Shortlist Prix de Rome Visual Arts 2015
Foundland (Lauren Alexander, Capetown, 1983, & Ghalia Elsrakbi, Damascus, 1978, live and work in Amsterdam)
Hedwig Houben (Boxtel, 1983, lives and works in Brussels)
Christian Nyampeta (Rwanda, 1981, lives and works in the Netherlands and London)
Magali Reus (The Hague, 1981, lives and works in London)
The jury was impressed by the high quality of all candidates. The jury members were delighted to be introduced to such rich and varied emerging artists with plans arousing their curiosity for more. Eventually the jury convincingly proposed three artists and one artist collective. Important criteria were the quality of the work, and a positive attitude towards innovation and experiment. Despite overlap in subject matter and research, each candidate works from a specific position and approach. The jury has high hopes on the outcome of the work periods of these artists and believe the work periods will contribute to interesting developments in their artistic careers.
Foundland Collective consists of Lauren Alexander and Ghalia Elsrakbi. Alexander completed her MA at the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam. In 2009 she pursued an MFA at the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem. Elsrakbi completed her BFA at ArtEZ Academy of Art & Design, Arnhem, followed by a MA at the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam. In 2009, she followed a research post-graduate at the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. Foundland work draws on visual arts, graphic design, research and text. They focus on a critical analysis of topics related to political land locational branding. Since 2011, Foundland focuses on the Middle East and the Arab Spring. The jury appreciates the precision used by the artists in approaching their subjects and the freedom exhibited in the use of images and texts to visualize their work. Foundland was nominated by Katja Diallo (artistic director Noordkaap, Dordrecht).
Foundland presents new work based on a series of interviews with Yassin Elsrakbi, collected during 2015. As a recent Syrian refugee living in Cairo, the father of Foundland member Ghalia Elsrakbi is an avid news watcher, collector and analyst. He gathers his updates about Syria from a wide variety of sources, piecing them together in an attempt to understand the complex relations at play. His generation has seen the transition from the Pan-Arab dream of Egyptian president Nasser, to years of dictatorship under the Assad family rule and finally to a crumbling of their country altogether. Foundland probed Elsrakbi’s memory regarding the shifting boundaries of the country during his lifetime. Based on his analytical future proposals, which benefit from years of hindsight, Foundland scripted possible constellations for the country. In a series of conspiracy theories outlined in the video work Scenarios for Failed Futures (2015), Foundland marks their new exploration into the act of storytelling as a coping mechanism for tragedy and confusion. As news consumers, we are increasingly aware that what we are watching or reading might not be true, and the information and particularly images that we receive are likely to be fictionalized in multiple ways. Perhaps the only way to emancipate ourselves from the frustration and inability to fully grasp our world, is to invent narratives, which makes sense to us, and enable various possible outcomes. Also on show is the new installation Extended borders (2015), an ode to a protest action first carried out in 2011, which was distributed globally via a viral video. Due to the lack of materials with which to spread protest slogans in Syria and the dangerous nature of doing so, ping-pong balls with the word ‘freedom’ written in Arabic on them, were spread down hills in Damascus. The gesture of writing this word was a punishable crime. Foundland inscribes new words and locations related to future survival and potential onto ping-pong balls.
Hedwig Houben completed her studies at the St Joost Academy in Breda and afterwards studied at the Art academy of Düsseldorf and at the HISK in Gent. By means of performances, installations and video registrations she reflects on the value and meaning of art, its objects and creators. The jury is impressed by the manner in which Houben refers to the representation and non-representation of the human body and by the playful way she relates to the disfunctionality of the body and clichés in the visual arts. Hedwig Houben was nominated by René Bosma (director AKV | St. Joost Den Bosch).
Personal Matters and Public Affairs examines the position and status of the independent thing/individual when they are removed from their private space. Represented as a portrait titled ‘I’, the individual/thing enters the public domain where it is confronted with ‘The Other’. ‘The Other’, in this case, takes the shape of a car in a 1 to 1 scale model made of plasticine (clay). Who is ‘I’? And what role does ‘The Other’ play in defining ‘I’?During the exhibition different people will take the role of performer, and will modify ‘The Other’. The choice for the performers stems from encounters/confrontations through which ‘I’ is defined; the mother in law, the gallery owner and the neighbor. Every performer is represented by a portrait made in plasticine. Employees of de Appel arts centre are to return the car to its original state on a daily basis, thus making them a part of the work. Documentation of the performances will be shown on screens during the exhibition.Personal Matters and Public Affairs involves itself in the discussion around cultural definitions like authenticity and autonomy. Everyone is unique today, everyone is an artist, everything is art. The form of the work implicitly examines this democratizing and the consequent changing position of the artist.
Christian Nyampeta has the Dutch nationality which he acquired after migrating to the Netherlands from Rwanda. After attending Saxion Hogescholen Enschede, he went to London to attend the Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and since 2011 he has been following a PhD program at Goldsmiths University. In his work he investigates how individuals and communities negotiate forms of socially organized violence. This focus generates a multiplicity of objects, images, interiors, situations, texts and publications. The jury is impressed with the precision, the openness and the adventurousness with which he approaches his topics and by how he manages to transport them to the contemporary. Christian Nyampeta was nominated by Binna Choi (director Casco, Utrecht).
What role does rhythm play in the shaping of our life? Which individual and collective rhythms can we develop, for better harmonies between people, communities and localities? Christian Nyampeta has his work envisioned as a ‘public interior’, as a study room inhabited by individuals with a divergent outlook on what harmony is. Following the ideas of French literary critic Roland Barthes who insists that there is a relation between rhythm and power, and that oppression is a rhythmic medium, Sequentia speaks to the need for subjective and collective adaptations of our understanding of harmony. Nyampeta explores conceptual and practical structures for understanding the conditions at the heart of the dis-harmonising forces, at home and in the world.The works of Sequentia engage in the formulation of verbal, visual and material means by which this rhythmic medium can be made intelligible. Sequentia starts from a fictitious situation in a regional boarding school in Rwanda, and incorporates conversations with, the thoughts and opinions of a number of philosophers working in and exiled from Rwanda on the subject of rhythm and harmony. The dialogues invite us to consider the possibility of a formation of an unlikely community of practices brought together by the need of a shared grammar of harmony. The exhibition is structured after the organising principles of the modern Dutch monk and architect, Dom Hans van der Laan, whose life-long efforts consisted in finding tools towards the ‘intelligibility of space’, by proposing a spacing system based on his understanding of spatial harmony.
Magali Reus switched from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy to the Goldsmiths College in London in 2002. During 2013 en 2014 she attended the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. With her sculptures she captures the essence of the relationship between twenty-first century consumer products and the human body. The jury appreciates the intelligent approach with which Reus translates digital elements into physical work. Her work is both humorous and critically aware, both poignant and subtle. Magali Reus was nominated by Roos Gortzak (director Vleeshal Middelburg).
For the Prix de Rome she presents 5 new works from her series Leaves (2015). These highly detailed sculptures are derived from the complex interior mechanisms of padlocks. Stripped of their function and enlarged in scale, they are made from multiple levels of engineered metals, plastics and cast components. Revealed through their pierced casing, of one can find graphic traces of the western calendar. These punctuations act as methods of activation: numbers, letters and months, enigmatically hint at things of emotional importance: ‘birthdays, anniversaries, deadlines, deaths’. Seeing each of these sculptures as a ‘metaphor for content just out of reach’, she comments: ‘It is this conflation of a type of simplified, graphic image of the world set against more flamboyant latent narratives that I enjoy.’
Shortlist Prix de Rome Visual Arts 2015