This text is written to give a philosophical and poetical voice
to the exhibition wssohwte?, curated by Wapke Feenstra.
The exhibition featured works by Paul Devens, Wapke Feenstra,
Zeger Reyers, Toril Rygh, Anne Lise Stenseth and Martin Walde.
Where I am.
At the gathering of the colours
in areas red, green and blue,
arises the prospect on both of us
and the knowledge I love you.
In the sunlight on my legs and my
head free from the ground, spins my
heart from side to side, is fuse,
the colours which gather and the
smile around my mouth.
Six artists from different countries came together in TENT., an exhibition
space in Rotterdam. The Dutch artist Wapke Feenstra brought them together.
She was impressed by the work of her fellow artists and wanted to
do a show with them. She curated this show and participated in it
as well. At the same time she invited some writers, including me,
to give a textual impression of her show.
The moment I walked in I thought of a self-portrait. Together
with the other artists, Wapke Feenstra had created a complicated
self. It appeared to me this way, because of the sensual emanation
the works together showed, and I wasnt sure each work
individually would radiate that physically. In fact I doubt
it. I think it was the combination of the works that created
this physical presence, this sensual person, which was not only
being looked at but was looking back. Not only being touched,
but also touching back, seeking a conversation about what it
means to be oneself.
Space left over, sharply drawn,
space indicating sanguine growth,
grows in heads and opens hearts to bloom.
Space left behind; where to enter,
where to see through? Space, you bird in the tree
which I know is a blackbird and a sound
beyond the congenial.
This complicated and compounded self came into existence because
of a personal choice to create it. This came forth out of a
personal interest in art and creating. I think that a deep longing
in the necessity of creating, is to create something that is
alive, because it has a soul. Because of this more or less hidden
longing these artists together gave birth to a new creature
that in a modest way was telling us something quite important:
in this creature all our senses were activated, activated in
a way that was not really astonishingly sensational. It happened
unnoticed. And that I found very interesting.
Most of the works didnt really try to challenge the visitor
to use other senses than the eyes. But at the same time one
found oneself touching a form of silicone, eating mussels, hearing
a big bang while not immediately seeing what caused that, stroking
wood, thinking about the feel of birds feathers and enjoying
the light atmosphere of the exhibition space. All the works
together were not intentionally meant to create a new tender
looking person, but at the same time the works together most
strongly made me experience such a person. Together they acquired
an enchanting glow that could not be reduced to the glow of
each individual work. Everything in me sensed this glow, I saw
it, I smelled it, I heard it, I thought it, I tasted it, and
I was smiling because of it. But I do not think I can explain
rationally what caused it. Was it because the works individually
were so very remarkable? I do not think that. I think many regular
visitors of exhibitions see work that is like this kind of work,
and are familiar with it. Also all the works together didnt
show us something quite extraordinary but at the same
time the whole atmosphere of the show was breathing with life.
And that made this show as far as I experienced it different
from other shows I have seen lately. It was its liveliness that
struck me and what brought me to the experience of this self-portrait.
Not so much the kind of works, or the quality of the works,
or the combination of the works, however fine, but the vividness
in the atmosphere created by the show. And this vividness was
not created by a sensational event, but was just there in a
quiet, serene way, and I really liked that.
For that reason I found this show also to be a self-portrait
of the senses themselves. We use them and partly are them; hardly
being able to make a constant conscious distinction between
them and us, and without giving that very much of attention.
We find it quite normal, we live in the world and have experiences
all the time, we do not find that very sensational, but this
show made me wonder about that, wonder about the fact why we
do not find it so very sensational to experience all the time.
There is no switch to turn us on and of, it is there or it is
dead. I found in this modest living creature a confrontation
with my own sensing all the time, and how sensational in fact
that is. How sensational in fact it is that I do not all the
time make a distinction between my seeing, my hearing, my touching,
my smelling, my tasting, my perceiving, and my reflecting. These
are happening all the time, and all together at the same time,
all together they create something more than they are themselves
and something that can not be reduced to the individual sensations,
they create me.
I cant perish more gently
than in eternity, without falling
to pieces, or flinging
my arms around me.
If nowhere I am, and exist, possibly
as thought, then what do I hold on to,
of whom may I expect
endurance of such kind?
In the choices she made Wapke showed her courage, being vulnerable,
selecting work of others out of love for their creations, or
for a completely pragmatic reason, not judging the one choice,
the better choice, but accepting that both ways of dealing with
art are part of being an artist.
At the same time there was a connection between the works of
the artists; all created work containing a tension between making
something beautiful and making something out of necessity, all
were aware of the tension between those two options and played
with it. This connection was there because it is a theme in
Wapkes works too, and this theme in her work obviously
led her in her choices, more than anything else. It is a broad
theme and a theme that allows one a lot of different choices.
