Peas and Carrots_ – One Nest Stand #32
Peas and Carrots_ One Nest Stand #32 @ Nest, Den Haag in collaboration with KABK, May 12 – 14 2023
One of my students, who was doubling in two student shows last weekend, one the official greenlight preview exhibition of the ArtScience Interfaculty – Honk, and the other, Peas and Carrots, an open call submission from Nest Ruimte Den Haag to students of the Royal Academy to react to their previous exhibition ‘The Grand Palace of Everything’ with one term – collaboration, invited me to see the performance of his work at Nest. While I did not make it to the initially planned piece (which the kind gallery assistant showed some snippets of on her phone afterwards) I found myself arriving just in time for another performance which was not intended but which, as is with so many serendipities in life, was exactly what I needed to see at that moment. It ended up touching my soul on so many levels, that I decided to write about it.
The piece I found myself walking into was ‘All the secret women you have in yourselves’ by 3rd year sculpture student of the Fine Arts Department Marion Haguet, from Normandy, France who previously studied French Literature in Paris. It already spoke to me when I first first entered the gallery space, as a piece sometimes does, in little whispers. Something about it just resonated, a certain synchronicity, a likeness, a similarity, and while not distinctly ‘a sound piece’ from the beginning, I felt its vibrations straight away. Six white undergown dresses hung on carefully installed wooden hangers against a wall and next to them a guitar. I did not think of it much at first but found myself already seduced by the traces of lace and lingerie, the simplicity, the recognizability, the absolute non-existence of a wall in this work, as is so often the case with most works of contemporary art where a definitive wall guards the entrance, deriving from the myriad of self righteously imposed languages which we are just all unable to fully comprehend and speak. This work seemed to bypass all that, it simply gently touched the soul. Some minutes later, and to my great surprise and satisfaction, the dresses became the performance.
Six girls, friends or study colleagues and the artist arrived and began to take off their contemporary clothes and change into these night dresses. All of a sudden the girls appeared as one. Then Marion took the guitar and began to sing. She sang four songs, three in English one in French and the songs just touched something very deep and sacred inside, as music has the tendency to do; everything about it, the lyrics, the words, it was exactly where I needed to be and what I needed to hear, and it brought tears to my eyes. I felt teary but at the same time ashamed to cry in public space, you just don’t do that, but what do you do when a work moves you so much you just want to cry? Or we don’t do that anymore. These thoughts crossed my mind as I held back the tears, listening to the beautiful voice and song of Marion. She wrote the lyrics herself which were then available to take by the gallery counter. The four songs had four names, each one of a different woman. At first I thought these songs were based on four different persons, perhaps friends or acquaintances of the artist. She later told me that these women were characters in a fictional novel that she is writing. Marion is also a writer and this seems to be her main medium.
After the piece, which lasted around 20 minutes, I spoke to Marion about her work. I told her how much I liked and welcomed that she created a stage for vulnerability and gave a space for emotions to come out. Sadly this is not witnessed (or encouraged?) in many of the artworks today which are since Duchamp (1913) still very much concept driven, which is also fine of course, but if we are not also using our bodies as tools to feel, just our minds (to think), this somehow feels very limiting, and can lead to all sorts of neuroses that start to develop as I have been starting to discover over the last few years. So why not educate the kids to let it all out? Marion told me she sometimes has doubts because her work is so emotional, and worries that this might be problematic in the context of contemporary art today. This kind of mindset is alarming, if we do not cater to our emotions what are we doing in the first place and if we deny our bodies to feel well, then can we be called artists at all?
Today we live in a time and age of everything so there is no one right way to look, justify or produce art, but the realization which sprouted thanks to the beautifully touching sad vulnerable and ultimately brave and intuitive act of Marion made me realize just how little space emotions occupy freely on public stage and in our lives and how desperately they seem to want to come out. I sincerely hope more artists (and humans) are able to take down their walls so honestly, so bravely and so openly to let others see into their struggles, their pains, their hearts.
The other works at the exhibition let a little less in, as is so common in art practice today. A few referred to the language of art and its barriers to entry, such as the video installation by Korean artists Suhjoo Kim & Jiyoung Yim ‘Project proposal to the white cube’. A work of institutional critique which addressed the mechanics of the art system, yet by employing the same mechanics it becomes nothing more than a reaction, a desperate attempt to try and understand the system using the same tools, but not surpassing them. Maybe what is needed is not to understand the seemingly incomprehensible current language (to both students and professionals alike) but to create a new one, a common language for the soul. The sculptural installation ‘Fountain and pedestals Act 2’ by Robin Whitehhouse in collaboration with the flower market, featured not flowers but cardboard boxes used for their mass shipment. The work revealed the bruising conditions of the trade with one decapitated rose as painful insight into the commercial reality of the enterprise, where beauty is not the prerequisite. Again a system failing for the soul?
Not everything has to be so sad and painful of course. ‘Queue/Cue’ by Thordur Hans Baldursson, featuring a brightly coloured blue and orange motorized car wash brush turned dancer, activated daily by a queue of musicians in playful tandem suggests another way of expression, the joy of absurd combination, appropriation and experimentation; synthetic and human elements coming together non-hierarchically as one. In the age of robots maybe emotions are a thing of the past and instead we need to start to embrace the awkwardness of technological exchange. Still, one cannot help but feel helpless in many situations in contemporary art, with the only route out – to feel and when it feels right, embrace the ultimate joy of work and viewer getting along, like peas and carrots, just as one.
Congratulations to Nest Ruimte for providing the space to let all these voices, feelings and try outs come out.