccaro 2022.


Gedempte Zuiderdiep 132

9711 HM


Opening Hours

Opened Daily 24/7

Free of charge

Social Media

© Pitcairn 2022