Feature

Field Notes from Home PZI MFA Class of 2020 and Danny Giles

First-year students in the Master of Fine Arts program at the Piet Zwart Institute begin their studies contending with the question of research – what it is, who does it, how to define it? How is artistic research enacted and embodied? What does it mean to pose questions through art and how do we practice accountability to those questions in our practices? Proseminar is a class that facilitates the posing and sometimes answering of these questions. This publication is one manifestation of current first-year students’ conversations on research – the what/how/why of research and how it can play a role in the conception, production, display, and discourse of art. For this publication, the students were asked to team up in small groups to explore their positions and reflections on research and to devise ways of presenting their current research at this formative period of time.

This project started as the world was suddenly put on lock-down as the coronavirus pandemic canceled many of our plans and ways of being in the world. This publication is a momentary response to these new conditions of being together through distance and is a snapshot of how these artists and thinkers have adjusted and improvised under unprecedented circumstances. If the idea of research asks artists to continually engage moments of unknowing and liminality, then this publication is a double portrait of these conditions of becoming and unlearning. The content that you will encounter here occupies a liminal and transformational space as these artists grow in their practices and continue to live through fast-changing times. It is offered as a moment to reflect on how questions of content methodology are framed by lived experience, personal relationships, and community.

 

This edition of Binder contains contributions by the 2020-21 class of the Master of Fine Arts course at the Piet Zwart Institute:

Christian Ovesen

Linus Bonduelle

Guillem Arquer

Dagmar Bosma

Halla Einarsdóttir

Pascale de Graaf

Steven Maybury

Junghun Kim

Bruno Machado Das Neves

Aimilia Efthimiou

Emma Astner

Diana Halabi

Christian Ovesen, Linus Bonduelle, and Guillem Arquer

In the current situation defined by the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the Netherlands – and the consequent closure of all educational buildings, including the Piet Zwart Institute – we find ourselves without studios and (mostly) confined to the domestic space. The three of us, in adapting to the situation of domestic isolation, try to use it as a new (because abnormal) source of / space for / context of research.

Since our practices are generally based on encounters of a body with what surrounds it, there is always a ‘move’ at the center of our current research – from an inside to an outside (and back). In our domestic settings, the latter position is played by the garden, the street and the ‘basement-hull’. When ‘home’ is also where the ‘work’ is, our bodies are asked to move and act differently, inside the domain of the house as well as within the domestic periphery. We present three individual reports of our experiences, and the questions these pose about our practice / research.


Christian Ovesen

I walk the same route everyday and each time is a quite boring experience. Today I see a peacock outside the fence by the church. Inside the fence some deer are walking around. I wonder why the peacock walks outside and the deer inside the fence. Maybe the church people forgot about it before the lockdown hit.

The only thing growing in my small garden bed is a big butterfly bush. When I examine the soil, I see that it is full of plastic scrap, pop tabs, cigarette butts and several peach stones. I wonder about this odd collection of items. Why so many peach stones? Why on the soil? Did somebody want to sow peach trees here. With my limited knowledge about peach trees, I think you would have to put them at least a couple of centimeters down in the soil and cover them to make them grow. I collect the stones and some of the pop tabs and gather them in a corner. The rather sad condition of the garden make me want to sow things in it, so I cut down the butterfly bush and clean and rake the soil.

In my kitchen I put seeds into small pots and yoghurt trays with soil, so that they can germinate inside. Cabbage, potato, Jerusalem artichoke, shiso, wild strawberry, kapucijner pea. On day 8 the cabbage seeds haven’t sprouted. Though, on day 9 the neighbour cat has pissed in the garden bed. Youtube learns me to spread coffee grounds to scare it away. Apparently, cats are attracted to their own urine smell and will keep coming back over and over, until you remove the smell.

The thin window screen and the staircase make the border between the garden and the kitchen. I enjoy the time being between these two spaces, walking forth and back, bringing something inside and bringing something outside. I have brought the peach stones into the kitchen now, as I am not going to sow them. If you want to do that, you have to break the stone and get the little seed out from it, and then sow it rather immediately after eating it. These stones are at least 6 months old, because we moved into the house in September, so it is too late to sow them now. They are just as useless as the rest of the waste I found in the garden, but I like the uselessness and rather see them as small objects that share the same destiny being randomly found at the same place.

