The artists invited to realize a project at 1646 are asked to engage in conversation with a correspondent via email or DM, be it someone previously unknown to them or whom they’re already familiar with.
This conversation spans the period before an exhibition is completed. 1646 invites the correspondent at the other end of this exchange to ask questions so they may be guided through the artist’s decision-making process and how their initial ideas develop toward completion. It provides insight into the artist’s body of work and is intended to paint a picture of the otherwise untraceable choices that constitute the artist’s practice.
6 MARCH: Bart Rutten [BR] to Daragh Reeves [DR]
Here we go. It feels a bit like internet dating, writing you out of
the blue and asking you to reveal some inner thoughts to prepare
for a meeting. I mean, for a meeting your work. I am not sure if I
ever saw some of yours. I looked online but did not find many
images and than I started to like this set up. It is like approaching
a work from the inside.
Tell me, what do you think I should know from your work before we
enter this conversation?
And I am curious what your plan is for the set up of the show. Are
you installing your work in the gallery based on a very detailed
plan or is there room for improvisation?
Hope to hear from you soon,
DR – BR
I don’t think Internet dating would be quite the hit if you knew all
your chats would be published on a leaflet and given to your friends
– ha! What we have is also the blind date scenario, which I must not
ruin by talking too much about myself!
So (briefly)… yes I am installing now, and there is a plan, but not
a detailed lay out one. I prepared several ideas in advance that I
thought would work together – only in the sense that you might plan
out an English garden. Many of the ideas came from notebooks over
the years and most therefore needed realising.
In this show I had the feeling not to trade too much on personality.
I aim to make a show like a design, like someone who directs a film
for a producer who found a good script, rather than one who tells
his own life story and plays the lead role.
In truth I normally prefer making art that pops up out of a sea of
art making – and it’s form is more accidental and therefore more
complete. These new realisations of ideas feel more like props and
in the installation I am treating them like that – not as my art from
the warm nether nether land but as plain things, as if they were
found. The exhibition I believe will only succeed if they are set
well and allowed to improvise well together – like in a Cassavetes.
It is a process that relies on time, trust, the right atmosphere and
luck which officially I don’t believe in. I want the result to be in
tension with the overly clean look of the space that we spent the
first days preparing.
What should I know about your work? Are you a curator?
DR – BR
Hi again Bart,
I have, since the last email found that you are a curator,
teacher and historian of video art. I am sorry that
there was not much more information about my work on the
web, but it fits with this idea of talking with a stranger
that we only know the bare facts.
I am finding with the installation as I have in the past
too, that I must deal with tension between a purely
decorative wilful side and another side which is overtly,
almost ridiculously idea based. It is almost a case of
dealing with the equivalent of two extreme sexes. But I prefer
allow this difference, rather than actively resolving it
– I suppose in inactive resolution.
I am attracted to art making because of the possibility
to explore truths which relate to contradictions. I sense
much of the rest of the world is locked into the more
comfortable pursuit of singular conclusions – the results
of which are eternally uncomfortable. In contrast, art
and it’s contradictions, seem to approach an easier
inner peace, though the path is rocky.
Well just a few thoughts to get me out of the real work –
have a nice evening and hope to hear from you again soon,
MARCH 7: BR – DR
Thanks Daragh for the nice words. Yes, I am an art
professional, but this conversation should rather be about
you instead of me. You are describing beautifully the
freedom art possesses, to allow extremes next to each other.
Something you think is harder to find somewhere
else. Else like, not the art world. But how do you position
art, or your art practice? As part of society, or is
art a reserve where we cherish vulnerable values?
Another question is:
So, if this is taking you out of the real work, what is
this real work consists of? I am still in the process of
getting a picture of what you are doing. Let’s zoom in
to the show. What are you presenting in 1646?
I am on the road whole day, so will get back to you
DR – BR
Talk to you later – today I feel like a scrambled egg!
MARCH 7: BR – DR
How are you today?
How is it going in 1646?
MARCH 9: DR – BR
Good morning Bart,
I am fine today, thank you. Apologies for the absence.
The nights were turning into mornings and everything else
upside down too.
Last night I took a drive to Amsterdam to collect a small
yellow suitcase and some glassware.
The other night, which was the one responsible for the
trashed feeling, I had been making the hands of 21 alarm
clocks white, instead of black. Since then I realised that
alarm clock piece is everything I despise about art, and
put it to one side.
Somehow the drive proved a better use of time and when
I returned to my room I wrote something on an envelope
that I wanted to say to you – it was late night stuff –
but here goes:
What I want to say, is what I want to say
It is not easy knowing what you want to say – but sometimes
you have to start speaking and find your thoughts
from words that you know or have heard being used before.
This exhibition does not mean much other than this is what
I wanted to say at this time given that I was expected to
say something and agreed to and want to for my own
benefit and fulfilment and equilibrium. All actual content
is purely personal / subconscious / anecdotal but is not
in itself profound.
During the exhibition preparations I have experienced
different states – one, which is the most depressing, is
to find oneself on the verge of being a schoolboy again,
doing his homework and hoping that handing in a clever,
well organised project will impress his teachers and get
him a good grade etc.
I am convinced art cannot be made that way – or maybe it
can – but perhaps I just need to believe in a world where
art produced in that way will not be accepted by people’s
gut and therefore will fail. (Like maybe Dutch tomatoes
in Italy – sorry.)
I mentioned Cassavetes before in the last mail – I don’t
really want to be that artist who will now talk about
certain film directors as inspirations etc. – but nor
do I want to be that artist who has a picture of Woody
Allen and Julia Roberts in his exhibition either – but I
do! Yet I feel comfortable with the analogy of directing
(in the Cassavetes style) to describe the process
of making this exhibition so far – the fact that strange
things get into shot when you are focusing on one thing.
