It takes my mind off things


Fine art print, dibond aluminum mounted
Year: 2015
Edition: 96x120 cm edition size: 4 48x60 cm edition size: 6

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. From the political-
economic sphere of transnational interactions - the Netherlands
place in the top five for creating firearm components in Europe - to
the socio-cultural realm of the individual - the joy many Dutchman
find when firing at shooting ranges, a tradition that has existed for
over hundreds of years. Think of the famous Dutch painting of the
‘Nightwatch’ by Rembrandt van Rijn probably one of the oldest
paintings of a shooters range, in that time called a marksman guild
being portrayed. Without realizing firearms are deeply rooted in the
soil of the Dutch cultivation. Members of Royal Dutch family have
always served as the patron saint, until the death of Prince Bernard
in 2004. This made the sport an elitist phenomenon. There are in the
Netherlands a legion of shooting clubs, some of which are existing
for over a hundred years, where weekly Dutch men and woman
empty with full gratification their magazines. With over eight hundred
shooting ranges in the Netherlands with an average of hundred fifty
members, this is a large group within the Dutch society.

In 2011 a horrible shooting incident took place in the Netherlands,
in Alphen aan de Rijn. The young Tristan van der Vlis shot several
people in a shopping mall, before taking his own life. The shooter
was a member of a range, with a registered weapon licence, which
allowed him to keep his weapon at home in spite of his psychotic
and suicidal tendencies. In the wake of the incident, not only the
government but everybody wondered how this was allowed to happen.
With just a few shots, Tristan van der Vlis cast a dark shadow
over the Dutch shooting culture. The pressure on the clubs is present;
the rules have been examined and adjusted. Now the clubs have
been given a huge responsibility by the government. Responsibility
for their members.

But what does this responsibility mean? Do we really have to worry?
Or is it a matter of stigmatization, where we distrust every gun enthusiast?
Even though only three percent of the shooting incidents in
the Netherlands happen with a registered weapon? It leaves the
overarching question; how can you even decide who is dangerous
and who is not?

Robin Butter