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Frank Koolen

In conversation with
Darius Myk_is

As part of the exhibition: Terra Nova
This took place before the opening on 17/12/2010

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.

16 NOVEMBER: Darius Myk_is [DM] to Frank Koolen [FK]

Hi Frank, sorry for the late response, I’m away for some time, but I can start and

continue from my phone, I just need to apologize for some typos if they occur. I’ll

be quick and fast from now on.

The questions:

1. Do you use specific (if any) concept or technology for generating the content of

your exhibition? Meaning the fact, that since not all artist practices are direct-

ly linked with artistic production, the existing void between the artist’s mind and

the exhibition space could be filled with some kind of automated process which, by

using some algorithm, could extract artist’s knowledge shaping it into the art

exhibition form. For instance, our conversation could be such an algorithm.


Dear Darius,

Great to hear from you!

Thanks a lot for your reply and first question.

Hereby my answer:

The only technology which really has an effect on my work and also this exhibition is

the technology of the home-made. Seemingly anti-technology but not meant as such.

It’s a technology of inventiveness. The only rule is to make something work, to stop

something, to keep something open, to hold something together. It’s a technology

without much attention for appearances. It looks some way because it turned out that

way. Of course I sometimes make use of professional machines to do things I cannot

do. Still, even then, they just have to do basic homely things. They bend, cut, saw

or drill. I want to be part of what is happening in my work, I guess.

I think the idea of the automated process or algorithm is very interesting however,

because it could free you from all doubts and hassle you have while mentally

and physically constructing a work or show. It would free you from your will. So

you would be free of your freedom. Freedom which makes art so difficult in the first

place. Good for your health, but I think I need doubt and hassle to come to new ideas

and insights. I’m afraid Doubt and Hassle are my best friends. Creating an automated process would upset them badly.

Did I tell you my show is entitled Terra Nova?

Started with some vague idea about travelling, expeditions, discovery, but at one

point in this associative mist, you crossed my mind. We only met shortly but, for

some reason, I think you can travel parallel worlds. Can you tell me something about

this? If not, just ask me another question.

Yours, Frank


I’d better switch to another question, otherwise I would need to tell about coffee

which I like when it’s bad. The questions will spin around my personality mostly,

since we barely know each other as you have mentioned. When the answers will create

something visible of you, I will know something more about myself too!

The second question will be the following:

2. Have you ever experienced your parents forcing you to become an artist?


You’re completely right. This conversation is too young to sink into personal

quicksand just yet (although I’m curious about this coffee…).

My second answer:

I think it’s not impossible. My parents have always been complimenting me on my

drawings although I know for sure they weren’t that good. I always copied comic

book figures on semi see-through paper (an absolute corrupt method) and present-

ed them as my own. They must have known this but never mentioned it, on the

contrary, they loved them. When telling stories about my childhood I’m always the one

drawing peacefully in corners. Not true in my memory. I was always outside playing

football or reading comics. Pure falsification of history. So yes, my parents could

have easily constructed a well-planned web to trap me into their art fantasy. A very

soft force nevertheless.

Looking forward to your next question.


3. Would you agree that with time, people eventually become artists? Assume that all

people have become immortal – sooner or later they all turn themselves

into artists. And if you are a young artist, wouldn’t it mean that you

are older than your peers?


You can say the more time you’re into art making, the better you know

what you want. Still does this make your art better? Are you then a

better artist?

Of course, you are more experienced. You made more decisions. Your work

becomes more focused. More specific. More personal. You accept easier

that the things you do are the things you do. Less questions, more

peace. A generalisation, but true in many cases.

But does this make the work of for example the old Sigmar Polke better

than the work of Polke the younger? Aren’t the first direct, stupid,

irresponsible actions of the young artist not the most interesting?

Before everything is cosmetically polished, overly theorized and related

to some? Before it becomes a job. So, to come back to you question:

Yes, you’re older, but if you mean wiser and a better artist, I don’t

know. Who is the oldest and wisest (dead?) Artist you know?


4. I think with coffee you can say there is good coffee and bad coffee.

You hear people say this a lot : “that’s really good coffee, he makes a

great cup of coffee” or “ this coffee is mud water, it’s bloody awful”.

Or “hey, are you trying to kill me with this coffee or what?”

Whatever the quality it is still both coffee, right? Good or bad.

