3 January till 12 February 2013
Review by Vincent van Velsen
The artistic process starts in the morning as the curtains open. Throughout the day, during a cup of coffee, during each conversation and during a trip to the shops; the process is present. The process knows no beginning and no end, only when the artist sleeps is there a moment of rest, although even then it may continue in the subconscious.
The artistic process and actions which are part and parcel, form a central point in We are the Sculptor and We are the Clay by Hedwig Houben & Bas Schevers; a video piece made during their six-week residency at Kunsthuis SYB. At first sight, the work seems to be an authentic documentation of their stay, but it gradually becomes clear in the video that authenticity as well as documentation are out of the question. Besides this friction, the relationship between the artistic process and the final product is addressed. The film responds by showing the process as simultaneously being a final product: nothing is actually being made, only researched, and yet there is still a final product.
The relationship between the process and the final product lies in the very foundation of Hedwig Houben’s work. It is reflective research into what an artist, and art actually is. Her proposals for sculptures (Six Possibilities for a Sculpture I – IV) address this reflection by questioning when a sculpture is finished. Through means of propositions and by showing the creative process she examines the relationship between process and product, and between finality and artistic choice. A similar questioning appears in We are the Sculptor and We are the Clay. A lump of clay is a recurrent object in the video. The clay is witness to the research, and even becomes involved in the process, but in particular, it is the spectator. The clay lies on the table during a research involving paint, the clay is also present during a coffee break. Eventually, they pierce a little in the clay and it is sprinkled, for it to subsequently be used to partly wrap a banana and an orange and finally be distorted through some interaction with a glass object. What happens next with the clay remains out of view.
The essence of all the activities in the video are equal to those of the clay. Actions are carried out, research is done and discussions are held, but all of this doesn’t have a material final product. It is nothing but reflection. The insight which the actions offer forms a view of the artistic process as well as of the aspects comprising it. As Bas Schevers brews coffee and drinks it with Hedwig Houben at the kitchen table, the brewing and consumption of coffee become part of art, because the production, the possibilities and the ensuing actions that will become art are being considered. Also, when the objects are viewed in a shop, and questions are asked out loud with regards to what the objects in the shop are and what they could be used for, the origin – and with it the essence – of the objet trouvé is being addressed. Each object has the opportunity to become art, although only by virtue of the artist’s choice. These considerations are made whilst sitting, talking, thinking and drinking coffee. The video also shows how the artists carry out a variety of actions whilst questioning, researching and testing them. For instance, in the last scene you see them in the woods where a re-enactment takes place of a photograph found on the internet. After twenty-five minutes the decision is taken to stop, because the position in which they find themselves bares sufficient resemblance to the photograph. Here, it’s all about the making of the making and the finality of the decision.
The video presented appears to be a documentation of the six weeks spent at Kunsthuis SYB, however in turns out to have been shot in just two afternoons. The research, the (inter)actions and the moments of artistic production which have taken place during their stay, were repeated during two afternoons so that they could be filmed this time. With this, the relationship between reality and fiction is addressed.
The staging of actions play a major role in the work of Bas Schevers. Performances are played out amidst the audience where the boundary between actor and audience is unknown; thus blurring the distinction between staged and natural interactions. The uncertain relationship between reality and fiction is also present in Bas Schevers’ earlier video works. These are partially scripted, but could also be real. Another interesting work is Incident Detail, in which a confrontation is repeated countless times. Each time, the same thing essentially happens, and yet it’s always different.
Actions are also repeated in We are the Sculptor and We are the Clay. In doing so, authenticity is questioned as well as the recollection and the choice. Reflection takes place by naming significant moments and by describing how they took place. Acting it out again also forces contemplation and research into each individual gesture. Seemingly innocent every day actions also form part of the entirety; they become involved in the artistic process, which then questions the boundaries of process: where does it begin and where does it finish – and when is it good enough to gain the seal of art work – or is the process itself enough?
It was the first time that Hedwig Houben and Bas Schevers had actually really worked together. They’ve often assisted each other but now they had a six-week period in which to enter into a dialogue. This has resulted in a synthesis of two artists who complement each other in an interesting way. The combination of thematics and approaches has led to a layered outcome: We are the Sculptor and We are the Clay addresses issues that will make the viewer think about the ambivalent meaning of materiality and reality, and about the choice and reflection within art – within a recreated, quasi-fictional every day framework.
translation: Jenny Wilson