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Dafna Maimon

In conversation with
Lynne van Rhijn

As part of the exhibition: The Award Winning Show
This took place before the opening on 13/03/2009

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

and emotions.

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.”



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