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Antoine Dauvergne, À Dompierre

Manuela Zammit goes to take a look at the graduation shows of the Sandberg Instituut and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, selecting some personal favourites from almost 200 works of international graduates that were on show between July 7-11.

“The place where one language turns into another”

The Fine Arts and Approaching Language departments of the Sandberg Instituut presented a joint show exhibiting the final projects of 17 Master’s graduates. Between the diverse works ran some common points of inquiry; What does it mean to work with language as artistic medium? What are the limitations and potentialities of language’s bodily and material dimensions? What slips between the cracks in the process of translation, the attempt to communicate with others, or the metamorphosis from voice to text?

Manon Bachelier - That music which I can’t be the only one to hear

Through the installation That music which I can’t be the only one to hear, Manon Bachelier explores the vitality of the voice once it gets translated into text and letters. For Bachelier, as soon as words, verses, breaths and rhymes are uttered and subsequently captured onto a material surface such as paper, they lose none of their liveliness but rather become ‘active mouths and voices’. Hanging off various parts of the walls and the ceiling, connected by threads of silver wire, Bachelier’s printed surfaces look like they are a live species busy pursuing an independent existence and finding ways to inhabit the exhibition space alongside their human counterparts. While Bachelier finds a physical repository for the voice, Constanza Castagnet’s quadrophonic sound and visual installation Liquid Lips, through which she experiments with her voice as a tool of resistance, ‘liquifies’ language. While the primary function of the human voice is to communicate with others through uttering words in a coherent arrangement, Castagnet avoids clarity and suspends any and all sense-making by deconstructing words – she digitally cuts them and melts them together, with the result being a purposefully disorienting cacophony. Language as cultural form and reality-system with strict grammatical rules, assigns the names that come to define things and that demarcate fact from fiction. Could defying this rigid way of experiencing the world by exploring language’s malleability provide an exit route from a dissatisfactory current order, and an entryway into alternative realities?

Christian Herren - To be rebuilt with the materials of your time pt I

Alongside explorations into the materiality of language, Christian Herren’s work To be rebuilt with the materials of your time dives into the question of what constitutes ‘a material of our time’. His two-part project consists of a series of 6 stills of digitally animated watercolours, and an aluminium shelf with petunia flowers arranged in a row as if they were in a scientific lab. Andy Warhol’s Flowers series presented for the first time in 1964, depicting flowers in bright colours that do not exist in nature, coincided with a research project undertaken by the biology department of the University of Amsterdam in which petunia flowers were bred, causing them to acquire colours that would not occur naturally, and documenting their findings visually as small watercolours on which Herren’s own work is based. Through his interest in flowers as a reoccurring motif in art history as well as genetically modified organisms, Herren feels out the connections as well as gaps between reality and representation, and art and science, posing questions such as “How should one approach the potential of genetically modified organisms?” and “What can a universal and interdisciplinary approach to current issues look like?”

Christian Herren - To be rebuilt with the materials of your time pt II

Amid calls for the decolonisation of (scientific) knowledge and processes, and the need to reformulate humans’ relationship with nature, mythology is being beckoned from the distant past by contemporary art practitioners as a mode of localised knowledge cultivation and storytelling. Asian fairy tale characters, Eastern European pagan deities, Ancient Greek mythical creatures and a green LEGO-Bionicle figure called Lewa, all make an appearance.

Jihye Lee

 Jihye Lee tells the story of the daughter of the god of the river and the gingko tree goddesses covered in gold leaves who raise their bodies in order to drop the fruits to the ground. Maja Chiara Faber recreates the effigy of the Slavic intersex pagan deity Światowid, mixing the aesthetics of early Slavic paganism with her own mythology of being queer, femme and hyperandrogenic (having a high level of testosterone circulating the female body). Faber’s video installation and sound performance screaming in a similar key connects the pre-Christian era and contemporary decolonial movements through speculating on the present and future of Eastern European paganism if Christianity had not invaded and erased indigenous beliefs and cultures. Calli Layton’s dicere formus/corpora explores the corporeality of tree bark and the links between nature and narrative by looking to the mythic transfiguration of Ovid’s Daphne into a laurel, Dryope into a poplar and the wizard Merlin into a hawthorne. Meanwhile, in the video installation The Real Time, Teun Grondman’s LEGO-Bionicle figure, both a plastic toy and god of nature, questions “What is a natural state of being in a future without nature?

