Classifying the visual or visualizing classifications?

It is like stretching and reversing an idea with classification as axon. By classifying the visual you get to work with loose parts picked from the chaos of human thinking. Whereas visualizing a classification of knowledge is done within the spectrum of sciences; a much more organised field than the field of visual arts.

The act of compiling a museum entailing all human knowledge in the form of a visual encyclopedia  sounds like an event set up for educational purposes. The “Encyclopedic Palace” of the 55th Venice Art Biennale director Massimiliano Gioni who “introduced the choice of theme evoking the Italo-American self-taught artist Marino Auriti who “on November 16, 1955 filed a design with the US Patent office depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge, bringing together the greatest discoveries of the human race, from the wheel to the satellite” was a  brilliant choice of concept; that, considering the recent (but not terminal) downfall of humanities studies with mutual consent of governments and people; pushed aside as not relevant to the quest for perpetual economical growth. Would economical growth and its turn for downfall have a space too in this museum, I do not know. Naturally such an attempt, of a visual encyclopedia, can only be elliptical, but the bottom line truly steeps in a big part of this year’s Biennale shows. Just to mention however that keywords like libraries, classification, taxonomy, had already made their appearance at the previous edition of the Venice Biennale.

Walking through the corridors of library buildings as part of my day-time job, I am aware of several projects concerned of classifying knowledge or visualizing science and its classification. For undefinable reasons such projects could easily be incorporated in art or beyond art (as they are called) events, should someone decide to present them as such. It is quite interesting to see how visual results of high aesthetic value do not really need the pretense of artistic concept and in effect surpass it.

Interesting links: and  (to see images of visualized classifications) (to read about the origins of Internet) (to see visualized mathematical structures)

and the website of an International seminar on this topic organized by the UDC Consortium, on 24-25 October in The Hague: “Classification & Visualization: Interfaces to Knowledge”

Registration is open until 15 October

P.S. 1 I will also be present at this conference as member of the organizing team

P.S. 2 I wonder if contemporary visual arts, having dropped the “visual” will be merged with other fields of humanities in the digital library of the future, and what field of human expression will then claim the abandoned “visual”.

La Grande Biblioteca  (1976/86), Gianfranco Baruchello, at the "Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Venice Biennale
La Grande Biblioteca (1976/86) by Gianfranco Baruchello, at the Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Venice Biennale
The 387 House of Peter Fritz, by Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser, at the Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Venice Biennale
The 387 Houses of Peter Fritz (1993-2008), by Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser, at the Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Venice Biennale

Paper artworks – The Hague

Paper Biennale 2012 in Rijswijk and The Hague

Museum Rijswijk: until 13 January 2013
Museum Meermanno: until 2 December 2012

It was to finish on 25 November, yesterday, but it is extended because of big success. Well done, it is really an interesting show. I had seen the Rijswijk part some time ago and last Saturday went with Mickey to the second, smaller and more specific part at the Meermano Museum, the House of Book as it is known. Here, the artists show works made or inspired by books and letters. In the exhibition, though not really part of it, is also shown a video about the making of the Mini-Library made in the Netherlands: the Bibliotheca Thurkowiana Minor. The Library includes 1515 miniature books, each approximately 7 cm high and their content is according to a classic library division like Natural History, Music, etc. The library’s design is based on the famous 17th and 18th century Dutch Puppet-houses, some of which can be seen at the Gemeente Museum in The Hague. The motto of the library is a quote from  Cervantes’ Don Quichote: ‘Ellos son gigantes’, “They are giants”. The books are made by hand of course with tons of patience and quiet passion. Mickey was really impressed and did not want to leave before having seen the whole video of the man explaining and showing how this is done.

p.s. 1 The Meermanno Museum is also hit by the cutbacks in financing cultural institutions, a situation that will be felt from 2013.
p.s. 2 We did not take any photographs inside, only at the entrance; the work was also chosen for the poster

frozen stream of books by Alicia Martín

Impressions from the Open Ateliers weekend

Open Ateliers Den Haag, 6-7 October 2012

Better late than never, I publish now impressions from that weekend that is already overtaken from other impressions, some rain, wind and two rounds of cheese-pies and cakes from our oven (reaching amateur perfection there).

Around 50 ateliers in the center of The Hague were open but I hardly managed to see my next door neighbors since I was also a host and most of the time quite busy. It was a good weekend; lots of people passed by, many doing the round like a duty, a big number of personal contacts and a few precious strangers with good sense of commenting to the point. Ping An Brouwers, the jewelery maker next door, with his students provided a relaxing atmosphere even with music gigs for the later hours.