And when you get back the footage and it is good, you
must respect everything in the frame of the scene that
just works. There is no point removing things just
because you don’t remember ordering a prop to be in a
certain place – everything in the shot is in fact a member
of a winning team and needs respecting like each cog in
a watch. On that level art is a strange kind of science,
we don’t know much about it, but we know that doing
certain actions seem to upset it, while other things seem to
make it happy – though we don’t know the rationale. It’s
like being a dog with a master.
So I could, as you asked before, begin to describe cer-
tain things in the exhibition – but that would be like
describing a good friend in terms of the bones, the organs,
and skin – that we all in fact possess.
What I am attempting to do, as I believe all artists attempt
to do, is have all those body parts add up to something,
Before signing off entirely I wanted to mention ‘The Yes
Man’, with Jim Carrey. This is a character who at first
resists everything and then embraces everything and then
realises it’s more about a mix. Although the most fun part
of the movie is when he is saying yes to everything.
I thought this says a lot about the dilemma of how to live
and therefore also about how to make art. Though I don’t
really want to be that guy who preaches on either,
especially in a time when opinions seem so irrelevant.
In another mail I could describe the works in my show,
but it would be a comical list and an abstract work on it’s
own, like the lists we make here of things to do that make
me wonder – what kind of job do I have??! – what am I
asking these poor people to do??!
Before I forget – there are 4 people who run 1646 – and
working with them has been a big part of the show – they
are all in the show as far as I am concerned.
best wishes for now,
BR – DR
Really looking forward to see the show now. Although I
only can read through the lines what will be happening,
I think I have a clear picture of your motives and commitment.
The Space of 1646 is actually very nice to use
as a body for your functioning organs.
Maybe a last question to fulfil my quest into your work
world as a prelude to the real thing. You refer often to
film culture. I was wondering if this is more a
starting point for your work, in other words an inspi-
ration, or is it more used as a broad cultural heritage,
a shared memory for your audience as a reference.
I am not sure if I am making myself clear here, but
maybe you can elaborate a bit more on your love,
fascination with film culture.
MARCH 10: DR – BR
Film is not a starting point for me, instead it represents
a world of excitement that I like to believe in – a
state of living that I aspire to whether it really exists
or not. With my head in these clouds, and others, I make
my art and even live my life.
I begin to think that people are really defined by their
desires – wether they achieve them or not – to emit
desire is a valid and defining feature in people. I like to
see people’s effort. To want to be beautiful is closer to
the real thing. The act is related to reality. (This is
no doubt debatable – since I sense in Holland there is
possibly a different cultural attitude – there is an emphasis
on sincerity, almost at the expense of all else –
does this ring any bells or shall we skip it like the tomato
For example – I noticed when I wear formal clothes, I
become more conservative. When I wear my work clothes, I
can easily become loutish.
I used to think badly of left-wingers who dressed left
wing – because it seems like an ineffective, or rather
unpowerful image to have. Better would be to be left and
look right – just more effective – surely the goal. But
now I think I could be wrong because maybe a soon as you
start looking right you would soon start to behave right.
Well that is what I suspect.
Another analogy comes to mind: I find, that a good way to
copy someone’s voice is to say their name in their voice.
It is strange, since it is almost impossible to hear a star,
for example, say their own name. But the name rubs off on
the voice or almost to the extent that it is the voice. I
need a philosopher to step in now and deliver the killer
blow. This is obscure stuff.
I guess I want to say that I started to believe in the sig-
nificance of form as an overriding truth – and this makes
firm my interest in working as an artist.
Anyway if this were a real date I am sure you would have
escaped out the toilet window by now. Ideally I would have
liked this to be a couple of blokes having a chat, rather
than an interview kind of thing – at a certain point I
begin to hear my own voice – always a bad sign.
Thanks for all the questions.
Should we call it a night?
BR – DR
When you called it a night my night was already getting
to its end. I have to young kids who wake up early.
This chat set up works very well, or should I say works
very well for you ; )
It was really great to talk to you this way, although
I feel a bit guilty you shared so much I was just some
sort of investigator. Let’s meet some day after the
opening ( unfortunately I won’t be able to come to
you openings, since I am stuck in conference Friday
and Saturday) when I saw the work and can share some
more of my insights. You live here in the Netherlands?
(quite an essential question maybe, to ask rather late
in conversation especially since you refer to not being
Dutch). If not, till when will you be here?
I think looking at the history of this email conversation
set up by 1646, we harvested enough. This is not an
escape from the toilet window, but an invitation to continue
later on. I would like to send our correspondence to
Nico now. Unless you think there is something
you want to share, conscious of the fact that this chat
among blokes – will be published…
Good luck with the black arms of the alarm clocks, the
yellow suitcase with or without glass ware, the pictures
of Julia Roberts and Woody Allen, and the Cassavetes
I get a picture, no matter what camera angle I use: I
don’t shoot any angles going back and forth. Almost
everything is shot from the same place, from the same
perspective, so that it’s very important to me that the
cameraman has feeling, and can move with the figures as
he feels it, rather than me saying, ‘Oh, we missed that.
Or to use another nice quote by Cassavetes: It doesn’t
matter if the words are written, because improvisation
has been going on in films by everybody. There’s nobody
that doesn’t improvise to some degree. So it just
depends on what degree you need.
It was my pleasure!
MARCH 11: DR – BR
Thanks so much for the questions on the side of making
this exhibition – it was very nice to have that place to go
to and to build some castles in the sand with you and for
you. I like Cassavetes’ idea on camera movement – anyway
I am looking forward to meeting in person – hopefully a
a couple of blokes having a beer somewhere soon!
Yes, let’s then continue on the other side of your visit
in a couple of weeks.
thank you , best wishes,