Maja Chiara Faber, screaming in a similar key

Calli Layton - dicere formus/corpora

Also spotted:

Maria Paris, a measure of distance

Tao Yang, On the night of March 4th

Tomato-Artichoke Salad and a Twist of Shirley Temple Gumdrop Spleen, Among Other Things

Across the buildings of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, the works of around 170 BA Fine Arts & Design graduates from 14 departments took over every nook and cranny. As I navigated through the sights, sounds and textures that inundated my senses, an attentiveness to materiality, new modes of relating to each other and our surroundings, as well as alternative sensing practices clearly stood out as unifying threads. Several of my favourite works explored how human and non-human bodies coalesce to form new corpo/realities.

Arto Rta

Arto Rta

Arto Rta’s explosive and colourful imagination results in a vibrant universe of strange organisms and what seems to be organic material growing, multiplying, colliding, and oozing dubious gooey substances. It could be about the interconnectedness of all things or a depiction of some outer space alien society’s creation myth, for all I know. I’m not quite sure what I’m seeing here, but I like it. Malin Ryberg’s installation Earthfall invites the viewer to enter one of the last corners of the Earth where the air is still breathable following an apocalyptic event. In Ryberg’s imagination, inanimate discarded objects obtain spirits through processes of decomposing, morphing, regenerating, hardening and merging with the earth and dust. New species with a life of their own emerge from the remnants of shelves, posters, chairs and other objects that humans used to own. Human leftovers, trash, paper, homemade glue and acrylics are used by the artist to mold these shapeless creatures into life.

Claire Wymer

Claire Wymer’s spatial installation is based on the understanding that ‘we are of the world.’ Inspired by Karen Barad’s notion of intra-action in which agency is not an inherently human property but rather a dynamism of forces in which all things are constantly influencing each other, Wymer plays with light, shadow and the viewer’s movement in the space to expose the relations among elements. The viewer’s sensorial journey through the artistic space may result in earthly encounters. Augustina Banyté focuses on the symbiotic relation between humans and non-humans, looking to an ecological history that traces all creatures to primordial organisms, and appealing to the viewer’s sense of smell. In her ‘smelly’ installation We Are Societies Made of Societies the main narrator is a pond that invites us to reimagine our place within nature; “there is a reason why the smell is here, so give it a chance.”

Laura Bouman and Joris Angenent look to the relationship between humans and technology. Bouman’s body of work existing out of photographs, sculptures, videos and short essays, looks to the way in which the vehicle is woven into our everyday life, almost becoming a (natural) extension of our human limbs. How does the presence of ‘mobility machines’ such as cars and motorbikes shape us and our surroundings? Meanwhile, Angenet uncovers the earthliness of technological components. While robots, machines and technological devices are often conceived as abstract and synthetic, they are nonetheless made from natural materials extracted from the earth, and thus connected to all other living organisms. In the same way as ancient diviners read events by looking at cracks occurring in organic matter, what mystical knowledge might one be able to glean from looking at cracked-open machines?

Joris Angenet, The Child, The Tumor and The Holy Spirit

Chella Giphart and Antoine Dauvergne stay with the self in their exploration of self-alienation (Giphart) and one’s relationship with friends and family (Dauvergne). Giphart dives into the overwhelming unease brought about by feelings of losing control and not being able to recognise oneself. How can alienation from one’s own mind and body become a tool that one can work with? Giphart’s playful and humorous installation Comfortably Alienated invites the viewer to step in and be temporarily enveloped (and tickled) by what seems to be a furry tentacular creature made out of strands of wool and other fabric. Antoine Dauvergne’s installation À Dompierre revisits fond memories of gathering with family members around the dinner table in the home of his maternal grandparents in Dompierre, France, recreating this setting of communion and inviting the viewer to take a seat at the table. Faithful to Nicolas Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics (artworks in which convivial exchanges among people take place), his arrangement provides the setting for a number of performance-meals staged by the artist, with the first taking place before the opening of the exhibition with Dauvergne’s chosen family: the people he met during his first year at the Rietveld Academie, and the last, one day after the closing of the show with his actual family. The artist even provides a set of recipes of which the viewer can take a copy and try at home. Tomato-artichoke salad on the menu for tonight. Bon appetit.

Antoine Dauvergne, À Dompierre

Also spotted:

Hagar Schuringa, Een eiland voelt soms als een schaalmodel van iets groters dat je nog niet begrijpt

Eff Libilbéhéty, As far as I know

Masha Volkova, My aunt is an armchair

Damian Troadec, Bruised Grounds

Riun Jo, Jib

Roberto Ronzani, Herz

Maud Paul, The Sleeping Lullabies


Manuela Zammit

is a writer and researcher from Malta

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