What comes out of such an event?

a few sales
potential orders
new contacts and refreshing of old ones
feedback from many people
observing people’s preferences
putting in words what you make
spending a month’s talk reserves

All this is fine, only the days after I had to put the atelier in working mode again and that took extra effort; now it’s time to focus before the next exhausting event. A big thanks to all those who took the challenge of climbing up (and then down) our staircase and especially to those who stayed for a little talk.

photos made mostly by Mickey v.d. Beukel

the ring taking form during this weekend by Steve Silver
Ping An Brouwers with students and clients
Eveline singing beautifully jazz songs
in my studio with Nancy, Filippos and Andreas

The constant Sisyphus – Julian Rosefeldt in The Hague

Gallery West and Volkspaleis (in the Grote Kerk) – The Hague
21 July to 17 August 2012
open daily from 11:00 to 17:00
free entrance

Finally an exquisite exhibition in The Hague. In two locations, at 10 minutes walk distance, West presents works of Julian Rosefeldt at a good portion not to leave any doubt that he is one of the top contemporary artists. His video installations are technically perfect, filmed primarily in 16mm. He uses a cinematic narration cut down to the limited duration of an art video while keeping the content and the aesthetic value at full blast. At gallery West we see the work Trilogy of Failure containing three separate video installations: the soundmaker, stunned man and the perfectionist. The camera, rarely static,  moves in an hypnotic perpetual slow motion left-right-left, somehow like a clock ticking wherein things happen and things change if you sit to look. The artist does know how to absorb our attention to  actions that are bluntly pointless. It is after all the depiction of the constant Sisyphus; the human destiny. But so what if there is no point in our actions? We are here anyway so we do; otherwise we should sit and meditate until perhaps this as well becomes Sisyphean. Whatsoever, the sense of pointlessness is overrun but the perseverance of the characters even though that too leads to failure. From pointlessness to failure, one would think that you come out depressed; but not. The stories are told with humour and are set up with details like a night butterfly buzzing around the head of the pilot in the cock-pit and cut-edge boyish characters fiddling around with home made machinery.

At the Volkspaleis we walk in the Asylum. This is a complex installation of nine gigantic screens hanging in the also gigantic dark space of the Gothic church Grote Kerk (big church or main church). The useless movements of groups of people this time brings us to the known thematic of absurdity topped with the destiny of specific inhabitants of this earth that lost their place either by force either by utopic confusion. In the Asylum  the movements are more a job than a time filling game. The pointlessness expands to the work floor, to what officially has a purpose: producing something and bring in the daily bread. So yes, the absurdity of the human existence is total; at some point one group after the other in all nine screens stops working and sings a no words tone. Is this the moment of truth or a scream for help? After that slowly comes an end; until the show starts again: African men walking between ancient Greek/Roman statues  selling dancing dolls, Muslim women cleaning a cactus field with vacuum cleaners, newspaper sellers trying to pile up their papers in a wind draft, sexy Thai girls de-dusting Buddha statues etc.

P.S.  My brain/ guts capacity on the day that I visited the Volkspaleis was just enough to fit the Asylum so I did not manage to focus on the works presented at the back of the church. Maartje Wortel, ROLU collective and Jorg Heiser forgive me. I may try again though.

card and image courtesy Grote Kerk, West & the artists

Open Ateliers-correct map

For the ones that want to come by tomorrow or Sunday, I am publishing here the updated map of the ateliers route. The printed map that you find in the catalogue has an error starting from number 49. It is better to check the address of each artist that you want to visit. I will be at the Nieuwe Molstraat 14 together with Ping An Brouwers, Piet Verhagen and Marco-Fotografie.


It’s been a long season of expectation. We’ve been shivering in our summer clothes under the rain and temperatures hardly over the 17 degrees. It was more time for thinking and dreaming than outing a voice for anything. I used to like the rain. It was my time to stay in and work at the studio long uninterrupted hours, cherishing the chance for concentrating without temptation.  But when temptation is totally out of the scene life shrinks to a ball of duties. I’ve been good with duties since school just so that no one would bother me with them. I would do them quickly to leave time for the things that make the brain change colours, like art, or like any challenge.

Summer came in Holland on the 1st of September and finished apparently on the 3rd; that was yesterday.  I’ve been out with Mickey since the morning and on our way home we fell on The Hague Pride concert in the center. We were so lucky because just when we were about to decide if we should go on or stay, Sarah Bettens came on stage and begun to sing. Mickey would not leave before she finished her performance. Beautiful! Back home he made two drawings of the stage and the musicians, piano and guitar. The piano is somehow more obvious. What you surely cannot see is her bold head which, as she explained in good humour, was the result of a careless haircutting action.


On a summery morning of June, back in 2003 in Brussels, with the back window open, looking to a concrete terrace of some kind of underrated school and further at a distance to the train station Midi/Zuid, I saw a bird coming towards me. It flew right over my head and into the room/studio to the big double room with the arch, our living room. The bird decided to stay with us; both Koert and I were so happy to have this little friend around. It was climbing from our shoulders to our heads, chirping and making happy little gestures. We were feeding her as a baby, because a baby she was. It lasted three days. The morning that I found her dead I cried so much as if I was crying for all the cats I had buried in my life and all the people that I would never meet again.

