241 Things

1000 Things is a subjective encyclopedia of inspirational ideas, things, people, and events.

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Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things


I tried diligently to keep a straight face as I looked at the plate of sausages and strawberries in front of me. One of the sausages had cracked open, causing its dubious contents to ooze out right onto the fresh strawberry underneath it. The whole sad scene was covered in a filthy grey blanket of thick smoke and I wish I had dared to take a picture then and there for memory’s sake. The smoke was coming from the cigarette weged between the scrawny fingers of the woman next to me. She topped it off by harshly coughing all over the sausages, then said in all sincerity: ‘Why don’t you take a sausage, girl?’ ‘No thanks,’ I said, meanwhile heavily reconsidering my recent career decision.

Until recently, I had worked in an office where I enjoyed the company of my co-workers immensely and had thought optimistically that at each working place, there were top-notch people, in whom I would always be able to find inspiration for better days. I would continue working at this new place and keep my newly found gems with care. I would furthermore elaborate on these opportunities in texts, projects and future plans to-be-determined. Aside from indulging in this endearing optimism, I subjected myself to an experiment. How far could I go in selling my soul when it came to side jobs while managing to regularly do artistically legitimate things? When would I be an artist working in a hotel on the side, and at what point was I working in that same hotel with merely an artistically inclined hobby? Where is the balance and how far could I go?

Meanwhile, I was well underway indeed, and I felt the black void eyeing me. ‘Oh dear”, I thought, while rethinking my motives to work in this hotel. The cigarette had by then gone out, and the sausages and strawberries had been eagerly devoured by my company at the table. I scrutinised them one by one and considered their potential as part of my next project (or perhaps Sunday art session). The lady next to me was a fine specimen at any rate, and likewise the other ladies at the table wouldn’t be out of place in my collection of remarkable colleagues.

Rita, for one, had tobacco-coloured hair, ditto trousers, and chewed her sandwich in silence; Belinda entrusted me with hotel secrets, such as that it is endlessly preferable to not clean the rooms of cyclists or the Chinese; Denise told me proudly that she had left her junkie past behind her and had worked a solid thirty years for the hotel. She smiled baring her few remaining teeth and I smiled back. I was glad for her, but I’m always slightly creeped out when people at very unpleasant working places tell me that they’ve been working there for a very long time. I break out in sweat as I see my life flash before me, seeing the my future self as that person who, after art school, has begun ‘temporary’ employment, only to get stuck in it forever. People at an academy reunion will say something along the lines of: ‘Have you heard the news on Gerda? Been working in a hotel for thirty years.’ ‘The Volkshotel?’ ‘No, just some hotel. One of those along the highway whose name nobody really knows.’ ‘Oh.’

The roar of the radiators next to the room where we have our break saved me from the nightmare. My colleagues had stood up to get back to work and I considered for a moment to run off and never come back. I would like to emphasise, though, that I have no problem whatsoever with cleaning and similar jobs, as long as I manage to get some satisfaction from it. I have cleaned the houses of elderly people with great love, I have worked serving breakfast in hospitals, I’ve delivered mail for an entire summer (in my rain suit) and I have been personally responsible for planting roughly a thousand little plants in excruciatingly small pots on an assembly line. After this series of quite specific trades, I could go all out in my year long period as a teacher at an art centre, I worked in a fantastic shop (which has unfortunately closed), and, via the office, finally reached the hotel. The plan was to work there just enough to be able to pay my rent, and to otherwise get a good look at all the colourful visitors and their rooms in the name of art, and to then profit from it. As you will have surmised by now, my disappointment was considerable.

It was a characterless hotel where my job description consisted of getting the rooms to look as clean as possible. Until recently, I had enjoyed being in hotels, but those days were behind me for good. I pulled hair that belonged to strangers from shower drains and was instructed to dry toilets with towels (really) as well as to clean used cups by rinsing them with cold water before putting them back on the shelf (really). Not only was my Theory of Employment of before severely threatened, but I also began to worry about my karma as I carried out orders that turned the hotel into one big death trap of bacteria, diseases and other disgusting pests. Therefore, I decided to throw in the (filthy) towel and to look for a different side job. The risk seemed just too big to stay and find out where I would end up then.

From the one strange working environment I rolled straight into the other, where I planned truck routes throughout the whole country from a kind of control centre. As far as art school graduates go, I am pretty good at focussing, coordinating and organising things so it seemed no harder to do the same thing applied to truck drivers. I worked hard and eventually bit myself in the butt by planning everything so efficiently that I had finished the job three weeks before the intended date. But maybe that was for the best, since my colleagues knew that I was employed on a temporary basis and decided for the sake of convenience to act as if I had already left. It was a strange experience that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody.