Now with art I don’t know, some things are at a given time more art

than others based on their market value, within that specific sys-

tem they are then considered through their value as commodities to be

good art. It is good inside a context, for a purpose but a limited way

of appreciation – it tends to spill over ultimately though into general


Besides this art as a good investment, as a commodity within a canon

etc., I suppose what I want to ask you really is this: Is there such a

thing as bad art (and good art)?

Or is it then, perhaps, no longer art but just an attempt to formulate

something that will be recognized as art – or that will say by itself I

am art. And can we sidestep any socio-economic framework to get to

the heart of it anyway?

In my mind there is Art and not Art (or everything is art if you zoom

in or out). Saying something is bad art doesn’t feel right – the only

thing to say that would make sense then would be that it’s just Bad and

not Bad art.

I am sorry it is maybe getting too loose to expect a tight response. I

will go make myself a cup of coffee now. (an old trick with writing to

end with the beginning to make it seem coherent).


Thanks for your question, great to hear from you again.

Was afraid you got lost somewhere…

I think you’re absolutely right stating bad art doesn’t exist. When hit

by a stray bullet you cannot blame the bullet. You cannot blame the gun.

You cannot blame the one who made the gun nor the bullet.

The only one to blame is the one who shot it. Even if he was hired or

pressed to do it, even then he’s the only one responsible for you getting hit.

Bad art doesn’t exist, bad artists do. I pity bad artists because they

can’t see that what they’re doing reflects them as bad artists. I feel

a deep contempt for people (when sane and adult) who can’t place

themselves above themselves to grasp an objective view on what they do and

what they are. Bad artists can’t do this otherwise they would do something different.

Something else.

I know you’re not really into answering questions, but I wanted to try

it one last time because I thought this was applicable.

The exhibition is now getting more focused and for some reason this

idea of time travelling has become even more apparent.

As somebody told me you’re known in Vilnius for ‘probably making a dog

disappear during an opening’.

Can you tell me: Where is this dog now?


5. Art exists of its own time to begin with, but in retrospect, in hindsight,

to say the least most art has very short legs and looks old and

out of breath quickly. It was only relevant for a short time because

everyone was too excited to play along with it thinking they were part

of the game themselves, a reflection of themselves as open minded,

cultured, relevant people who somehow “got it”.

Do you believe in the Universal – is there such a thing as expressing

the Universal? Can it be gotten at?


Thanks for your quick reply!

I do think something like the Universal exists. There’s no formula to

get to it except for trying things out. If lucky there will be a few

moments you can look it in its one eyed face. The universal is the

absolute. It’s the moment everything is clear. Which ranking you have on

the ATP tennis list if everybody would be on it (even if you have never

played tennis), when was the moment you were closest to death, who you

would be with if not kissed your girlfriend that night, how the earth

would have looked like if the dinosaurs weren’t extinguished, a man

shouting on another planet, the moment most cars were stolen in the

southern hemisphere (at the same time!). In this case it’s the same as

in you last question. It’s not only found in art but in everything. Art

is just a very interesting place to look for it.


Yes hello Frank.

My last question is not one direct question. I might be mumbling a bit.

I have been travelling so much on dirt road buses my mind is shaking.

Do you think artists are all too happy to join the big capitalist career

machine these days, and their artist aspirations have become petty

and bourgeois?

Is art still about questioning systems, has this questioning or critique

merely transformed into a careerist platform where artist and

curators seek each other out in a feigned attempt to be for something

other than themselves?

Does everybody just want a way IN, is that all the (art)world has come

to mean?

And, would you go on making art if no one would be interested in your

work – what sacrifice would you make if you have to choose between say,

figuratively, bread and paint?

Do you think it is equally possible to do something real and radical as

a businessman for instance?

I sometimes wish to change or expand my practice but I admit to be also

complacent. Having an idea just to be an artist, playing that part,is

pretty constrictive, no?

Good luck with your exhibition.


Dear Darius,

Thanks for your honest and open questions.

I really admire the way you are willing to question the mere fundament

of what you are and what you’re doing.

Still, choosing between bread and paint I would choose bread.

Art is not worth dying for. Art is a way of showing you’re alive.

It’s a symbol for the choice finding out what is living about anyway.

What is associating, what is choosing, what is creating, what is this

moment where everything is redefined next to or entangled with

everyday life.

It is constrictive, cause it partly is played by its own rules, but it’s

the most free world of all possible choices.

It’s corrupt, it’s used, it’s bad, it’s horrible but compared to other

possibilities, it’s a next level.

Many thanks for your input and all best,




Please visit the website of the artist for more information.


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