Mark Buitenwerf

Subjective Atlas of Fryslân


At the start of my second year at the Academy for Popular Culture I got the chance to work with Annelys de Vet, a Brussels based graphic designer and the creator of the subjective atlas series. For this series Annelys travels the world to create, as the name implies, subjective atlases.


As students we were asked to participate in this project and my friend Jenne-Pieter Stiemsma decided to join. Jenne-Pieter is a born Frisian and has a natural fascination with his home, I do not. I am from the province of Groningen which has an ongoing rivalry with its neighbor Frisia. So In this project group I was the unwelcome outsider, I have even been called saboteur and cultural terrorist by the older Frisian graphic designers during the development of the atlas.


Because of the almost racist critiques I became what they wanted me to be: the stereotype, the hater, the anti-Frisia guy. I loved that role, I loved messing with these old graphic designers who take (in my humble opinion) way to much pride in there little province.


Eventually I only produced one work for the atlas. I said I will make, as a Groninger, a picture of the most beautiful place in Frisia. My antique colleagues agreed with nodding heads, “this will be his eye-opener”. It was not.


In Groningen we have this age old joke: “The most beautiful place in Frisia is the train to Groningen”. So there was only one thing I could do, I photographed the train to Groningen and tried to get it published in the Atlas. The fossils were jumping out of their rocking chairs of anger but Annelys decided to publish it anyway. The image in this context gave a clear understanding of the cultural clash between the two provinces, but also between two generations. Jenne-Pieter didn't care that I made a joke of his home province, neither did other young artists working on the projects. This implies a certain globalization within just two small provinces.


The subjective atlas of Fryslân can be read here