Meanwhile, my projects grew like cabbage and I was asked for the most splendid things. I participated in a documentary on creativity, founded a meeting place that drew a lot of visitors, interviewed artists and was told by everyone that I was doing so well for myself. It was true that during my free days I worked passionately on my projects and saw them grow, but it was still bothering me that I could not earn a living with what I did best. In this way, I dug for both dream jobs within the cultural sphere as sad job offers within the other one.

Hooked on the employment version of Russian roulette, I kept on playing. Was it going to be another miserable side job or would it be something else? The gods proved benevolent in my favour, for instead of the next grey work spot, I was granted the chance to tag along with the editors of the magazine Kunstbeeld. Not only did I discover that my heroes behind Kunstbeeld were very sociable, but also that there is paid work in this world that challenges your talents. I immersed myself in it completely; I emailed back and forth with artists and their assistants, interviewed Marlene Dumas while I was quivering like a leaf, and travelled the entire country in the name of art. I wrote my reports passionately, took in every possible experience and prepared for what would come next.

I hoped with all my heart and soul that I could do something in which I could work with both my brains and my pen, where I could coordinate and work together with people that make me happy, and so that, like the cherry on the cake, I could earn the roof above my head. After being rejected by email at least every day, all of a sudden there was the message on Saturday night that said: ‘What line of work are in you nowadays? Are you good at organising?’ I looked at my screen and up again, thinking for a second that the universe was surely playing a cruel game with me. ‘I am very good at organising.’ I replied. After many messages back and forth and one conversation, I have suddenly been equipped with a real job with all kinds of things I like and am good at; I work for two very nice people, who even invited me along to Cape Town to do even more wonderful things.

Trying to comprehend this turn of the plot, I think back to last year. The office, the trucks, Kunstbeeld and even the sausages and strawberries on a plate in that hotel. I remember the smoke blowing over them and realise I have escaped a certain destiny. A smile curls slowly upwards on my face. For now.

The art student at the School of Visual Arts in New York baked tens of thousands of cupcakes for a colourful installation in her home state of Dallas,

http://www.pilotafrica.com

The art student at the School of Visual Arts in New York baked tens of thousands of cupcakes for a colourful installation in her home state of Dallas,

http://www.pilotafrica.com

Tip 1
In Stil de tijd (in English: Stand Still Time,) Joke Harmsen writes of how withdrawing yourself from normal every day life can buy you time. This personal or inner time is not to be expressed in units of minutes or hours, but is simply experienced. She’s an advocate for more inner time. Because it’s only when you become aware of the importance of time that you’re capable of reflection and creativity.

Do you think people would be more creative if they have more time?
I think so, because rest, relaxation, and doing nothing are prerequisites to finding a window into that other time. You’ll notice this when you break free from ‘clock time’ and go on a walk, listen to music, or meditate. You’ll find yourself entering another sort of time that seems more connected to the ‘deeper self,’ as philosopher Henri Bergson named it. And inner time is likewise the source of creativity and authenticity.

Do you have any concrete suggestion?

Yes. Keep one afternoon a week free, and don’t be afraid to do nothing.

(Excerpt from interview with Katja de Bruin. To read more see Stil de tijd, Joke Hermsen, de Arbeiderspers

Tip 2
Drawing leads me to a point of total relaxation; you could almost call it an addiction. To work, I need to disable the rational: this is the process. Often, when I begin a work, I try to completely delve into the character that I’m about to make—to write down his or her thoughts and contemplations, but also how that person sees me; and allow the character to speak. There is an enormous freedom in writing, in placing yourself in another’s perspective. A work block is a personal barrier, and means that there’s something you have to admit to. I’ve developed my own ways, my own rituals, to enter that trance of making. Sometimes it might take me a whole day in the studio to enter this trance. I do other things, carry out practical matters, to try and speed up the process. Rituals, daily habits that get the process going.

Tip by Femmy Otten
Taken from the book by Rainer Maria Rilke, Brief aan jonge kunstenaar mandatory literature for the art student

Tip 3
A tip for drawers and painters: buy a cheap sketchbook, a Bic pen, a pencil, whatever you prefer. Fill the sketchbook in one go, don’t stop until it’s completely full, work through the night, drink a bottle of wine and don’t go cutting corners, don’t tear out any ‘failed’ drawings, and don’t judge.

