A dialogue continued with the curator and artists of A Body Presented to Me and You at Souterrain in Amsterdam.

session two

sunday, 27 + 28 october 2009

sunday, 25 october 2009

johanna.domke asks Philip Tonda: I was courious how it worked out for you after initiating the show with a theme relevant for you

Philip Tonda: I’d say that curating and making this show happen is very different than making work myself. I enjoy being the one that has the overview in the organizing process, and to get to know the work of the other artists. Seeing the exhibition in the end was real joy to me, and it felt very confirming; all the preparing and all the conversations took shape as art works and that was the conclusion in itself. It did not really need words anymore; it became one big body of it’s own, consisting of the individual bodies of the 5 individual works.

i was still busy with my own work during the process, but the curating took most of my attention so i didn’t make finished works. After the exhibition opening i managed to work on my own art works though, and that was nice to do at this point.

I don’t think my own art work has changed after curating the show -i am still busy with some of the same projects as before, one of them is an interactive sculptural video installation, and another project is a research between the outer appearance of a person in relation to the self perception of the person. I’m still busy with those projects and they won’t be ready in the near future.

I see the works of the exhibition that I curated as separate from my own work in the sense that I really enjoy it in a somewhat similar way as when going to an art exhibition that touches me. It does not influence my work directly – i respect it and accept it for what it is, and appreciate the individual work and the individual artist; knowing that my work is having its own individual personality as well.

Silvan Laan

[10/27/09 , 12:12 PM] amber lauletta says to Silvan Laan: I’d like to talk about the warble. How did you choose this bird?

[10/28/09 12:49pm] Silvan Laan says: he bird in question is a willow warbler. This particular bird has a special significance for me; it is one of the commonest birds in the landscape of my youth (the dunes of the Dutch coast) and its song is the herald of summer, it symbolizes for me the love for life and procreation and the freedom to roam.

[2009/10/27 12:37 PM ] amber lauletta says: In the publication you mention georges perec, can you talk more about that?

[2009/10/28 12:15pm Saskia de Brauw says:

There is one simple reason I mention Perec, he is my hero, my example. One of his books Species of Space and other pieces is like a bible to me.

Perec represents for me a combination of the conceptual and the emotional.

The idea and intuition. He describes in a very precise and detailed manner of what a space is composed of and by doing so he maps out a situation in which an event will take, has taken or is taking place.

For example, in a nearly dry and analytical way he makes endless lists of the objects in a room. These objects are always positioned in relation to human beings, to bodies.

By mapping out the room the reader starts to understand more about the people’s habits, fears, longings, emotions. I can read in Perec’s descriptions of space, how it is used by people.

He slows down time as to a point where we can really start looking at what there is in front of our eyes. The most simple and daily things and realities surrounding us become curious objects of interest and research.

Space seems to be either tamer or more offensive than time; we’re forever meeting people who have  watches, very seldom we meet people who have compasses. We always need to know what time it is (who still knows how to deduce it from the position of the sun?) but we never ask ourselves where we are. We think we know; we are at home, at our office, in the Métro, in the street. That of course is obvious – but then what isn’t obvious? Now and again, however, we ought to ask ourselves where exactly we are, to take our bearings, not only concerning our state of mind, our everyday health, our ambitions, our beliefs and our raisons d’être’, but simply our topographical position, our position in relation to a place or a person we are thinking about, or that we shall thus start thinking about.”

I love the simplicity of the idea and the complexity of its outcome. The smallest thing could be an endless source of research and more questions. I like questions not especially answers.

In my work for Souterrain I started by simply looking at a large shadow on a wall that is see when I look out of one of the windows of my house. This shadow that changes during the day is a clock, or in Perec’s terms, tells me something about my topographical position towards other people and places. I filmed this shadow during one full day. In the installation I have replaced the objects that are in my house by glass plates. I used words on the glass plates to describe these objects or thoughts that appear when I am in my house. Projecting through the glass plates – shadow words appear on top of the image of the shadow that I see from the window in my house.

