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Herman van Ingelgam

In conversation with
Selma Trtovac

As part of the exhibition: Zonsopondergang
This took place before the opening on 09/12/2011

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.

2 NOVEMBER: Selman Trtovac [ST] to Herman van Ingelgem [HvI]

Dear Herman,

I looked little bit at your website, and on your art work. I’m interested in the process of thinking you are going through. What kind

of works are you going to show in the gallery 1646? Why? What is

title of the exhibition?

I’m glad that we are going to think together and looking forward

our dialogue! :-)

Yours sincerely

Selman Trtovac

8 NOV: HvI – ST

Dear Selman,

Thanks for the mail. Sorry, didn’t answer quickly but I was in London,

building up a solo show. It was quite busy.

I’m looking forward to do the conversation and hope it will take us to an

interesting introspection, not only in what I will do in 1646 but also in

how you think as interviewer-prespectator-artist-curator-outsider.

English is not my native language and I’m making a lot of mistakes

but I hope the people of 1646 will help us with the final editing.

If there is something not clear for you, let me know.

I already have some plans and ideas for my show in 1646.

In our lives we have several different kinds of rhythms. There is the

rhythm of the economy that is almost worldwide, dealing with working hours, working weeks, the market-movements, etc. …

There is also the rhythm of the mass media, this is a very fast,

burning rhythm. Art world often admires this energetic pulse because it generates a lot of spectacle and intense close attention.

In 1646 I want to work with daily rhythm. For me it is the most important rhythm and of course, it includes somehow all the other

movements (less or more). In that daily rhythm, not only people, animals and nature are participating. Also objects do!

Sometimes it is organised by people but others it is running automatically or by force of something else (like gravity for instance). It can be intentional or by accident… It’s my plan to do something with the relation between human rhythm and the rhythm

of the objects. The title of the show will be: ZONSOPONDERGANG.

It’s a contraction of two Dutch words: Zonsopgang (Sunrise) and

Zonsondergang (Sunset). It’s a kind of very quick day.

I hope we can talk about it more in this dialogue. Give you more

details later.

10 NOV: ST – HvI

Thanks for the Email. My English is also not so well, so

I will always need some time to articulate my thoughts.

I suggest that my role in our dialogue should be deliberately provocative, I could try to attack your position

from all sides. In this way we could turn our dialogue

into some kind of mental exercise, which could eventually put to the test our prejudices and in same time, I hope, it will not be boring. What do you think about this concept?

Greeting

10 NOV: HvI – ST

Ok, the concept of provocation sounds good.

Let’s try it, I think it will lead to straight conversations and indeed an interesting mental exercise.

So… give me the first kick please.

Best.

11 NOV: ST – HvI

Dear Herman,

At the very beginning I’d like to point out that I feel

close to your work. I find your work aesthetically very

clear and straight to the point. In particular I like the

work titled Drop Drop from 2008.

Despite my opinion, I’d like to start our ‘dispute’

with your first email where you talk about few terms or

thoughts you want to face related to your future exhibition in the gallery 1646.

You talk about several different kind of rhythms, first

rhythm you mention is rhythm of the economy, then the

rhythm of the mass media and then as the most important daily rhythm.

You add also that ‘daily rhythm, not

only people, animals and nature are participating. Also

objects do!’.

The order of the rhythms that you named attracted

my attention, so I wonder: why this exact order? Is

it coincidence or it is a list made in terms of your

priorities?

Secondly, you say you are going to do ‘something’ with

the relation between human rhythm and the rhythm of

the objects.

What do you mean by that exactly? What does it mean

rhythm of the objects? What kind of rhythm of objects

is it? What kind of objects you consider and why?

Where is the origin of your claim, is it some experience

or knowledge of other kind you derive your assertion

about rhythms of objects?

Who are you talking to with your work? In what way someone can project her/himself into this confrontation

with the concept of rhythm? What do you think?

That is all for the beginning.

Regards

P.S.

Sorry for my bad English. I hope you can understand what

I’m talking about.

11 NOV: HvI – ST

Thanks for the questions. They open my mind, I hope to

give you some answers before Monday, I’m working on it.

Best.

14 NOV: HvI – ST

Hello Selman,

Here, you find already some answers to your questions. I

copied parts of your text and made it bold. So it’s more

easy to know where we talk about.

The order of the rhythms that you named attracted my

attention, so I wonder why this exact order. Is it coincidence

or it is a list made in terms of your priorities?

Indeed, it is not just an accidental order. It looks like

the economy today is the most important rhythm. A giant

wave that determines everything. Food, tools, clothes,

mobility, communication … even leisure time is determined

by the economy and the financial value in which it

is represented.

At this moment, with the worldwide financial crises, we

only gonna feel it more and more.

It looks like in our over-mediated environment, the

discourse of the mass media (TV, internet, magazines,

newspapers… ) is the most important place where

representation happens.

In this space, stories are told, images are shown, theories are made.

For us, it is the most important place to

make an orientation of our thinking and our behaviour.

