19 May till 28 June 2011
Short texts by Lars Brekke, Edward Clive, Edmund Cook, Jane Fawcett, Toon Fibbe, Anna Okrasko, Anouchka Oler, Catarina de Oliveira, Kirsty Roberts, Deniz Unal
The project ‘Nocation: Hello to the People’ has been a co-operation with the Piet Zwart Institute, Master of Fine Art Program, Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam. For six weeks Kunsthuis SYB has functioned as a laboratory for education and active reflection.
The location and the area often function as preconditions for artists to develop and produce work. That is why ‘Nocation’ has been a search for methods to get to know a certain location, to scan, to gather information, to produce knowledge and to get this across to a local audience. For instance, in what way does an artist relate to a new or different location? Is the dialogue that the artist-in-residence implicitly needs to start with the place, the flora and fauna, historical, local or regional traditions, a forced construction, a narrow framework or a stimulating challenge? The title ‘Nocation’ contains yet another research question, namely, whether residency programmes merely function as a form of tourism, holiday or leisure activity for the stressed cultural producer. By exploring the parameters of the phenomenon artist-in-residence as a starting-point, students divided in groups have resided in SYB. Each in four sessions of a week they have worked on the project individually or collectively. During the fifth week all participants came together in order to give a presentation in which several strategies and approaches were included. A conversation between Maja Bekan, member of the programme committee of SYB, teacher Bernd Krauss and the students were part off the program.
You can read more in the short statements about the results and the experiences at Kunsthuis SYB, written by the participants: Lars Brekke, Edward Clive, Edmund Cook, Jane Fawcett, Toon Fibbe, Anna Okrasko, Anouchka Oler, Catarina de Oliveira, Kirsty Roberts, Deniz Unal.
Anna Okrasko & Toon Fibbe:
Out of shared interest in the use of public space we decided to make a tobacco kiosk designed by Katarzyna Kobro and Wladyslaw Strzeminski. The original design was never realized, so with incomplete drawings of the design we made the cabin that stood in Beetsterzwaag for a few days. We wanted it to become a space, which showed the traces of how we constructed it, to keep the hands of the makers visible. The cabin was free to use for any purpose whether it would be to shelter from the rain or to vandalize it. We made postcards where the images of the cabin were combined with other ‘landmarks’ of Beetsterzwaag.
Few weeks before I came to Beetsterzwaag, I watched this documentary about the daily life of three children from the same family. They lived in India and were going to work every weekend at their father’s brick factory. They were repeating these same gestures, almost organically: Scatter some dust in the rectangular mould; gather mud in order to throw it in the mould as well. Beat it all against the floor to avoid air pocket, I assume. Then turn it upside down and tap the right side and then the left side back and forth quite strongly. This mechanical routine and hand power factory did really fascinate me. As a first proposition for this ‘Nocation’ project, I tried to apply this as a technique or as a skill and to create a shape-factory as well. My original desire was to produce a sort of new garden gnome for the people of the village for whom it will maybe take some time before they notice it, or maybe it will never be discovered. The shape that I chose to repeat could be called a natural tetrahedron, as for the mix of the form and the natural material used for it, which make them look somewhere between a simple geometrical shape and a random rock.
The week before leaving for the first time of the residency period, I found myself doing a really different project, but still doing the same shape repetitively day after day. I was a bit bored with this kind of daily practice, but fortunately there was space in SYB to stem from the original aim.
My time at the ‘Nocation’ residency was a valuable period for collaboration, reflection and productivity. In one of the works I made during my time entitled ‘Horsey with Horse’s’ I tried to impose something that is clearly out of place in the countryside of Beetsterzwaag into the landscape and the inhabitants, the inhabitants in this case not are not the people, but the beautiful Horses living there. In the video I place a plastic horses head and juxtapose this with the real horses. By placing the toy horse in front of my chest, I try to become an extension of what does not belong there. I make a proposition to teach the real horses how to be a horse in the most ludicrous manner by teaching them what I call Horsey dance moves thus highlighting the implausibility of such a gesture. This is mimicked in the gaze of the Horses in a seemingly unmoving manner and also at some point their lack of movement set against the frantic movements of my body with the horses head questions to what degree what is real and fake in this dislocated environment.
Another project I made during stay was a performance in the local bar entitled Popopolotical Woman…Get off the Stage. I choose to perform in the local bar, as often with performance I believe that certain communal locations have a particular language and aura around it, which I try to tap into for a short period that can both disrupt the language of the space whilst still conforming to it. In this case I did a performance in a part virginal, part Cicciolina inspired costume, which called to question the roles of audience and performer whilst installing a moment of magic in the space.
The main thing that I think about when I consider the residency is that it provided a space where we could behave differently. Not just in the sense of leisure, but in the way we related to each other and our work. It really helped me relax a bit more, and to produce starting from that state, rather than feeling like I had to perform or produce in a certain way. Which was a modest revelation for me, outside of the environment of our school.
I was actually surprised by the ‘thing I made’. The methodology I had, of loose diaristic recording of sound and images in a new location, created an obstacle that I couldn’t control, rather that I had to try to get around, and let any intended goal slip through my fingers.
Starting from daily excursions. I had wanted to create a limited documentary that turned the actual location into a fictional, projective one. An eye would reveal its limitations in its attempts to look for intrigue. This came from a period spent watching Herzog shorts, and having reservations about my ability to even attempt to understand and represent the place, given the time span and conditions, and the slightly patronising tone that these kinds of undertakings can have.
The events portrayed were cropped locations and details, small interventions and off-the-cuff performances, a collection of withheld stories. I attempted a guitar soundtrack with a kind of discordant pastoral romanticism to accompany these thoughts and images. The work really taught me something about how you create the situation for an artwork, and that there has to be a difficulty to rub against, rather than something passive in an aseptic studio. And that situation can be created anywhere, I think. And it doesn’t relate to any idea of place in the geographic sense.