Tip by Erik Mattijssen

Tip 4
Nowadays it seems as though everything has to come from the mind, while it’s movement that gets your body going and brings you closer to your feeling or your intuition. If you can’t get to work, go for a walk, a jog, tai chi, dancing, anything that makes you sweat and move. This will help you on your way. If you’re breaking your head over your work: movement will clear you head and provide room for new thoughts and solutions.

Tip by Wendela van der Hoeven.

Tip 5
My advice to get over a work block is to join in as many projects as you can, even if they feel far removed from your normal area of expertise: participate in performance workshops, work for others, go to Studium Generale all week until you’ve been completely oversaturated with theory and make a drawing every night of how you felt about these things, or what you thought about them. You could also write everyone in your class a letter, organize a miniature exhibition of your work in the store window of an eyeglasses or wool shop, organize a fancy dress party and create a special setting for it, pretend be commissioned to make a fresco for an important chapel, etcetera. You could do these things with others, maybe even some outside of the art world, or you could ask your fellow art students to join.

Tip by Marian Theunissen

The art academy cannot exist without talent.

One is born with talent. He who receives it is left at its mercy.

In that sense, talent resembles inherited kingship that defies categories of justification. And just as kingship is subversive to democracy, talented artistry is similarly subversive to society.

A constructive sort of subversion. It initially undermines observation and knowledge, only to lay the foundations for newly formed observation and knowledge within that vacant space.

Magritte’s painting ‘l’Etat de grâce’ is a representation of talent.

Here we see an absurd composition of a floating smoking cigar and a bike resting atop it. On the cigar band an owl is depicted.

Wisdom wrapped in an unprecedented lightness towards a risky destination: the domain of new meaning.

Talent contains ability and desire.

In order to understand these mysterious substances, contemporary art education expresses them in the form of competences to act as beacons for students and tutors searching for basic qualifications.

But a mystery never allows itself to be defined by formulas or lists of ingredients.

An art academy must attempt to fathom the mystery, but must acknowledge that there are factors that remain elusive. It is precisely these factors that make the blood run quicker, that rattle beliefs, and force you to rethink your curriculum


An academy that possesses the sensitivities and instruments to do so can bring talent to fruition.

Simply ‘messing around’ without awareness of competences can lead to an amazing oeuvre.

Talent inveigles.

Literally and figuratively.

A famous talented figure who inveigles is Mr Ripley.

He so strongly desires to change his social status that by using his talent of deception, he is able to recreate the world around him and achieve this ambition. Where he fails, he resorts to murder.

Ripley is a will-o’-the-wisp.

The talent we are concerned with illuminates situations that are shrouded in the mist of conventions. This talent, too, can be murderous: the victims are:

‘his/her darlings’.

Talent is violent and magnificent.

Talent is a passion and a burden.

The academy is not present at the birth of talent.

Tip 1
Make a work for one person, someone you admire, someone whose opinion and insight are of value to you. This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you know, but it helps. A good friend, a family member, a fellow artist. Limit your audience to one person. Audiences are often abstract and invisible. And sometimes, it turns out that the audience is only you, which can be deadly. By focusing on one person, your message will be personal and you’ll be able to communicate specifically.

Tip 2
Take a step. Ask yourself: what was I really aiming for? What do I want to tell? Often it turns out you’ve gotten caught in something: in the material, the medium, or the wrong storyline. With another medium or thought you might just hit the bull’s-eye.

Tip 3
To totally contradict the last tip: forget the story. Forget the why. Change the question of ‘why’ and ‘where does it come from’ to: ‘where do I want to go’ or, ‘what would I like to bring into being?’ Move forward instead of staying in the past!

Tip 4
Accept that, as an artist, you live in a world of paradox. You don’t have to be in control of every thought or action to make a good artwork. It might even occur that you’ll make something amazing without knowing how you got there. Imperfections and impairments can be the most fruitful elements in a work process or in an artwork. The most beautiful artworks are never completely waterproof.

Tip 5
Start something concrete.
Invite three artists to join in collaboration. Send something personal (a drawing, found photo, an object) to the other, asking them to deliver a visual response, a visual commentary. That person sends it on to the next, who in turn reacts to your contribution. In the meanwhile, the fellow artist has also sent you something that you’ll have to respond to. In the end, four artworks will be circulating within the group, one of which you’ll have initiated and three of which will be your response to what the other has sent you. This will help to divert your attention, to react on something you haven’t asked for but want to give, as it often goes in art.

Tip 6
If the above tips are ineffective, go on a journey. Go see something special. Of course, that doesn’t always have to be art.

John Baldessari, No more boring art

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student - pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher - pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: be self-disciplined - this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there's only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It's lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: "We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities." (John Cage)

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything - it might come in handy later.