I come across the idea of making salt dough sculptures. I remember this activity from being a child, where I did it with my mother in the kitchen. On a baking tray I make the shape of an eye and in the “pupil” I place a peach stone, and in the outer edge I attach two pop tabs, a pear stalk, a key ring and a piece of wire. The attachment of the objects are quite random, all I know is, that the peach stone must be in the middle. It somehow looks like a brain and seems to be the most powerful of them all.

Usually, I don’t go to my room during the day. Being in the garden and in the kitchen makes me feel that I am at work. But today it is saturday, there is online creative writing with Kate on Etherpad, so I walk into my room and try to write some poems. It does not result in much, but one of them goes:

I push my face   to the screen

to get closer to the peacock

Through the walks on my daily route, I have gathered a collection of little objects, and they all share the same round feature. One of them is a half-used tape roll, another one is, I think, the round plastic thing that you sometimes find in glasses with pickled cucumbers. I have put them into the big paper maché leaf that I am making, serving as holes. I still can’t figure out how many holes my leaf shall have, but three might be good.


Linus Bonduelle

I’ve been eyeing the trash in front of my house for a while now. Not that I hadn’t been doing that before this whole situation. Every morning I throw a look down through the window, to check if any interesting things have been left. I feel like I’m in a watchtower sometimes, overlooking the local circulation of things, the people who leave them there, the ones that pass by, and have a little rummage through the pile. Sometimes picking up a piece, manipulating it for a couple of seconds, checking it out from top to bottom, like they would a fancy dress. Do I like this colour? Would this fit in my house? Is this still usable? Domestic considerations structure the coming and going of things. They are questions of need and superfluousness, drawing the distinction between reusability and real trash.

 

People don’t do that anymore these days. Though the supply of things (from home to trash) has been going steady, demand has been falling. I guess people have become cautious when it comes to picking up things in the streets. Repetitive warnings of infection have made any public space a potentially dangerous area. The more people cross a point, the higher the hypothetical danger. And just like the spaces, the things that inhabit them have become potential carriers of the virus too. We know that the ‘invisible enemy’ can persist on surfaces for a few hours up to several days. The beautiful idea of the life of an object, visible in traces of usage and defects, has now become a curse. Anything that has been touched by unknown hands has become a risk. It’s a sad time for found objects really, definitely for the ones which, thanks to their proximity to trash cans, have already been labeled as ‘dirty’.

In the old days, when it was okay to go through other people’s leftovers, I would carry a selection to my studio. There, the things could wait for a while, with plenty of space for them to hang around before suddenly being called to action. Now, as schools and studios have closed, the thing needs to find a place in my home, where there is less space to chill. Each time I pick up an object, it feels a bit like picking a roommate, considering the nuisance they could turn out to be and the benefits they could bring to homely living. Luckily I don’t have to carry them far, just up a single flight of stairs, which allows me to recruit and discard many things in short periods. But

I need to take their surfaces into account too. I honestly can’t be bothered to disinfect each thing I pick up – I wasn’t doing that before and they could still have given me nasty things.

So I, like everyone else, have stepped up washing my hands, more and more, before and after touching. It’s a work in itself, keeping track of which surface is clean and which isn’t and which has touched which.

The in- and outflux of objects has sped up. I am always at home now, and there’s plenty of objects to be found in my neighborhood. But my home is not the studio. There’s a more homely distraction here, less freedom to ‘play’ (e.g. make the place dirty), not the needed tools and materials. So, given that I would like to continue working with the found objects, it will have to be on different terms, on a different scale, with a different material approach – a less destructive one maybe.

Besides having to shift the place of storage and production to my domestic sphere over the past weeks, I’m also in need of a place of interaction. I have noticed the last months at the PZI that a big part of the functioning of my work lies in their encounter with an audience. They actively ‘depend’ on (or make use of) an external view in order to make meaning/sense. This might be true for most art, but it feels like my sculptures, when ‘activated’, start behaving very differently than formerly in the studio, as if something of their ‘character’ changes.

I don’t believe the objects I use have any ‘inherent’ meanings or essence, but I trust in the myriad of meanings that arise when an object meets another meaning-making agency. In the studio and the rest of the building, with a circulation of people and things, those encounters happen all the time. They repeatedly restate the object, making it clear that its meaning is always found in relation to something or someone else. So it follows that I am now also posed with a problem of activation. I’m eyeing the trash cans not only as a source of things, the material starting point of my work but also as a potential place of display, the stage for my work to start playing again.

