‘I need a crowd of people, but I can’t face them day to day.’
‘On the Beach’ – Neil Young, 1974
The intersection of socio-political tensions is the starting point for my artworks. I invent situations that enable an exchange between me as artist in relation to the expectations, feelings and interpretations of the public. I am not looking for a solution to tensions, nor am I trying to change perceptions. Rather, I engage in performing the inherent contradictions present within cultural difference.
To ignite an exchange I orchestrate the circumstances for this, most often occurring on some sort of stage. During my stay in the Tembe Art Studio in Surinam, I built a performance stage (Modo Kodo) with broken down cars. In this case I perform on stage conjuring a rocker persona that contrasts the local reggae scene. At 37PK gallery in Haarlem I organized an event under the title Recording in Wood, that brought together a group of musicians and a group of visual artists. The musicians held a 4-hour jam on a makeshift stage while the artists reproduced their gear and instruments. I acted as the producer in the background. In both cases I function as the catalyst for these situations.
In much of my work there is an antagonistic element that provokes an exchange. For example, during my residency at the IBB in Curaçao I participated in the annual carnival parade with my project Spektakulo di Kabes di Kadushi “The Spectacle of the Sweet Cactus Head”. While floats were conventionally glitzy and richly decorated, mine was made of dripping cacti skin in varied states of decomposition.
Art in public space and in countries that are foreign to the artist always assert a political dimension. I believe in good manners, but I’m not afraid of confrontation or messiness which are often necessary to achieve a productive exchange. I aim to challenge my own political and social position as well as my audience’s without the goal of being explicitly political. In the words of Dick Verdult: ‘Like an icebreaker in a congealed situation*.’
This form of exchange in public spaces makes for unexpected results. In 2016, for example, I built the Common Sweat Sauna unannounced, in a public space in Brussels. Instead of the potential problems that could have occurred in what is a religious mixed neighborhood, the sauna was successful. Local residents even donated materials to complete the construction. Conversely, during the carnival in Curaçao, we were unexpectedly expelled from the parade. Our contribution was deemed controversial, straying too far from the conventions.
I see these kinds of missed expectations and miscommunications as potential from which I work, whereby I continuously adjust my own expectations.
*(from a radio interview during ‘Nooit meer slapen’, VPRO 16 February 2017).