Rob Moonen

Natura Artis Magistra (2007, video)
Goossens Building

Rob Moonen - Natura Artis Magistra (2007)

Nature is the teacher of art, is the translation of the motto Natura Artis Magistra, best known in the Netherlands for the Amsterdam zoo Artis. The university has its own version of this motto, in the form of a work of art by Rob Moonen (1958). It has been hanging in the hall of Goossens Building since 2007 and consists of four screens on which all sorts of phenomena from nature are shown extremely slowly. The rising sun, the rising water, a budding flower.

The artwork by Moonen, who is also a theater designer and curator, was originally intended for Montesquieu Building, for the space on the first floor where a large number of workstations are located. The idea behind the work was that nature is a beautiful world, with a cyclical character. Flowers bud and bloom, but are also doomed to decay, just as the sea advances repeatedly and again, only to retreat again in the end. This cyclical character was normative for the world view in many cultures, until we embraced the idea of progress, which gave rise to a linear perspective, a premise that “we” still hold. The content of the motto Natura Artis Magistra is therefore in line with the classical body of thought. It is good to know that the Latin word Ars (from which Artis is derived) can mean both art and science. Considerations such as these play a role in purchasing such a work for the campus, when a new building is emerging, or has been renovated.

When the spaces in the lawyers' building were completed in 2006, it became apparent that the work would not be shown to full advantage, if at all, in its intended location—hidden as it would be behind workstations and lamps. For this reason, it has been given a place in Goossens Building, in the central hall. Benches have been set up opposite the work, inviting us to take a longer, more attentive look at what nature has to tell us—even if it is in digitalized form.

After installation, the work proved to have an unanticipated added value. It turned out that the ladies at the reception, which at the time was still located in Koopmans Building, found the path between the two buildings dark and somewhat eerie at night. Moonen's work, which is on permanent display, appeared to bring a form of illumination that made the path much safer.

More about history and academic heritage

The Tilburg University academic heritage is a very diverse set of archives, visual materials, collections, devices, recorded stories, et cetera that relate to the history of the university.