Schoon Verlangen, 77 cm x 38 cm x 22 cm, approx. 70 kg of dove regular cream soap bar, permanent collection of VUMC/AMC Amsterdam, 2020. Photography by Julia Sterre Schmitz
In a time where washing our hands repetitively has become part of our daily reality, the personal effort embodies a shared collective effort of care. With the smell of soap lingering on our hands, we remain in the comforts of our homes. Longing for a moment of tranquility in the warm summer sun far away. Schoon Verlangen embodies a journey of an intimate encounter with soap. 200 kg of the todays’ well-known, wide accessible and price friendly dove regular cream bar is hand cut, liquified, hardened and slowly hand carved. While washing by hand and scraping by fingernails the shape of the suitcase slowly emerges from the soap. As the suitcase is marked by impressions of washing and scraping, the body carries the traces of the repetitive effort. Leaving the million little fingernail scratches and hand movements visible on the surface. Captured in-between stillness and movement, Schoon Verlangen imagines a firmness of marble yet is remarkably sensitive to the warmth of water. And its smell gradually fleets with the passing of time.
Many thanks to: Paulien Bekker (soap artist), Philip Groubnov, Sophie Beerens, Alexander Jermilov en Erik Kamaletdinov.
installation with 350 kg of loam, on view in Amuse Bouche, Academiegalerie (Utrecht, 2020).
With time comes reflection, and with encounters comes understanding. Last year, a work trip to Marrakesh evoked feelings of immense restless homesickness. Considering the fact that Morocco is not my country of heritage, I wondered where or what I was exactly homesick to. Was it the presence of loam – consisting of clay, sand and hay amongst other things – that triggered this yearning for belonging? And what does it mean to feel ‘home’ in the first place?
In many warm, sun-kissed climates, earth has always been the most prevalent building material due to its large availability. Earth, mostly referred to as loam, was used as the building material in many ancient cultures for a variety of buildings. The Citadel of Bam in Iran, the fortified city in the Draa valley in Morocco and the Heuneburg Fort in Germany are just a few examples. Today, more and more people seem to acknowledge the versatile qualities of earth over industrial building materials such as concrete, brick or limestone. Earth meets the current demand for an energy- and cost-effective, easy to use building construction method that emphasizes a healthy and balanced indoor climate. Its advantages are hard to compete with; it absorbs humidity faster and to a greater extent than any other building material, stores heat, saves energy and reduces environmental pollution and can be recycled indefinitely over an extremely long period.
With Almost There I emphasize the contradicting, undefining qualities of loam. Even though it is present in many cultures, contexts and landscapes, it is remarkably site-specific, depending on the main ingredients’ availability. It is a strong and heavy voluminous material, yet it cannot stand water. With its soft earthy tones, it reminds of warm Mediterranean summers and in our lingering to sun-kissed lands we tend to forget about its long history in the Netherlands, Germany and other West-European countries. It is a material determined by its roughness, yet can be soft, detailed and delicate depending on how kindly you treat it. Loam can be as naked as a brick wall, and it can be used as pompous as in times of the Baroque. It can serve as the foundation of a structure, as that it can be used as a protective layer. More importantly, with its warm earthy tones and soft shining texture it reminds me of home, whatever that may be.
19:07 min video (installation) at Ron Mandos Gallery Amsterdam
Video, edit and direction: Julia Sterre Schmitz
Camera assistance: Diane Mahín
Color grading: Mayis Rukel
Sound: Yannick Verhoeven
Title design: Alfonso Yordi Martinez
Made possible with the support of the Stroom Encouragement Award and the Fine Arts Department Prize KABK
Passing Traces, 700 kg of Persian halva (flour, sugar, butter and cardamom) and two wooden constructions of 2.15m x 4.78 m x 0.80 m.
700 kg of halva – hand stirred flour, butter, shivering hot sugar syrup and soft cardamom flavoru prepared by many strong hands. A Persian sweet traditionally prepared at funerals, collectively eaten it comforts the bereaved. Passing Traces is a room of halva in a narrow passage-like space. The walls depict impressions of a sober bedroom interior. The furniture leaves traces of a long-lost presence. Just as life is finitely ungraspable, Passing Traces follows its own lawless path, slowly decaying and visibly cracking due to gravity’s weight
Forever grateful for the contributions of Suyoung Yang, Flora van Dullemen, Isabel Pereira, Berk Duygun, Iver Uhre Dahl, Frederica van Mastrigt, Bo Wielders, Tamim Mohammadi, Nagim Mohammadi, Siadhail Augusteijn, Lui Macrae, Philip Groubnov, Erik Kameletdinov, Naomi Moonlion, Jeremi Biziuk, Niam Madlani, Fatima Jabor, Shirin Mirachor, Reda Senhaji, Lema Ahmadi, Ella Wang-Olsson, Leonardo Scarin, Diane Mahín, Julia Sterre Schmitz, Io Alexa Sivertsen, my mother and my grandfather. Thank you, without you it wouldn’t have been the same.