The ‘show’ we made was genuinely weird, in a really shocking and positive way. It didn’t look like art. Which I think is a really good goal for art, that it tricks you like that.
The banter, new nicknames, karaoke and chance occurrences (USB tick surgery on flatscreen) were truly enriching. As well as the one-off concert by the little known Meatsleepers. I can understand that maybe all of this learning might not be visible from the outside of our bizarre little camp, but I don’t think that’s where its value lies.
Whilst at SYB I filmed two scenes for the current film I am working on ‘The Preservation Paradox’ as well as shooting some additional footage which may be incorporated in future projects. For the exhibition I showed one episode from this film, which I re edited for the context of the exhibition. I hope the below description will reflect on how I was thinking about the context of SYB during my stay and how this influenced my art-making.
The 2 minute video starts with canned laughter over a black screen, this then cuts to panning shots in the back space of SYB – an area which interested me as it is architecturally ambiguous from a cameras view, part white walled gallery, part domestic ruin. As the camera pans around this space white-gloved, green arms extend out behind the walls holding sculptures, vaguely cartoony in character but handled in a semi museological manner emphasising their limpness as inanimate ‘things’. Accompanying these shots, a mono-toned German accented (thanks Bernd) English voice flatly recounts mediocre jokes. Delivered as something in between a straight reading and a good dead pan comic the jokes all have material or locational aspects to them (‘There was this monkey in the jungle with a tin opener’ or ‘Did you hear about the boy who drank battery acid’ etc) this was intended to reflect the spirit of the sculptures presented in the film where their spatial context and material character co exist with a bodiless narrating voice and their supporting, dismembered arms. I was thinking, in this sense, as these sculptures really only exist to be filmed, they physically merge with the architecture SYB and hover in limbo, having never really ‘lived’ as objects. And this was literally built into how they were made, more as props, painted and finished on one side and carved out of cheap polystyrene.
I think that I entered into the context of artist in residence quite awkwardly by simply feeling quite unsure of how and why I was there, and trying to think about what it means to try to use or relate something of the area in order to make a presentation. I decided for myself that I was interested in pushing this anxiety through a character, and imagining this character to move things, objects, and left behind detritus in an aggressive way. I thought of the character as an imposter. Maybe a poltergeist that was unhappy with the residents or perhaps the residents were unhappy with the context and with being there in order to produce something. This poltergeist ended up being embodied in a sheep I made from scraps of wood and food that the other artists in the group had left lying around. There was also a bought sheep figure that I found in Beetsterzwaag and the made sheep had hung this one with a noose. There were also other remains of the artists like dirty socks the poltergeist made a symbol of, and a text written in salt, which read, “Get out”. All of the bikes had been turned up side down and the poltergeist had made a kind of contained and affected chaos.
Kirsty Roberts & Catarina de Oliveira:
Together we created the piece ‘At first people thought I was building, a garden for magical purposes’, a play and storytelling in the gardens of Beetsterzwaag in the company of: Christopher Lloyd; Alice; Boris Vian; Derek Jarman and Gertrude Jekyll.
The work that we created for the presentation at SYB was far from what we imagined doing on the residency. The original plan wasn’t to work together. Initially we both felt uncomfortable with the urgency to produce something for the specific conditions involved with this residency project: site specific work for a local audience; the timeframe; speed; and a broken stay in Friesland where we were asked to think what it means to go on a residency, nonetheless we were to think of this under the specific circumstances of a school trip.
Spontaneously out of the location/ conditions we began to piece together interests, which haven’t seemed compatible before: gardening; storytelling and writings on taste. This opened a space for our long held but un-activated interest to be set together. Mutual engagement led to a relationship based on trust which allowed us to set these interests in motion. This resulted in a work that without the constraints of a Piet Zwart Institute trip to SYB wouldn’t have happened. The work opened a platform for future dialogue and work.
I discretely imprinted ‘it is nice to be important’ on a stick from the neighbourhood, but it’s hard to notice and to read it. I wrote ‘land here’ by rollerblading in the streets, but it could only be read from space. I also prepared a video-installation piece called ‘ape genius’ with video showing monkeys breaking sticks and smoking cigarettes and some sculptural elements involving cigarette butts and a banana-peel, but on my way to installing the piece I slipped on the banana-peel, hit my head and remained unconscious until it was too late. But all of this could have happened anywhere, anyway.
My initial response to the residency was to make work specifically about Beetsterzwaag but to embrace the outsider perspective. I often find that work often that is made directly in response to the environment of a residency seems quite crude in its generalizations of a certain place. Therefore I decided not to engage with Beetsterzwaag physically but by means of the Internet and the phone. I ordered the phonebook of Beetsterzwaag and I visited the village on google streetview. In google streetview Beetsterzwaag presents itself as an uncanny deserted suburban village, a kind of clichéd decor for horror/sci-fi movies. A strange collection of interconnected trompe l’oeils. I intervened in the daily life of the citizens through an attempt of calling everyone in the village. I decided to use my phone call strategy to use the residents of Beetsterzwaag as involuntary actors in a kind of science fiction horror movie that would consist of the images taken of off google streetview and the audio phonecalls that I made. I used the last segment of The War of the Worlds radio play by Orson Welles where a man is desperately looking for contact over the radio saying “2X2L calling CQ. Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there…. anyone?” which was played in a continuous loop over the phone. The reactions and the inability the residents had to communicate with this voice became the dialog for the film. I found it interesting how there existed a parallel in the intrusiveness of the introduction of this cinematic narrative in the daily life of the residents and in the images of google streetview, where it is possible to look into every single house in Beetsterzwaag.