Brussels, Apr. 2013: Han Hoogerbrugge, in the tradition of Ron English, Molly Crabapple and Bill Plympton, takes his playful yet politically charged art to the masses. For Art Brussels, the masses will be those gathered for Belgium’s established art fair.
At other times, the Dutch artist, illustrator and animator predominantly works with widely accessible forums online. His introspective Modern Living/Neurotica series ran on its own website from 1998-2001, followed by Nails (2002-2007), Hotel (2004-06) and now the ongoing, daily, absurdist online comic Pro Stress 2.0. Each of these projects follows Hoogerbrugge’s roving interests in the psychology and manifestations of power – as it is expressed, created and abused. His surreal, self-deprecating self-portraits are simultaneously charming and unsettling.
Another of Hoogerbrugge’s cherished topics is the work by James Ensor, whose politically expressionistic paintings have influenced his own. For Art Brussels, Hoogerbrugge, commissioned by the Land Rover Belgium, will screen a video recreation of an Ensor painting inside a customized SUV.
Han Hoogerbrugge, La Grande F+¬te des Voyeurs; foto Aad Hoogendoorn.
AFH: How does your work for Art Brussels relate to James Ensor's surreal, satirical paintings?
HH: I am screening a video inside the Range Rover that recreates James Ensor’s Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889. In Ensor’s painting, there is a big crowd and a really small Jesus. Its more about the group than him. I’ve done that too. My crowd includes Putin, Warhol, Kadafi, the Dutch Queen, the British Queen, Warhol, Dali, The Pope and a lot of sexy ladies.
AFH: The old Pope or the new one?
HH: The old one.
AFH: Why put Putin and Warhol together? Is this a dinner-party that you think would work?
HH: I would love to be there.
AFH: No, I don’t think that you would.
HH: You’re probably right.
Han Hoogerbrugge, Parade; Courtesy of the artist.
AFH: What about the Range Rover that you’ve customized for Art Brussels? What are your associations with the car? I, as an American, associate them with a particular demographic. The car signifies, for me, a smug, conspicuously stable suburban aesthetic. It is a car designed to broadcast the driver's affluence and (relative) maturity. How does this relate to collectors, who are buying inherently impractical and potentially daring objects when they purchase art? What does a Range Rover mean for artists, whose lives are usually pretty financially and practically unstable?
HH: I don’t really know. To me, the cars that I like are the seventies muscle cars. Every modern car is ugly. I don’t know about the typical Range Rover driver but they seem to be about displays of money. I don’t like that. For this project, Range Rover is just a great way to showcase my art.
AFH: So it is just a vehicle?
AFH: How about the internet as a showcase? How does the evolution of the internet and internet art match your expectations and hopes from when the internet started? Are you disappointed or satisfied with the current state of the internet and its impact on art?
HH: I never felt that I was an internet artist doing internet art. I just saw the internet as a way to publish my work. I could have published it in a magazine, but the internet promised that millions and millions of people would see it. That hasn’t happened but that’s what brought me to it.
AFH: What has happened instead?
HH: People now just look at Twitter and Facebook. They don’t really look at websites. They look at links and then leave. They don’t explore.
AFH: What would reading the comic Pro Stress 2.0 every day tell me about you?
HH: I am not too sure what it says about me besides what I am interested in each day. I don’t think that it is about me. I try to make it about other topics. I used to make a regular animated series but that was too slow. Now, I do these cartoons as a warming up. It feels good to start the day by accomplishing something.
AFH: You often draw dictators in them. Which dictator or problematic political figure interests you most?
HH: Putin, Kadafi, Kim Jong-un. They’re all interesting because they’re all so stupid. Everyone is stupid but when they are stupid, then other people die. I think that they’re also very lonely people. The larger they get and the more power that they have, then the lonelier they become.
AFH: Do you think that all power corrupts?
HH: Yes. Absolutely. But, I don’t try to be political. I stay away from having an opinion. I never say, in my work, that anything is bad or better. I just try to create art that makes people see, for themselves, what is bad.
AFH: Are you a pessimist?
HH: I am definitely not a pessimist. I do think that people are bad. Everything is useless. Nothing we do means anything. When we are dead then we are just dead. That is it. But, that makes me happy.
ArtSlant would like to thank Han Hoogerbrugge, Henny de Man, and Bart Vanderbiesen for their assistance in making this interview possible.