Give a flour, drawing with felt tip pen, 700 x 1000 mm, installation view on NEST x MELKWEG EXPO, 2020.
In a longing for halvah, one of the oldest delicious Middle Eastern sweets made on a flour base, I found myself enclosed in a search for its ingredients. The iconic AH BASIC flour that my mother and grandmother use for his heavenly sweet is impossible to find these days. Sold out or with a maximum amount per customer.
For my graduation work, I am inspired by halvah – its grainy texture, its sand color and soft shining surface. And it consists only of flour, butter and sugar. Traditionally, women prepare halvah at funerals, as this is the ceremony it is mainly associated with. Halvah, with its warm, sweet and nutritious value, comforts. Eaten together, the weight of sorrowing sadness becomes bearable.
Physically unable to get the iconic flour, I draw. Not being able to share art normally in these pandemic times, I imagine a moment of exchange through an open call asking for flour. To embody the intimate relation between the audience and my work with halvah, in an act of exchange with the ones offering flour.
installation with loam and furniture, 2019.
social sculpture made out of metal situated in between an art institution and a playground used by the children around the neighborhood, Helena van Douverenplantsoen 3 (The Hague), 2019.
The building at the Helena van Douverenplantsoen 3, also called The Helena, a former high school now hosts the artist-run-gallery Billytown and the artist initiative Stichting Ruimtevaart. The Helena is located at the borders of the city center and Schilderswijk, one of the known neighbourhoods in the Hague housing many different migrant communities. Wandering around the neighborhood, I sensed a particular ‘fourth wall’, a social and cultural distance that seemed to divide the neighborhood from the established art institution The Helena. The two worlds seemed to move almost independent, separated and unaffected.
Being touched by this so-called invisible fourth wall, I wondered if the kids from the neighborhood had ever been invited to the art institution, if they would have ever felt the freedom to enter the building at all actually. With recreating a functional and recognizable replica of one of the swings from the playground, I hoped to engage with the neighborhood communities in a natural and honest way. My cultural background, skin color and gender enabled me to playfully move around the so-called fourth wall through personal engaged encounters. Making a life size replica of the swing with metal, was an opportunity to ask for help from boys chilling around the playground. With putting myself in a vulnerable position – it was truly impossible to install the swing myself – I hoped to establish a first contact based on care and support.
The resulting encounters were of a kind and engaged nature. We talked, sometimes for hours, about (art) school, their lives and my life as an (female) artist and DJ. Funnily, many really hadn’t expected me, a small woman, to be able to build such a heavy metal construction. Over the course of a few days, we bonded more than I could’ve imagined. And, indeed, most of the children and youngsters hadn’t set a foot in The Helena. They were curious nevertheless, interested to know what the building was and what the people working in it were doing. They accepted my invitation to show them around with great enthusiasm. In turn, it was a true joy to guide them around the exhibition and The Helena. And, at times, they would even enter The Helena on their own, wandering through the exhibition and enjoying the art works.
This social sculpture embodies an act of movement, metaphorically swinging the neighborhood over the imaginative fourth wall inside The Helena and swinging the art audiences out of its safe dwellings into the real world.
In turn, replication, recognizability and representation enabled sincere and engaged encounters. My functionable and site-specific handmade object in-between a sculpture and a playset, placed in-between the art institution and the playground, was built as a means for communication and engagement. More than the object itself, the encounters and the shared stories should be seen as ‘the work’. My swing, a social sculpture, took place in the social realm, and was built around social engagement and the participation of the audience.
sculpture with wood, plastic, cardboard and wool, 2016.
3,5 x 5,5 m
commissioned poster for Cairo Liberation Front, 2017.
installation in loam and furniture in elevator,
Helena van Douverenplantsoen 3 (The Hague)
sugar tabletop, sugarcanes as table feet, rice paper wrapped little fruit delicacies on pomegranate flavored plates of ice
collaboration with Annastina Eyjolfsdottir, 2019.