Guillem S. Arquer

Isolation Spaces: the netherworld of my house in the Netherlands 1

The humid double of the living space
the long legs of the spider palpate and rip the flash light of the iPhone 

it has low battery and will turn off (when it runs out of battery)
spiderwebs in the neck and pipes as limbs
(when it runs out of battery) the darkness
inside and outside.

1 The floating house: 6 compartments, 3 of which are the bedrooms, kitchen-living room and bathroom, the other 3 constitute a basement divided by two concrete walls that serves as room for facilities and isolation between the domestic space and the water from the canal.) 

Dagmar Bosma, Halla Einarsdóttir, and Pascale de Graff

Pascale de Graff

Don’t laugh 

Don’t think about that time you were caught 

Don’t itch your itch 

Don’t cringe 

Don’t lick the plate 

Don’t do nothing 

Don’t kick your heals in a way that makes you feel bigger 

Don’t love them more than yourself 

Don’t wait for them to come 

Don’t do it your way 

Don’t speak up, do nothing 

Don’t wear that slogan tee 

Don’t fantasize about itching your itch 

Don’t be gentle 

Don’t confess to that thing you were caught doing 

Don’t change your mind 

Don’t reminisce about the times you laughed. 

Wave to your mother 

As you would your lover. 

Put your finger in your belly button 

Press it hard until it unravels and opens 

Push your arm through your body and grab a bum cheek, 

(Left or Right it doesn’t really matter) 

Push it around your side to rest on the front of your hip 

Use your other arm to drag your breast onto your shoulder 

Here you can rest your head if you feel lethargic 

Pull your arm back out of your body and tie your button-up into a neat knot. 

Relaxed-Beetle Pose 

Cross your arms and legs into knots 

Fall gracefully onto the floor 

Rock side-to-side on your curved back 

Sing that song that’s been in your head. 

Landing 

Find a spot on your landing or corridor or hallway 

A place which you have never stopped before, properly 

Whisper a secret into that spot and seal it with a kiss. 


Dagmar Bosma

Re-imagining my Dying Poems as Scores

1

your hands are
sun envelope

 

2

 

carefully curate the contents of your bin

eat whatever is unworthy

 

3

 

spray water on your face 

and on your plant’s faces and on your plant’s arms

 

4

 

spit an aureola of spit 

 

5

 

be like the artist

carry a large awkward object through public space

 

6

 

make a choice

(something might actually happen)

 

7

 

dream the perimeters of a dream

 

8

 

swing a stick through the air

piercing a cloud of flies

 

9

 

walk an erotic tightrope

 

10

 

the bees

are the buttons on your blouse


Halla Einarsdóttir

Score 

Kick a ball into a net. 

You 

Tell me everything. 

That’s what she said 

Please recall her words verbatim. 

Arms Akimbo 

With you arms akimbo, escape a lopsided limbo. 

A Family Weekend 

Go spend the weekend with your family. The more, the merrier but try and huddle together at least 4 family members. Have a loud conversation with all of them at once. On the second day, offer to cook lunch: a vegetable and bean chilli. Put on music while preparing the food and accept assistance if someone offers. Make an effort in keeping everyone involved in the conversation whilst eating. Afterwards, linger at the table and keep the conversation going until it feels forced. When a few hours have passed since you had lunch, get a chocolate out of your bag. Offer everyone individually a bite and while doing so strike up a conversation with each one. Make each conversation last long enough for the interlocutor to possibly fart. Subtly, smell the fart and check if and how much it resembles yours. After speaking with and smelling everyone, reflect on your relationship with each family member. 

Glasses 

Pretend you wear glasses and decide in which way you would casually reposition them when they inevitably slide slightly down your nose. Practise. 

If you wear glasses anyways, thus already have a way in which you reposition them casually when they inevitably slide slightly down your nose, pretend you have a beard. Now, decide in which way you would awkwardly scratch the beard when thinking of something somewhat troubling. Practise. 

If you wear glasses anyways, thus already have a way in which you reposition them casually when they inevitably slide slightly down your nose and you already have a beard, thus a way in which you awkwardly scratch that beard when thinking of something somewhat troubling, pretend you always wear the same necklace. Now, decide in which way you would, more or less, unconsciously tuck that necklace under your shirt when getting dressed to keep it even closer to your heart. Practise. 

