Hogeschool der Kunsten Den Haag
It Takes My Mind Off Things
It Takes My Mind Off Things is a wonderment at and interrogation of the shooting culture in the Netherlands. In this provocative piece, Robin Butter poses the question: has the Netherlands always been a ‘secretive’ gun-nation? Secretive in that it has a long-standing fixation with firearms that is systematically hidden and denied. In her uncloaking of this issue, Butter’s point of departure is the country’s strict control over nature; the Netherlands is a nation that has literally reclaimed land from the sea to build its country. This trend of man bending nature to his will continues in the Dutch approach to cultivating flora and fauna, a practice that necessitates hunting. Butter goes further in examining the firearms fixation in all of its many manifestations: from the political-economic sphere of transnational interactions – the Netherlands places in the top five for creating firearm components in Europe – to the socio-cultural realm of the individual – the joy many Dutchmen find when firing at shooting ranges, a tradition that has existed for over a hundred years. The catalyst for Butter’s exploration of the Netherlands as a gun nation is the 2011 shooting at a shopping mall in Alphen a/d Rijn that left seven dead, including the assailant who turned his gun on himself, and seventeen wounded. The shooter was a member of a shooting range, with a registered firearms license which allowed him to keep his weapons at home. The government and the Dutch people were stunned by how such a tragedy could unfold in their country. As a result of the Alphen a/d Rijn tragedy a dark shadow was cast over the shooting culture in the Netherlands. The rules and guidelines for shooting clubs have been re-examined and sharpened, with the government mandating that clubs take responsibility for their members. But what does this responsibility mean? Ultimately, how can it be determined who is dangerous and who is trustworthy?