241 Things

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Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

Chris Reinewalk (1955, Amsterdam) was formerly educated at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy (Amsterdam) as a visual artist but finally decided to write about it. First for Plug, the magazine of the Cultureel Jongeren Paspoort (an organisation that stimulates younger art and culture and part-taking of the younger generation in it). The followed Het Parool, Elegance, Tableau en Het Financieele Dagblad. For these last two he still writers on painting but mostly on applied art.

Besides that Reinewald works as external editor in chief for magazine Museumvisie - a magazine of the Netherlands Museums Association on the profession aspects of the (mostly not-art) museum.

Guestroom, De Heurne, 1998

The guest room is situated somewhere in the outer regions of the house. Up two flights of stairs, the door on your right hand. Which is mostly closed.

The residents stay elsewhere in the house. Sometimes the door of the guestroom unlocks with a moan: for an unexpected guest. Who had missed his train. Or whose car broke down.

The guest for the night, having had a strenuous day’s journey – even if it lasted only a few hours – has one desire only: a bed to sleep in. With eyes shut, you can’t see where you’re sleeping anyway. Peculiar, that anachronistic hotchpotch of sheets, cover, pillow cases.

Guestroom, De Heurne, 1998

What does it matter that the vista is of a blind wall? Nothing indeed. No window whatsoever in the destitute corner, hammered shut underneath the rooftops? There’s a fan in case it gets too warm. Tomorrow starts early anyway, one will be right on one’s way.

Guest rooms harbour, except the grateful passenger, mainly good intentions that suggest hospitality. For the mattress has a cavity in it which makes sleeping less than great. Even after fourteen times from one’s left side to the right and back.

The metal spiral creaks meekly. It smells indistinctly. Of wet dogs, or half-decayed rubber rain coats. Something like that.

The guest who sleeps over feels himself lying in bed with all people who have spent the night in this guest room before.Lamps, furniture, walls show “the traces of years after a life full of worry and duty” (To paraphrase Gert Timmermans’ Reverence for Your Grey Hairs)

How many times mustn’t the metal foot of the bed have slammed against the once-sassy wallpaper for it to have acquired the look of a leper? And who or what caused those curious dents in the wall? (Your uncle Bert could be so hot-tempered sometimes.)

The grotesque, grey stain on the bed spread is probably from the German shepherd, who had to vomit so excessively back in 1982, before he had his injection. (Ah, how he used to love sleeping in the guest room.)

Dorien Boland, guestroom, Dinxperlo, 1998

They don’t know, but like the guest, the furniture pieces too are merely passing through. Thirty years ago, their existence began as a show piece in the sitting room. It went downhill from there. They became dated and then, the ill-fated day came in which they had grown ripe to be parked in the guest room.

Call it sustainability, call it frugality. Sad it remains to see them there, with a dishevelled flair, in the limbo to the attic. Afterwards waits another, final destination: as refuse along the pavement. After all, the grandchildren, who move out on their own, disdain the stuff from grandma’s guest room. (IKEA is not that expensive.) The buyer, who takes the whole lot, doesn’t mind taking them with him to the municipal dump, as long as he gets paid.

It is not that far just yet. The guest room awaits and ages visibly, goes extinct. (There is a housing deficit. Residencies in The Netherlands are too small to keep rooms vacant. The country itself is small enough for you to drive back to your own bed in time.) One day, a wrecking ball will hit the façade, and walls and floors will collapse. Only the rear wall will stand for a brief spell. Somewhere, high up, the flowered wallpaper of the guest room will flutter in the wind.

Dorien Boland, guestroom, Dinxperlo, 1998

(photo's: Dorien Boland graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam with a photo series of guestrooms (direction of study: individual set of subjects).She has been invited to continue her studies at the department of photography at the post-academic course of the St. Joost Academy in Breda.)

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Mud - mother of all materials? Dirty and unscrutable.
Ceramicists lovingly/jokingly refer to their material as mud and admire both its ability to be formed into an object and likewise to crumble.

“Uit de klei getrokken” (translates from Dutch to: drawn from clay) is an intriguing rudimentary cup and saucer set. The designer, Lonny van Rijswijck, used various sorts of Dutch clay. Thanks to the baking process, variations in colour and texture are made visible. A pale yellow hue from Limburg, a shiny brown from Utrecht, Brabo terra cotta. It’s these differences that, according to the creator, visualise the “impressive but unpretentious similarities between origin and identity”

As an artistic concept it’s exceptionally effective. In terms of functionality and form it’s not quite as successful. In other words, the concept materialised through tableware raises a legion of issues. Not in the least by its material.

Set, Lonny van Rijswijck

A cultural and historical interpretation:
In Items 1993/2 I asked Benno Premsela, authority on design, about possible reasons for the – at that time – undervaluation of Dutch designers. Premsela had already given up hope. How could this country of “redistributors of sand and mud” match themselves to countries like Italy and Finland? Needless disdain! Clay is derived from mud that despite it’s simple image, might be the mother of all materials.

Outside of Europe, mud also has its uses: like in the bogolans, clay paintings from Mali, where imposing structures are built using clay. During Mali’s celebration of its independence in 1960, the need arised to swiftly produce festive clothing. The Malinese rediscovered the bogolon techiniqque with which mud was used to print patterns in deep black onto fabric. As a result, yearly competitions were held to determine which region made the most exquisite bogolan. In the seventies, Malinese artists and fashion designers began to seriously apply bogolan. Besides deep black, brilliant white prints were made.

Chris Seydou Mud Decoration Dress
The fashion designer Chris Seydou presented his winter collection in Paris in 1979 with bogolan shawls and headwear in Keith Haring-like motifs. The Nigerian fashion designer Alphadi broadened the bogolan spectrum with blue, green , and even pink. By the time Seydou died in 1994, bogolan had achieved the same status in Mali as batik had in Indonesia.
Chen Zhen, World in out of the World, 1991
Back to the source, mud. For his installations, the French-Chinese artist Chen Zhen (1955-2000) covered rubbish with a layer of mud. By covering these objects from our world of the disposable, Chen removes all technological glamour and in turn, deculturalises them. The mud erases the purpose of the objects and allows them to return, purified, to their origin in , to their heart and soul.

“I don’t care it’s muddy there/it is my house [...] My heart cries out for muddy water.” – Bessie Smith

Muddy Water

Bessie Smith and her Blue Boys, Muddy Water, A Mississippi Moan Parlophone 78