Amsterdam, 2011: The piece that most represents my idea of art, or at least of the way it affects our perception, is Martin Creed's Work No. 227, The Lights Going On and Off (2000). Whether installed in a corridor or a room, the piece de facto works as a frame for whatever else is there, from the bare walls to other artworks. As the craft of an artist has now become scattered across all sorts of media, the capability of framing a world into another has emerged as an important heritage of conceptual practices. What is art if not a way of looking at things a little more closely?
Anouk Kruithof's work is all about the framing. Her language is simple and light like the materials she uses, ranging from postcards to stacks of paper, newspapers, books and prints. She takes photos and transfers the images across different surfaces and spaces, composing spatial mnemonic theaters in the form of minimal installations.
What makes Kruithof's works different from pure conceptual speculations about the act of art creation is the affection for the tactile and sharing dimension of the pieces, as well as a longing for perpetual memory. We are not talking about semiotics, but rather of the human mind, with its pulsating emotions and seizing logic co-existing together.
After seeing Anouk's work at the Adler Gallery booth at ART Rotterdam, where she also won the Illy prize, I sent her a few questions about her practice. The following is the exchange that took place.
Anouk Kruitfor, Check Double Check, (version 2), 5 Hahnemuller cotton-prints mounted in melanine wooden panels, different sizes; Documentation photo, Mart House Gallery, Amsterdam
Nicola Bozzi: For its minimalism, lightness and materials, your work reminds me of Martin Creed and Tom Friedman, but also Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Which artists have inspired you the most?
Anouk Kruithof: No artists in particular have inspired me. In the Fragmented Entity project, shown at ART Rotterdam, the 'giveaway' element came, of course, from Felix Gonzales-Torres. I've been producing many of those works in the past years, from postcards to piles of posters and, recently, The Daily Exhaustion newspaper project. (This was on view in the group show Check Double Check at Mart House Gallery, in Amsterdam.)
To me, the sharing element is important and 'giveaway art' makes visitors more involved in an installation. They take a part of it home, they have to move, do something, make a decision, all of which makes them involved in the artwork.
Anouk Kruitfor, Fragmented Identity, exhibition overview, booth 66, Adler Gallery, ART Rotterdam, February 9-13, 2011; Courtesy Nicola Bozzi
Obviously, this also causes some confusion, and it raises the question: Is it 'giveaway art' or not? Visitors can be insecure about taking something home, often they don't even know if they're allowed to.
In the case of my pieces Empty pages of a future and Never ending pile of a past, a photo work was positioned above a pile of posters.The latter were to be taken, but not the former. Someone got confused and brought home a photo mounted on aluminium! Well, now I can laugh about it.
I'm curious about the way people interact with this type of art. What happens to those works once they've been taken away? Art becomes unpretentious, available for everybody. I like this aspect because of my rational Calvinistic nurture: I learned how to relate to things with humor as a kid.
NB: You live and work in both Berlin and Amsterdam. What are the main differences between the two cities, in terms of contemporary art, everyday life, and atmosphere?
AK: I live a lot in Berlin, normally, and in the Netherlands I live nowhere and everywhere, but not particularly in Amsterdam. At the moment, I live in a huge 1930s villa in the middle of the forest, on the same terrain as the Altrecht mental institution. I'm there as a Dutch artist-in-residence for the Het Vijfde Seizoen in Den Dolder (http://www.vijfde-seizoen.nl). This place, you can imagine, is the biggest contrast with my life in Berlin. In Altrecht I am super isolated and the mentally ill people are the only ones to talk to, while in Berlin you can disappear in a vortex of cultural activities, if you don't pay attention.
Anouk Kruitfor, Intercollapsing, 4 black and white inkjet prints mounted on forex, wallpaper and ceiling-panels, different sizes, documentation photo, emergency exit NFM Rotterdam; Courtesy Nicola Bozzi
NB: You work a lot with installation. How important is site-specificity in your pieces? How much of the piece is born in your studio and how much is decided by circumstances?
