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.
3 Mar: Lynne van Rhijn (LvR) to Dafna Maimon (DM)
Hi Dafna, as you have undoubtedly heard we were matched for having
an e-mail conversation about your work and the upcoming show at
1646. I had a look at your website and saw your work at Kunstvlaai
A.P.I., so I know you a little, but perhaps you’d like to know something
about me as well.
Well, apart from writing texts about art I work at the RKD in Den
Haag, an institute for art history, for which I collect books, images,
texts, videos – all kinds of documentation about art from
1960 to now. I have a toad as a pet and uhm well, I live in Den
I think I will start simply by asking: what are you planning to
show at 1646? Will it be an extension of what you did before or
will you be trying something new?
4 Mar: DM – LvR
Hi Lynne, I am actually really busy these last days hardly having a
moment to sit down, so this e-mail conversation is a nice excuse to
sit for a moment and think about things.
Ok, so, what I am showing:
As a first note I can say this is my first solo show, so it is quite
exciting as I get a chance to think more about presentation and
atmosphere than in group shows where you are usually just designated
a small part of a wall where you are asked to project on…
I am showing 5 recent videos, three of them made in the States where
I spent the past half year every two/three months. These videos have
never been shown before.
I am also attempting to build a sculpture or object that’s been in
my mind for quite a while, first as a prop for a video and then it
started to feel like it could just be an object on it’s own. It’s a
kind of billboard that has a fleshy hole in it, a hole that could be
an anus… Or I think of it as that.
I originally started with sculpture when I first went to art school
nine years ago but I haven’t made any sculptures for at least the
past three years so I am excited about doing something 3-D again.
So I guess in a sense what I am showing is a little bit
different than usual as there will be a bit 3-D, and even
a few drawings which I normally never show.
Also my way of working has changed quite a lot since the
work that’s on my website.
For instance, I made a video (Discipline Aid Attempt
No 1, Confessions of a Video Artist) in New York with a
Dominatrix [a dominating woman, especially. one who takes
the sadistic role in sadomasochistic sexual activities]
which I shot in a very unstylized and unaesthetic way
because the content itself needed material that would just
look as real and untheatrical as possible, whilst nor-
mally the visuals and the ‘filmicness’ of the video is a
main concern for me. Also this video really involved an
almost anthropological research process which was new
too. And by that I mean I really researched and somewhat
entered the world of S/M [sadomasochism] to make the video
and dove into the life of my actors who were an actual
Dominatrix and Master.
Also the two other videos made in the States, were not
fully scripted which differs from my normal way of working.
The piece Reception I made together with a friend
artist, Liz Magic Laser, and we also collaborated partly
with another artist, Ben Fain, on this video.
So, for instance, in Reception we thought of a setting
(Limousine) and an action (Drooling) and then we got
actors/props together and started shooting, we were directing
it as we went along, there was no one specific set
script, so we shot an abundance of material and then in
the edit really created the work.
The same thing I did with the video Unnamed, the action
was name dropping and the setting was a couples living
room, and after that I just shot during one night a lot
of material coming up with things for them to do or say
whilst shooting rather than following a written script
from a to z.
I used to be very controlling in making videos and leave
almost no space for improvisation and now that has actually
become a very important part of the working pro-
cess for me.
So next to these three videos, which are a bit more narrative,
I am also showing two video loops that are not narrative
at all. Those two are on my website so I think you
probably saw them: Disaster and Seeking Adam.
Ah, I could go on telling you more but I think maybe it’s
better to let you react on this first. Anyway, as for pets
I had a dog, who died of cancer three years ago and then
I had a step-dog, Andy.
When I grew up we always had cats and horses and dogs, I
love animals and would like to meet your toad one day. I
am a vegetarian and spend a lot of time thinking about
the relation we humans have to animals, this doesn’t really
have anything to do with my work but a lot to do with
me as a person…
5 MAR: LvR – DM
I am curious to see what will happen to your videos when
you make a surrounding for them, since it seems that
looking at them is stepping into a world quite different
from our normal surroundings: the opera, a disaster,
the studio of a news reader, et cetera. It seems to
me as though in your videos you often take these rath-
er unnatural surroundings or situations, and juxtapose
them to a sense of longing in the characters for something
more ‘real’. The kind of feelings or experiences
that are so in-your-face that they are unmistakably
real, like deep heartfelt love, sickness, sadness. Am I
right in pointing this out as something you have been
interested in your work, and continue exploring in your
new films and billboard? An S/M situation also seems to
me like a weird mixture of ‘real’ and fabricated experiences
Correct me if I’m wrong, but could this also be some-
thing that explains your interest in animals vs humans?
I mean: animals do not know how to fake emotions, they
are always, in a way, ‘honest’, and perhaps that is partly
why we like them. Look forward to hearing if I’m on
the right track here!