From beyond breath is being
raised to my countenance,
have I sprung, away
from the buds in the trees,
from the blossom my heart,
from the water lawless,
Her choices also made it more clear to me how her own work is
part of this creature. It showed me the sensitiveness her work
expresses. The sensitiveness for what is hidden in the materials
themselves she uses. What is gracefully hidden in her work is
that beauty is a choice one has to make.
But because she knows it is a choice one has to make, she understands
how easily this beauty will vanish or will be corrupted by it
She shows with her work that beauty is more than an aesthetical
thing. She shows us that beauty has a moral dimension as well,
and has a spiritual dimension too. The conceptual choice to
make something beautiful is her way of saying that one can also
act in a beautiful way, a morally rightful way. Her work shows
the tension in this being beautiful. Everything in it is presented
to us with a smile around it; this could have been something
very ugly or not noticeable too.
I think what she liked in the silicon mountain, or silicon breast,
or silicon jellyfish of Martin Walde, this multi-interpretable
form in a tub of water, was that it had something very awkward
and ugly about it, it could have been nothing as
well, instead of art. But at the same time it remained fascinating
because one kept on thinking whether this was meant to be this
way or not.
The very physical works of Toril Rygh, had the same kind of
tension. The old gravures were quite beautiful and impressive
and not created by her, and the bodily forms in front of them
and created by her, were more or less ugly, banal, almost laughable,
but jointly they created a secretive, almost holy sacrifice
of the human being of flesh and blood, unable to be something
like a flying angel.
This work brought the experience of having ones feet on the
ground and ones head in the clouds very near. In this work the
tension between understanding and beauty was expressed. It is difficult
to keep on experiencing the beauty of what one understands completely.
I am as birds in flocks gone by, in a vague cloud of dreams
still unfolding from somewhere.
I am becoming a day whose noon is taken in by light,
expressed in every fibre of every cell, on water, land, in human
Now I sing with the blackbirds a tune revering what exists,
without sense, but full of meaning is everything going by in
Again this insight brought me back to the term self-portrait.
Because a self-portrait is always expressing this tension between
being beautiful and being average or ugly, between being a good
person, a nobody or a bad person. The face, created by the self,
is not able to make a choice that is one-dimensional. Even the
worst self-portrait gives expression to this understanding of
the tension in itself.
What brought me to a self-portrait too is the fact that one
most easily thinks about a painted image of the face. But a
self-portrait of course is also the autobiography, the self-portrait
poem, the three-dimensional sculpture, the house one designs,
the garden one develops, the way one raises ones children
and even the meal one cooks. So what a self-portrait is, is
easily connected with the theme of the exhibition in a most
unsensational way, as the exhibition itself is not sensational
but thoughtful. It is obvious not only a painting can be a self-portrait,
but it is as obvious it is one of the first things to think
I have never ever been written, never slipped and landed in
I have never ever reached out my arms, and havent been
a bird blind,
I have never ever sung with a voice, left my eyes open, moistened
I love you dearly, so dearly, my dear.
I have a second voice, my third being on its way, I have a spade
for planting, I need a broom and a rake, ever since I love the
I need more tools to stand upright, for I am hungry
as never before.
I love you dearly, so dearly, my dear.
Also the work of the other artists was very personal, pointing
out an almost tender approach towards life. The technical aspect
of Paul Devens work seemed at first sight not that tender
but more funny, or astonishing, but through the surprise effect
in the big bang of his sheet of corrugated iron,
which sounded every six minutes and had nothing to do with walking
over it or not, some irony was brought in about the efficiency
technical things are supposed to have. As a sheet of corrugated
iron on the floor, it had no use besides eliciting the expectation
something should happen by walking over it. But that proved
to be wrong, for what happened, happened for its own sake. With
that the efficiency of technology was questioned, and tenderness
was brought in. It was like thinking about ones car as
a living person, talking with it, as with ones computer.
Feeling that in all kind of material some soul is still hidden,
however much it is mechanised. It is almost impossible not to
personalize objects if one takes them serious. Even a simple
sheet of corrugated iron talks out of itself.
As said, I experienced all the works together as a new work,
as a personality with a complex structure; defensive, tender,
intelligent, ironical, joyful, in a hidden way quite aggressive,
and secretive. A person that would not easily reveal itself
to others, only to very close friends. But at the same time
a person most people would be able to feel at ease with, especially
children who understand the sensational in everyday sensing
A beautiful person to look at, with a tender handshake, dark
eyes but with a cool complexion. A person with a rather low
voice but a gracious walk and having very much light in the
Someone easily trusted by others, but not often understood rightfully.
That is the person these six artists created together. And I
as a seventh voice, I too give my voice to this
art-person; I hope she will keep on existing, joyfully inviting
others to learn to know her.
In TENT. Maaike Engelen placed a booklet, for any comments about the
wssohwte? exhibition. Debbie, a seven year old girl, made
this charming comment. (full - empty)