Dutch Language Blog

Tinkebell: A brush with contemporary art in the Netherlands Posted by on Jan 23, 2011 in Dutch Language

This past week, a new editorial by Rutger Ponzen in de Volkstrant revisited the Tinkebell phenomenon.  I’d never heard of her before, but she’s a Dutch artist (Tinkebell is, predictably, her pseudonym; her real name is Katinka Simonse) who has made herself famous (at least in Holland) by making art about animals that has tended toward the shocking.  In 2004, she euthanized her dying cat, skinned it herself, and made a handbag.  In 2008, she created an installation called “SAVE THE PETS” which consisted of many hamsters rolling around in Chinese-manufactured hamster balls.

Both projects received a huge amount of negative attention; indeed, a newer project of hers has been to identify many of the anonymous Internet correspondents who repeatedly sent her death threats.  She has published their identities and their communications in a book — Dearest Tinkebell.  As you’ll see if you listen to her talk about both the hamsters and the cat bag in the clips below, the main thrust behind her work seems to be the idea that those who find her art cruel are fundamentally hypocritical, since there is tremendous animal cruelty at work in the day-to-day mass consumption of food, etc.



One of the questions posed by Ponzen’s Volkskrant piece is whether Tinkebell’s work should be categorized as “art,” provocative though it may be.  That argument, of course, is as old as the hills – or, at least, as old as the urinal.  (In fact, one of my favorite lines from Ponzen’s piece asks whether you can giet als kunstenaar een limonadeflesje leeg in de Noordzee. I tried to find out whether this was a reference to a real-life project, or just a product of his whimsy.  I sort of hope it is the latter.)

In any case, art is as art does – and Tinkebell makes a lot of art.  Her website is full of powerful political punches worth taking a look at.  The tone of her work – sort of a sinister girliness – is a little uncomfortable.  But maybe that’s the point.

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  1. Sander:

    Wim T. Schippers is the artist who goot een limonadeflesje in de Noordzee.

    • Elena:

      @Sander Oh, thanks! I’m glad to know that. The Dutch are very good at this kind of conceptual art, it seems to me.

  2. Carla Kooij:

    I don’t know what to think. Karina seems like a very nice person … and her cat that died looks like my cat who I love very much (Borre) but I could never “objectify” him into a purse after he passes. To me he is as important as a person and I don’t think people would want to be turned into handbags after their death, something to be tossed around or put on the dirty ground like a meaningless object. He will be placed in a coffin with a velvet or lambswool bed with his favorite toys and hopefully go to cat heaven. I am married to a Nederlander maan, and I think he would be appalled at this too … he loves our cat like our baby since we could not have children of our own. It is really not showing your cat any respect, if you really truly loved him, by turning him into a purse.

    • Elena:

      @Carla Kooij I know…I really don’t think I could stomach it either. Though I wonder if she used the bag or kept it as a sort of shrine to him/her?