9 MAR: DM – LvR
Hi Lynne, I was just talking about the deadline, actual-
ly. Anyhow, I think indeed you are very much on the right
track. A teacher of mine once told me that it seems like
my works are always screaming in some way, asking for
reaction. So I guess one could call it a search for a real-
ness, all though real can be quite hard to define. I am
somehow trying to reveal our actual condition, trying
to show what’s under our constant attempts to seem like
something we are not, or something more than we are. I am
definitely interested in what is actually going on (re-
ferring to the characters in my videos) emotionally
under the surface.
I think there is an increasing alienation that people
feel, our lives get more and more filled with entertain-
ment, products, experiences and possibilities, but that
is all ‘superficial’ as people are just trying to fill the
void, instead of having to face themselves and so all of
that becomes one big blur.
Maybe another thing that is central to the ‘behavior or
condition’ of my characters is a kind of self obsessive-
ness, a kind of egocentric approach where we all some-
times behave as we were Truman in The Truman show. The
world evolving around ourselves, like in the first vid-
eo I showed here at 1646 three years ago (After All, the
piece where 5 women cry on the stairs) or in the performance
I work here (also on my website). This applies also
to the new videos Reception (which I am showing now) where
10 people are dolled up fancy in a luxurious festive set-
ting (a limousine) but all they can do is drool, or in the
video Unnamed where a couple is spending time together
in their apartment but they don’t even look at each
other they just have a conversation through naming oth-
er artists names (name dropping) and in that way they are
busier sizing up their egos than listening to each other.
With the anus I think it functions a bit differently there
it’s like stating an embarrassing fact which is right in
your face and you can’t escape it, it might be shocking
or just ridiculous. As far as connecting this to my love
for animals, maybe you are right, I never thought of it
that way, I just always felt an immense empathy for ani-
mals as I feel they give us so much and we control their
destinies. They have no way of rebelling, demonstrating,
suing us etc… They are left to our sense of empathy, eth-
ics or moral.
Phoof, ok I hope this gives you something…
LvR – DM
Hi Dafna, I was handed the invitation or flyer for your
show at 1646 last weekend and it says that you find ‘the
often solipsist nature affiliated with art practice dis-
couraging, pathetic and foremost unproductive’. Indeed,
it seems odd that most artists work alone whilst their
aim is to show what they make, to communicate their
thoughts. You mention collaborating with the artists
Liz Magic Laser and Ben Fain and also you worked with
non-artists like choir singers and actors. Could you
elaborate on what collaboration means to you? Do you
see a link between your tendency to share your practice
with others and the ‘increasing alienation’ and egocen-
trism you see in society? In the meanwhile: good luck
on the anus!
11 MAR: DM – LvR
Collaboration is very important to my work, I feel like in
some way through collaboration one becomes even clear-
er about your own practice, since when you collaborate
you keep having to define what you really mean or want,
so there is an increased sharpness and responsibili-
ty in your actions. Also it’s more of a risk, since not
everything is in your control. In fact it’s similar to hav-
ing a child, when it is born you can’t tell anymore what
exactly is your gene and which is your partners, it has
It is also beautiful to see how sometimes you can really
as a team begins to have a joined evolving process. That’s
what happened when I started working with Liz, the works
we did started to have a clear relation or growth to each
other which was different from the growth we experienced
in our individual work. It was as if we together formed
another new artist.
What I meant though by the solipsist nature of the artist
is not necessarily that it is strange that artists pro-
duce their works alone but that artists are often still
clinging on to the importance of this myth of the artist
ego, thus being very protective of their contacts for in-
stance, or putting too much emphasis on the credits of
the work. If the actual emphasis for most people is to
make great ‘things’ or experiences whatever the medium
is, artists could and would benefit by working in groups
creating movements rather than just everyone trying to
become famous or successful on their own.
I still have a lot of doubts of how effective art is today
or what we are really achieving with it, and sometimes I
feel like if it would reach a broader public, something
that would really be in between the extremely almost
anthropological social acts of, for instance, Jeanna van
Heeswijk and the minimal somewhat elitist practice of
artists like Donald Judd it could benefit people in gen-
eral more. If artists would work together more in creat-
ing events or shows or whatever they would be creating,
they could have more power than everyone trying to stand
in the spotlight on their own. Great examples of people
working like this is for instance Improv Everywhere, a
group from New York that organizes amazing monumental
acts of improvisation in public, where hundreds of people
can collaborate without one person taking the credit, an-
yone can suggest a project and it is always published just
under the name of the group not the people who run it.
And to answer your question about the relation between
collaboration and alienation in society now, yes there
is a relation in the sense that when I or people (in this
case artists) in general just focus on filling the void or
only on their own egos they forget what is actually valu-
able or important (making good relevant work). For me it
is more important to create a good ‘piece’ or for a good
piece to come into existence than it having to be my name
in capitals next to the piece.
Ok that’s it for the moment, the ass is standing now. A lot
of work, thank God my friends and the 1646 crew is amazing
and is lending me a lot of hands.
LvR – DM
Ok, that’s clear, thank you! Good luck on the last bits,
I’m looking forward to seeing it all on Friday and meet-
ing you in person.”