AK: I love to get invitations to places where I can work with the space and make my installation site-specific, but most of my work starts with a concept. In the creative process I am always open to chance, which brings in possible changes to the concept. I try to find a perfect balance between conceptual thinking, on one hand, and following my intuition, on the other.
Anouk Kruitfor, Enclosed content chatting away in the colour invisibility, 125 by 100 cm or 30-40 cm, framed conventional C print; Courtesy Nicola Bozzi
NB: Your favorite medium seems to be photography, often depicting your own installations and shown in direct dialogue with its subjects. What role does the relation between installation and photo play in your work?
AK: I have a photography background, so photography plays an important role in my work. Rarely is a photo the final result to me. I want to escape from the autistic character of the medium and stretch its boundaries. I have a love-hate relationship with photography. Installation seems to be the medium I feel most comfortable with, so I have always made photo installations. I consider an exhibition space, a publication, a webpage, a single wall, all as 'areas' where I want to create a 'whole', with a strong physical and mental impact on viewers.
All my works are framed multiple times: photos into installations, installations into a space. Photos turn out to be sculptural works, wallpaper, a poster, an installation, leaflets lost in books and reproduced on the wall. The photo is a starting point of valuable opportunities.
Only Enclosed content chatting away in the colour invisibility is a rare photo, which is good as it is, for its moment.
NB: How important are archives in your practice?
AK: I can never let go of things. That's why I choose to work with photography. It documents my memories. I have my whole life recorded in piles of photo books. When I forget to bring my little snapshot camera with me, it stresses me out a lot. I feel handicapped without it, because I need to capture moments, things, situations, everything in life. Because I do not and do not want to forget.
I find this a destructive behaviour for myself in a way, because to let go of emotions is quite healthy for people in general. That's why I decided to cut, and eventually even shred, my entire professional photo archive. I destroyed all my hand made color prints and created a whole new project from the recycled material.
To erase the past, in a positive way. The emotional thought behind this project is very valuable to me, but the formal dissection of the photographic medium plays a huge role as well. It is another layer of the project.
Anouk Kruitfor, 5 portraits and 1 still-life out of the project “Becoming Blue”, different sizes, conventional C prints mounted on DiBond; documentation photo gallery Adler, Frankfurt AM; Courtesy Nicola Bozzi
NB: In your photos, you often use props or architectural elements as fields of color and composition lines. In the span of your visual language, the project "Becoming Blue", with its many portraits, is a big exception. Can you explain your relation with portrait and the human figure?
AK: Well, the human figure is quite important in my work. In particular, I am interested in psychology. The human mind, the mental state of people and the universal emotions of humans. Of course it doesn't mean that human figures have to be present in my work, like in the Becoming Blue project. But I use quotes from books or interviews, conversations with strangers, as well as my personal experiences, as an inspiration in my work. Sometimes I give a mental state to architectural elements, or I work with very specific colors or color arrangements to reach a visually strong mental impact within my works.
NB: Your work has a characteristic lightness to it. Is there any large-scale or long-term project you have in mind and haven't realized yet?
AK: At the moment, I am working on a conceptual social project for my residency. I interview mentally ill people who live on the terrain about the meaning of their birthdays, which I then organize and celebrate with them according to their wishes.
I am celebrating 10 different birthdays and the final 'work' will be a newspaper publication with an overview of the documented birthdays (my intern makes the photos) as well as quotes from interviews.
This is the most special residency I ever had. To come so close to the people who live over here is worth so much to me, I got a lot out of these conversations, moments and situations I experience over here. It is unbelievably inspiring and I will use the memories of my stay here in future works as well.
In 2011 I'm going to work on a video, or maybe first a short film, called Ruhe (working title) and a comprehensive photo installation book out of my snapshots from the last 10 years called Little Things (working title).
ArtSlant would like to thank Anouk Kruithof for her assistance in making this interview possible.