If you wear glasses anyways, thus already have a way in which you reposition them casually when they inevitably slide slightly down your nose; you already have a beard, thus a way in which you awkwardly scratch that beard when thinking of something somewhat troubling and you already always wear the same necklace, thus have a way in which you, more or less, unconsciously tuck that necklace under your shirt when getting dressed to keep it even closer to your heart, pretend one of your breasts was nearly noticeably larger than the other one. Now decide in which way you would pose for a portrait photograph. Practise. 

If you wear glasses anyways, thus already have a way in which you reposition them casually when they inevitably slide slightly down your nose; you already have a beard, thus a way in which you awkwardly scratch that beard when thinking of something somewhat troubling; you already always wear the same necklace, thus have a way in which you unconsciously tuck that necklace under your shirt when getting dressed to keep it even closer to your heart and one of your breasts is nearly, noticeably larger than the other one, thus you already have a way in which you pose for a portrait photograph, pretend you 

(this text still in process) 


Steven Maybury, Junghun Kim, and Bruno Machado Das Neves

Steven Maybury 

When considering my own use of research, I find it suitable to not separate my daily actions, routines, and general interests from what research might usually be framed as. I collect and edit many forms of information just like those regarded as typical research methods such as; reading and the re-reading of texts and literature as well as writing and surfing the web. These actions are equally informed if not more by analyzing my own being and encounters as a raw material source. By this, for instance, an example could include the reflecting, recognizing, and redefining of emotional triggers, past encounters, and utilizing these as valuable and tangible references when engaging with more contemporary concerns.

My practice has found itself deeply engaged with materials and their capacity for poetic relations. These relations are most often discovered in unexpected times, through paying attention to happenstance moments when something emotionally resonates through an interaction or a reflection with a time or place. For me it seems the moments pre-exist and are simply waiting to be discovered. An example of this is finding myself aware of carrying my childhood home key around for a significant period of years, even when I change the rotation of keys on my keyring. This lead to the revisiting of a place and specific feelings attached to that place through an urgency and attention that I re-routered to aid a discussion in a contemporary discourse. In this case, I use intimacy and absence to place them in discussion with the exploitation of a natural material for luxury consumerism.

The lingering feeling found in such moments or emotional meetings is what often feeds and acts as raw material to my research, and enriches other interactions. Attempting to understand this type of seduction or trying to reinvent it is essential to the development of work. For example, It could be the revisiting of prolonged moulding of white tac in one’s hand and seeing where the sense of touch or movements can transport oneself or simply allowing yourself to seduced by your attention to the material in the first place. Identifying qualities of a particular sensation and redirecting these discoveries as a method of making, whilst also holding them accountable for inspection is an example of my expanded idea on research.

For this project, I have been paired with two artists challenging different artistic concerns and whose approaches to their subjects are far different from mine. Through lengthy discussion with Junghun and Bruno on the topic of “what is research” and “how we navigate our own research methods”, we found that we agreed that process and research were inseparable in their definitions for us. We found that chance meetings, reflections, and our daily actions were agreeably intertwined as source material for our investigations and for that reason act as research. With this in mind, we decided on an exemplary collaboration of colliding individually chosen components of current research within our practices, interests, thoughts or works. With the aim to probe for possible connections, commentaries or discourses through a forced materials meeting. This collision is engaging with the hope and trust in the openness of these encounters to redistribute or inform new information or direction within each practice by each bringing concerns that are important to each of us.


Steven Maybury

A Response to Junghun’s Geological Meditations: a mediative approach expanding relations with nature

I couldn’t at first, because I didn’t know what was meant to happen.

                  

     But then something did and thoughts flowed.

 

Feelings tapped and emotions unexpected.

 

Hurt

  Juice

 

symmetry and acceptance 

It seemed real. More real than I expected. I found history, space, death and life.

inside was all that mattered.


Bruno Machado das Neves

*An excerpt from a text I started writing some time ago to which I returned the other day unexpectedly. I suppose some of the state of mind engulfing me at the moment must have found its way into the text, so I believe it can be an interesting entry point to what’s going through my mind right now. It’s basically an attempt at describing a very concrete image and a fairly specific feeling I have in my mind. *

Rows of perfectly aligned, enormous sticks shot vertically out of the ground, climbing all the way up to the sky, blocking any light that might try to penetrate. High above us, at the top of each stick it seemed as though feathers had been glued on. The color of the sticks was a grayish pink, and some showed tears in their skin, revealing a darker, brown color on the inside. 