Getting older, looking back, one expects to contemplate on past phases, places, houses; whatever sticks to memory. It is very common to use the word memory and memory content – personal or public – for producing art. However, the word itself has taken other connotations be it from technology, be it from cheap entertainment. Besides, you can now buy memory, literally, since you can put in there things you have documented and you want to keep. That is memory in fact; what you want to keep, because all the rest goes to other places and is recalled only under special circumstances. Then, linking memory with the passing of time as a theme is a fatal risk; unless you are called Proust or Shakespeare, who by the way burnt the image of a skull for everyone following. Maybe only philosophy can save the theme from slipping to kitschy works. But then kitsch can also be happily admired, however this artistic vision has also passed to memory already. To my understanding everything depicts the passing of time, because we, the spectators, are the carriers of time. When time stops either we are in love either dead (in both cases little we care about art).

Luckily, the dead don’t care about memory, neither for the passing of time; none of the two concerns them. But, what about the tail? The tail is a privilege of the ones closer to their dead phase. Like experience, it adds up, or like a collection of lived behaviours, at some point it is complete.  Our personal tail is complete when we are added as a knot to someone else’s tail; after a friend, a father, a cat, a bird, all those who have passed that person’s life and are now dead. Whether we like it or not, we are all connected through our tails. In fact, we form a huge net in space offered by our dead. At the idea of this drape, I smile.

In memory of Annie the cat


light experiment 1 from the series "the passing", 2000, 140x120cm


You are what you sell

Whenever I come across articles about the ways that artists make their living, what comes out is a big frustration with the artists trying to defend their artistic entity while earning money one way or the other. The “other” way is usually the case, meaning that artists have to do all kinds of irrelevant jobs in order to live a liveable life. Since the artists were detached from the old world’s patrons system, this was the price to pay for the gained independence. So, the majority of artists live a split life between a few hours of paid work and their studio. They always have to be prepared to wear a costume which never really suits them. Or, they have to share drinks and pleasantries with rich people. There we classify artists that do earn a living from their work. What did you think, that this was crystal clear earnings without side-effects and without extra (non artistic) work? Orson Welles was saying that he had spent half of his life trying to find money to realize his artistic projects. The thing is that artists have a hard life anyway; even more because they have to be on the defensive towards people who pester them by questioning their artistic existence when they have to wash dishes in order to preserve exactly this existence. Artists tend to resemble to the aliens of the film “district nine”: monster-citizens of the third kind that sprawl out incomprehensible sounds and are aggressive (or passive) over the top in their hopeless defence. Do we identify ourselves with this description?

Artists’ professionalism goes in levels:

Creation – Publication (exhibition) – Selling

For performing arts, like music or acting, where time is an essential factor, meaning that the work is created in time simultaneously with the attendance of the audience, the level “publication” coincides with the level “creation”.

For visual arts, the creation happens (usually) out of sight. The work is done in private and then it goes to the next level which is to be exhibited. For the intellectual world this is enough for including this work and its creator in the chambers of intellectual creation.

A professional artist according to some, including our incredible art center of The Hague ‘Stroom’, is the one who sells their intellectual creation. I suppose the more you sell the more professional you are, plus that when you do not sell for a period you are not professional for that period.

Under this thinking: the most exploited (to disgusting extend) Dutch artist was never professional. Was he an artist, or what was he anyway?

Would the American abstract expressionists ever have been “professionals” if the American politics had not decided to create an ‘Americanism’ in the post–war art history?

Was Rimbaud a poet or a weapon dealer?

Even mentioning these artists, it comes to mind the ridiculous assumptions about art creation that people who have never put their hands in pigments, or never have spent a whole working day repeating their scales, or even more never have felt absolutely crashed by their own vision, come to. I have always ignored them, or fought (with) them.

What makes a professional artist is the depth of involvement: be there with your work, always, body and soul, even if you sell your body or your mind here and there to support this commitment. No committees are necessary to “recognize” that. Each one should know it for him/herself.

sketches for plaster figures of approx. 30 cm high
to be reproduced in such a number as to fill up the floor of a
30 m2 room, title: ‘variable according to audience’

Elephants at ‘wijkfeest’ Vrederust

Last Saturday, 18 September, we had an intense session of mingling with colors and children, assisting them with painting with brushes and real paint (!), sometimes for their first time. We were lucky with the weather that allowed us to work outside on the pavement, in front of the windows of the geborgen kamers. It was Koert’s idea (and preparation) to fill up the place with cut out wooden elephants (some 15 of them), which attracted the attention of the neighborhood’s children. The result is exhibited in the space of the geborgen kamers at Ambachtsgaarde 6. For a while, the elephants can be viewed from the window. Big thanks to the ‘wijkberaad’ of Vrederust which invited us to do the workshop, during the year’s ‘feestje’.

I spotted photographs of the whole event at this site:

Here some photographs of the ‘elephants’ workshop