Job Koelewijn (b. 1962)

Untitled (Be more specific)

Image from Untitled (Be more specific) by Allen & Overy
Year: 2003
Material: Stamp of pigment and Vicks inhalation rub
Edition: 12
Dimensions: 140 × 170 cm

The Allen & Overy conference room forms the heart of the office. In line with the functionalist vision of Dirk Roosenburg – the architect of the building – this space has become a comfortable spot where clients and employees are updated on various (legal) developments. It is also where regular external and internal office events take place, in which interaction is a key element. Therefore, the green wall stamp with the text “Be more specific” is well placed here.

Job Koelewijn’s stamp Be more specific is one of the many works of art inspired by Baruch Spinoza’s book Ethics. The stamp pad alone is colossal, measuring 140 x 170 cm, purchased by the De Pont Museum in Tilburg. Koelewijn documented that the stamp can be used 12 times altogether. On such occasions, a temporary loan is requested from the museum and the work is transported under the supervision of a curator. The stamp pad is covered with green pigment and Dampo, a menthol-like substance that is used for symptoms of shortness of breath. For Koelewijn (“I smell Dampo, therefore I am”), it is a well-known fragrance that brings back memories from his youth. His asthma-ridden brother was regularly creamed with it.

The words “Be more specific” can be interpreted in several ways. When someone gets bogged down in fuzzy language, making the story impossible to follow during a meeting, another member of the meeting may subtly point towards the wall, the way you used to ostentatiously look at your nails. Spinoza comes into play when we look for Koelewijn’s deeper message. According to Spinoza, ignorance is the main obstacle to the pursuit of a virtuous life. By formulating more accurately, we advance in our thinking process and thus arrive at solutions.

Putting the stamp on the wall in the Apollo House turned into a real performance, with four partners having to provide physical assistance to create a clear print. In 2020, Koelewijn recalled the act of stamping in 2012. However much he stood (and still) stands behind the principles of Spinoza, he now finds it just as important “to be more general”. In today’s day and age, this is the only way for Koelewijn to make a connection with “the other”: creating mutual understanding through broad knowledge and an open mind.

Image from Untitled (Be more specific) by Allen & Overy