As I have already told, the rhythm of this place is very

fast, like a stroboscope. Everything is completely burnt

in a few days. Not only celebrities, sports people and

fashion stuff, also music, images, artists, concepts and

ideas. For one little moment, there is a lot of attention

and everyone is talking about it. But a few seconds later, it disappeared.

When I make art, not only for this show, but in general,

I want to talk about the rhythm that exist, rather, on a

human, corporal scale. Of course, this can also be very

nervous and hasty but this is not what I mean with ‘daily life rhythm’.

I work with things that are very usual and habitual. Things

that exist so close to our body and life that it seems

they can escape from the influence of economics and mass

media. Of course it is not like that, it only looks like

that. They are even more related to the economic and media

power than we can think. But about those usual things,

we have the feeling we can manage them, we have some kind

of free relation with it.

When I am working with ‘daily life’ I try to work with situations

everyone knows very well. It is the kinds of situations and moments

that survive in time of crises.

For me it is important that my work is not a ‘new reality’. Not a screen

in front of the existing reality. I think

you are just making new ideologies if you try to do that.

It is my goal to transform the existing reality a little

bit. So that there is an occasion of new (or other) purpose with a

new (or other) value on a poetical level. It

is important for me that my work is staying very close to

the existing reality.

Secondly, you say you are going to do ‘something’ with

the relation between human rhythm and the rhythm of the

objects. What do you mean by that exactly? What does it

mean rhythm of the objects?

What kind of rhythm of objects it is? What kind of objects do

you consider and why?

It is clear that there is a lot of variation into the rhythm

of daily, usual situations. For me the objects also have

participation in that. For instance: tools have a lifetime.

After a while, they are defective and you have to

replace them. Curtains are moving with the rhythm of day

and night, they open en close again in relation with the

turning of the earth and the sun. Gravitation is working

on objects. It makes things bend so you can see literally

how time is working on materials and how those materials resist.

In the show, I don’t have the intention to give an expression

of those rhythms, neither to give examples or illustrate them.

No, I want to work with it on another level.

I want to use a methodology that I already practise for

a while. A time ago I saw the same articulation in a text

by Jeroen Mettes, a Dutch poet.

He was talking on his blog about his friend-poet-musician

Samuel Vriezen who developed the concept: rhythm of

meaning or rhythm of purpose. In my own words it’s about

a rhythm, next to or parallel to the physical rhythm. This

rhythm, only exists during the reading. Some words have

a lot of meaning, or they open a large series of associations

and connections with other concepts. Some words are

more explicit, outstanding or prominent, because of the

position in the sentence. Another feature is that words

transform the purpose of other words in a sentence, words

from the past and the future in that sentence or text. All

that activity of transforming the content of a sign, you

also can edit during the conception and production of a

show. It was for me an exciting moment when I recognized

it in the working method of the poet.

The way I build up an image and the presentation of a show

is quite similar.

Where is the origin of your claim, is it some experience or

knowledge of other kind you derive your assertion about rhythms of objects?

The way I will develop this show (and also I developed

former shows) is based on very usual situations and happenings.

Moments I noticed at home, in my studio, on the

street… very simple moments.

Nothing special happens. But somehow some specific moments

stay attached in my mind and asked for an investigation. They are moments where time is making a jump, or

get stuck, or condenses … where the rhythm I talked about

is, suddenly, on the surface.

The work I make is an effort to answer those rhythms. This

is the relation between the rhythm of the objects and the

human rhythm. It’s also the rhythm of mental activity in

connection with the objects (the shape, colour, material,

the way how we perceive them).

Your last question, I will answer later.

23 NOV: HvI – ST (in reply to previous email)

Hello Selman,

Sorry I’m a bit late with my answer, but it’s hectic here.

I did the same as I did before: your text is bold, my answers regular:

I think that your way of thinking about the rhythms can

be linked to the well-known idea of an expanded concept

of art. This means a reflection on society and phenomena in society today.

To reflect on society today, the crisis and rhythms

that you mentioned in the first section of your text,

it is necessary to observe the mechanisms of functioning of society in late capitalist society and sharing of power.

Building on the thesis of Michel Foucault and Gilles

Deleuze, philosophers Hart and Negri put forward the

assumption that within contemporary capitalism it does

not exist a fixed place of power – the power, and therefore the exploitation is capillary spread.

The Marxist dialectics of use and exchange value is

no longer current … exploitation occupies the entire

social field. In this sense, the philosopher Herbert

Marcuse has revised the traditional definition of totalitarianism: for him, totalitarianism is not only forced

coordination and management of the society but also an

economic and technological coordination which operates

through the process of managing and handling of needs.

These are therefore false needs! I dare to add: false

rhythms.

I think you make the correct connection with the philosophical line you talk about. But for me, the problem of

needs: ‘are they fake or real?’ is not the question.

It is always very difficult to say what is real and what

is false. This is always an historical question and always leads you to the discussion of authenticity. For me

is important: ‘what to do with it’? How to give a definition of your position?

