Under a somewhat anachronistic title former teacher at the Royal Academy in The Hague Jan van der Pol has been given the opportunity at Galerie Helder to make an exhibition with some former students of the Academy.
For a change Van der Pol didn’t choose young and promising but midlife and – as we may hope – midcareer.
Channa Boon (1967), Eva Klee (1970), Rob Knijn (1966) and Arianne Olthaar (1970) are very different artists indeed and it is as if Van der Pol has tried to create a very wide ranging ensemble, reaching to the stars as well as to the intimacy of a home and walking the tightrope between reality and imagination (which is what art is usually about).
Olthaar shows a combination of the past and present in a scruffy space, once glittering and trendy, awaiting its final demolition, while Knijn, in some recent works, brings the world of stars and almost dreamy abstraction back to the reality of a framed painting on a wall, although even that doesn’t seem to be real reality.
Boon distorts reality with reality itself, blurring the already shaky line between reality and interpretation, while Klee defines the home as a small secluded clay space where the mind shapes its own raw bulbous forms, the human spirit as a clay pitcher.
Last weekend three-hour sessions were held by different instrumentalists each in one of five different locations, dealing each with one of five so-called mental disorders: ADHD, anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and autism.
Whether it was percussionist Klára van de Ketterij (ADHD) running around a collection of drums and other percussive instruments, cellist Jan Willem Troost (anxiety disorder) grappling with his instrument and his environment, or electric guitarist Santiago Lascurain (depression) in his bathtub with dirt, they all showed an extremely meticulous dedication to what they were doing within the sheer unbreakable walls of their supposed conditions, for three whole hours.
The performance by clarinettists Enric Sans Morera and Jorge López García (bipolar disorder) and the one by trumpeter Justin Christensen (autism) were even quite similar in ideas of expression: experiments with water and plastic in combination with the unexpected properties of their instruments.
In the case of the depression performance, the expression was almost too literal, with the performer covering himself in black mud, and even while the guitar was only playing a slowly transforming sound by itself, one could call it a melodramatic performance.
In the anxiety act the public was invited to use a triangle now and then, but what influence that had on the performance was hard to see.
Was it an invitation to ease the tensions with the sound of the triangle or an invitation to be cruel to the performer with an unexpected sound?
A confronting perspective is, of course, the fact that sufferers of these so-called disorders have to cope with it every day and night in all circumstances and not just for three hours.
In the mean time one must be completely un-self-reflective or even narcissistic (!!) not to realise that we all have bits of these disorders in ourselves, in spite of the fact that most of us are thought to be ‘normal’.
They do not just confuse our brains, but may also make us cope with confusing or disturbing situations or stimulate dedication and creativity.
The fact that autism can be most associated with all five acts, is maybe because art itself needs complete dedication both to the whole and to the detail and complete surrender to the performance, whether one is making music or a painting or whatever.
As for the five acts, as said they each lasted three hours which is quite a superhuman effort by the performers.
They performed for three hours for four days, and must have practiced and prepared for many hours.
That in itself and the co-operation between the composer, the performers, the five art platforms and everybody technically and psychologically involved is a great job.
In spite of that it should be said that none of the performances were artistically interesting enough to follow for three hours (or maybe that depends on one’s own disorder?).
Also the question asked by the composer “Can we find compassion in order to expand our concept as a society of what is ‘in order’?” may be a relevant question generally, but do these acts stimulate any answers or reflections on the subject?
And if they do, are they doing so implicitly or too explicitly?
Either the question may be too wide-ranging, or the performances need more (yes even more!) aesthetic reflection.