Neatly aligned in endless rows and columns, the sticks vanish into the distance, only leaves left falling from above seem to go out of their way in recognition of my body, cascading around me onto their graves built on top of an invisible soil which ties everything together. I step on the leaves’ graveyards with a light feeling of unsure uselessness and friendly guilt, as I make my way through the forest. Up and down and sideways and never too unaligned with the world, as these sticks prevent me from such wrong-doing, I wander towards an inevitable destination, never knowing too well where to go but wavingly finding comfort in the triviality of it all, for all directions look the same for now.

The sound of foliage dancing to the wind descends quietly, echoing in distant realms high above. It can just as easily be the sound of salty waves dying on barren surfaces of sand, in and endless effort to wet the world of those who use legs to go about, or the sound of water divided in countless little bodies, dropped from mysterious heights, torpedoing downwards until they explode and regroup with their peers into bigger bodies once more. Only the second possibility I know not to be causing this sound, for no bodies of water are regrouping on my shoulders. This white noise keeps me company and partially eases off whatever loneliness might encompass me, by which I do not suggest any problem with such feelings, it just so happens that such feelings are kept further from me through the intensity of this white noise. When it expands, it fills the gaps of the corridors and rows of sticks, making all things feel as if only one, and when it withers, it retracts from the distant gaps and exists only above me, so high up I almost forget it, and in doing so, I become only myself, while the sticks become only themselves and the graveyards only await their dead to gently be pushed into their place. 

My eyes walk ahead of me at all times, but they never get very far away from me no matter their efforts. They roll from one place to the next nervously but I never lose them out of sight. And though I cannot see beyond a few rows or columns of upright standing sticks, I can see the hills and the valleys with my feet.


Bruno Machado das Neves

An excerpt of a story written in response to Maybury’s Sculpture

“The summer had gone by. It was made of charcoal and had left behind only matches for the ducks to

quack on. Only now it laid resting on the shore and no duck had survived it. And the 

little girl would only

come back the next summer.”


Junghun Kim

On the Work of Steven Maybury

The whirlwind of light and time in a black hole.

In the dark place, the flow of wind and time contains memories, smells, and emotions. There seems to be no horizon, system, and hierarchy. In an infinitely unfolding land of zero gravity, we travel without boundaries, and encounter floating smells, memories and mirrors. Those are linked to your past memories and memories of the future. The balance of memory gravity in the space is sustained by scattered time whirls, in which you may fall into an inextricable maze (miro). You will be discharged and purified from the circulating system of the time in the space and dyed again in a brilliantly colored space. Furthermore, you probably avoid the vortex of a complicated time and become the observer of time. Embarkation of your volition on the balance of the circulating horizon enables you to do deep traveling and absorb unrealistic moments.

There, intensely massive trauma and contaminated memories follow you like a magnet. Those polluted energies are virtual memories that are created by your hesitation. They are your sorrows and wounds that have been scattered over the year.

Unpurified energies overlap and merge to create gravitation of spider webs, which create a hierarchic and substantial architecture that infects other beings. These stairs leading you to unknown and cosmic architecture are a prison that disperses your ego and make chaos a daily life.

This place is a place where everyone passes by one, and finding the ability of self- objectification and the orbit of light is the key to coming out from the intertwined webs. Experiencing those chaoses is an essential realization of understanding the vortex created by hierarchy, which leads you to multidimensional spaces where your egos expand all over the layers to spotlight only one ego. And it is the beginning of a self-directed” traveling with aims to create your own safe orbit.

Unconsciousness and consciousness coexist on an irregular basis. Some people are enthusiastic about this rhythm, and some are panic. The observer who stands in the middle of those two areas predicts the future by looking at Deja Vu, miracles, and phenomena.

Thousands of egos, memories and dazzling waves of light are resonating in the place, it’s a Galaxy. When the spiritual unification of the world is achieved, the door of the galaxy will be boldly opened by the flowing time that connected to the outside. It’s the moment that fuses time with the new Galaxy.


Aimilia Efthimiou, Emma Astner, and Diana Halabi

In Conversation