The questions arising from this thesis are the role of

art today and what is the perspective of art in this

context. Is it enough to identify the problem, symbolically and formally to articulate something in the space

of some gallery. What sense does it make? Is this just

another bit in the stroboscope that was maliciously imposed upon us that make us satisfied and confused?

The question about the role of art is the good one. What

is the role of art in this context. I think the role is on

a certain level much more important than we presume and

on the other hand the place of art in this context is completely insignificant. Let me explain this.

If you see art, not only as an activity in galleries, musea and the discursive space of art critics, but you consider art as a permanent daily activity from an individual who is trying to interpret and transform reality, then

art is not only another bit in the stroboscope. Then, art

is the articulation of things that really matter: the opposition to the so-called ‘false rhythms’ where you are

talking about.

What I try to do is not only identify the problem to make a

symbolic, formal presentation somewhere in a gallery, but

to give a testimony about how I experience the rhythms

and structures. The big thing is: how can I do this honest, fair, open, and exact?

Maybe it looks very trivial and unimportant and it looks

like I put the standard very low, but I think it very urgent and enormously difficult.

This testimony is not about figures and facts, and it is

not about solutions, but it is important because of the

new meaning that is generated on the poetical level and

the potential of this new meaning.

Next important issue in our discussion witch attract my

attention is your thesis of rhythm of meaning or rhythm

of purpose. What would it specifically in art practice

mean? This is a wonderful thesis, for all of us necessary and desirable, but how to accomplish it, what to do

in art for example? I like very much your position when

you say ‘it is my goal to transform the existing reality a little bit. So that there is an occasion of new (or

other) purpose with a new (or other) value on a poetical level. It is important for me that my work is staying very close to the existing reality’.

What kind of visual language is possible in such a context of hyper rhythm?

The thesis of the rhythm on the level of the meaning or

content is for me a very natural way to build an image or

to make a show. As I already told, I want to stay very close

to reality and I want to talk about daily life. Often, artist consider a work of art as a screen in front of reality or as a window to another alternative world. I would

define my work as a small spin of reality.

The materials I use are very familiar and common: a table,

a shoe, sausages, wall-paper … with this materials, I try

to build up images that condense the sense of a moment

or a situation. Images that swing from the formal level

to the level of language. That swing is having a certain

rhythm and that’s effectively my testimony.

During the building up of a solo show, there is also another level that’s important. There is the relation between

the different works and the relation between the works

and the space. These relations create a new swing. Sense,

purpose, content, statements, attitudes are jumping from

one image to another and transforming each other.

It is like a background noise or like a murmur, sometimes

calm and serene, sometimes loud and accumulating like a

Larsen-effect. Actually: the show is this sound and it is

only there when there is someone to read it.

Do you think the artist can be outside of these rhythms

as some kind of intellectual and poetical observer who

identify the problem, or is he/she himself a victim,

aware of the situation, of a subversive and very sophisticated system that exploits all?

In the question about the position of the artist, you talk

about the position of the observer and the victim. But

the artist is also perpetrator, collaborator, impassive,

refugee, transformer…

As everyone, an artist has to take a position in all those

rhythms and consider what to do with it. Every activity, every situation, every happening is political (and)

full of consequences. The thing is to produce your own a

feedback noise.

30 NOV: HvI – ST (in reply to previous email)

Dear Selman,

Guy Debord in a part of his the text about Society of

the Spectacle says: ‘Modern industrial society is essentially, not accidentally or superficially spectacular. In the spectacle – the visible reflection of a

dominant economic order – there are not the aims, development is everything. The spectacle aims at nothing

other than itself’.

If we agree that the thesis of Guy Debord is accurate

and that the representation of reality but not the true

reality is that what surrounds us, and if everything

around us tends to spectacle, what implications would

have your definition of a small spin of reality? What

could it possibly result in?

Yes, I totally agree,‘the spectacle aims at nothing other than itself’.

There are no goals, only development. And I think it is

one of the functions of an artist to escape from this. Or,

at least to attempt. That’s what I try to do. In my work

I try to develop a dialogue, cleared from the spectacle.

That’s why I use very common, ordinary materials and objects. Sometimes even trivial.

By putting the objects into a choreography with the surrounding architecture and context, I try to construct a

dialogue that generates values outside the spectacle and

ideology. The objects, tools, and materials I work with

are of course produced by a dominant economic system,

first of all they are signs and instruments from what

Debord defines as true reality.

Again, I think the discussion about true or fake reality

is not the point. That’s a question of historic authenticity and ethics or morality.

Instead of true reality I would talk about close reality.

By working on the rhythm of daily life, with familiar objects, I try to extract alternative values out of the relation between ourselves and the surrounding world of

goods, needs, materials, production, use, expectations…

Of course it is problematic. If you are an artist, you are

dealing with the spectacle. Not only if you are successful. Even when you just give a show.

I think ‘the talking’ is always a kind of spectacle. At

least when you have listeners. That’s why visual art is so

interesting: the conversation is a one to one operation

with in between an object. “

Info

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