It is about moving in a space and being a container of thoughts – visualizing the space surrounding us and the space inside of us and how they effect one another.

This is what I can write now, My had is a little full with other things.

If you have more questions or if what I write here doesn’t make enough sense please let me know.

[10/27/09 , 12:12 PM] amber lauletta says to Silvan Laan: You use science as a barometer to define art, indicating art explores the chaos of nature where science qualifies the rational aspects. (I’m paraphrasing) how does this piece explore that idea?

[10/28/09 12:49pm] Silvan Laan says: I think scientists and artists share a fundamental wonder and curiosity about the world, appreciating the aesthetics of the natural ‘system’. Each tries to acquire an understanding, but their methods of investigation and the kind of knowledge they produce differ substantially. I think the artist can utilize an analytic, ‘scientific’ approach, but his main compass is of a more intuitive nature. Maybe the opposite is true for the scientist.

Saskia de Brauw

[2009/10/28 2:04pm] amber lauletta to Saskia de Brauw : I’m curious what questions you would have for someone viewing your work or reading that passage?


[2009/10/28 3:28pm] Saskia de Brauw says:

Possible questions I could have ( this is a limited list and should be seen as one possible answer to your question):

Questions on which the answer could be yes or no:

Do you know how the objects in your house are positioned?

Are you aware of how you move through your house?

Is there a rhythm to this movement?

Is it connected to a certain hour in the day?

Do I communicate by visualizing ideas?

Did this project leave a mark on me?

Questions with a clear answer:

Where do you live?

When does a house become home?

What are the objects connected to your surrounding space?

Why do I use glass for this installation?

What sensation do you have when you watch your own shadow reflected on the wall?

How can I lead the audience into experiencing what I want to communicate?

Questions with no clear answer:

When does a house become home?

What are the objects connected to your surrounding space?

Why do I use glass for this installation?

How do I move in between thoughts?

How do thoughts move me?

What am I expressing exactly?

What sensation do you have when you watch your own shadow reflected on the wall?

Did this project leave a mark on me?

How do I communicate?

Do I communicate by visualizing ideas?

How can I lead the audience into experiencing what I want to communicate?

Is our body experiencing time or space?

hmmm, I don’ t know if this is the list I should make, but this is what came out now.

I want to send it as quick as possible.

Like I said, there are so many things today, my head is a bucket of water and is really full and heavy.

So I just send it away. Words like quick sketches.

[10/27/09 , 12:12 PM] amber lauletta says to Silvan Laan: How does your piece respond to “a body”?

[10/28/09 12:49pm] Silvan Laan says: In preparation for this piece, I have been reading scientific literature dealing with all aspects of the life of the willow warbler. I was amazed to learn that male willow warblers (almost) never sing exactly the same song phrase. While individual song phrases are highly variable, they share the same overall structure, and are easily recognized as willow warbler song by the trained observer. In analysis of 108 songs of 15 males (1620 songs), only one male sang the same phrase twice. For this research, sonograms (sound recordings digitally processed into graphs) were used.

A particular song phrase, lasting on average c. 3 seconds, may, once uttered, never reappear in exactly the same form, ever. This fact illustrates for me perfectly the stunning variability, creativity, if you will, that is present in nature. To express my sense of amazement, I chose one particular song phrase out of the many billions that have been uttered in the sexual history of the willow warbler, and ‘immortalized’ it by transferring its sonogram onto a wall.

The wall painting is accompanied by a replica of a willow warbler nest, enlarged to human proportions. The nest shares the transient nature of the song; it is built by the female in a little over a week, and has a functional lifespan of 4 to 5 weeks (until the chicks have fledged). After this, the nest is abandoned and scattered by wind and rain. My piece in this exhibition has a similarly transient nature; the work will exist physically for two months, the duration of the show. Afterward, only photographic evidence remains.

The connection to the ‘body’ is rather loose, but can be seen in the fact that our own bodies are also of a transient nature, which is the cause of the eternal human concern for mortality, aging etc.