When was Vincent van Gogh born ?
Do you have to ask me that ? Do you
know it ?
Yes the year and the day.
Idon’t know it.
On the 30th of March 1853.
Iam curious, I organized the exhibition in Ieper,
where you were showing your pedestals. I think in
the beginning there were a few things I didn’t reali-
se, for example the circus metaphor and I am curio-
us how the circus metaphor has developed since
Ieper up to now in your work.
Iwasn’t aware of this connection, but for sure the
circus is here and was present before, but the origin
of the figure here is a completely different from the
origins of the work I showed in Ieper. But still it is
playing with similar elements. In Ieper the focus lay
much more on presentation and now it is on the
movement against a structure. Also the medium is a
different one: here it is video, and performance and
I’m dealing with the limitation of space. In Ieper
there were very small horses standing on white and
red patterned pedestals, there was much more irony.
Butthereversal is interesting: then the scaled down
horses on top of the pedestals, now the introverted
video projection, but both are a kind of criticism of
The clown is a subversive figure, who makes
things visible and is showing a lot despite his limita-
tions andhasthepossibility and the role of stepping
overboundaries and to cross borders.
Youknow the title of the work: The Librarian,
theClown and the Astronomer: Part One.
What is the story about the book?*, I am very
interested in that; it is like a not really visible red
thread through your work. What kind of role does
this book play in your work or literature in general?
Thebookis something like a reference, a point of
departure, the figures (clown, astronomer and libra-
rian) have their origins in the book, although they
don’t feature as characters, but as buildings. What I
am tryingto do is to find a kind of translation of the
writing into the third dimension, if you can say it
like that, I’m trying to carry/translate/convey ele-
ments of form in the writing.
Literature is always a kind of description, real-
ism is not possible in literature, it is impossible to
describe things precisely and for that reason arche-
typal figures are used. I think of paper as melancho-
lic, that literature sometimes can construct a world.
Iguess I am doing that somehow in this attempt
at translation, by dealing with the construction of
spaces, that are more than single objects, and beco-
me a hint at these literary spaces.
And you can do this with these finite objects?
It is more a description of a whole space, but
constructed with just a few, simple and fragile
It reminds me much more of theatre than archi-
tecture. There are two reasons: the title makes me
thinking of the Commedia dell’ Arte, where you
also have these archetypal figures such as the
Arlecchino and the individual elements make me
think ofdrops – they are more than decoration
almost symbolic elements, like a bed on a stage to
present a whole bedroom. And there is no pedestal
anymore, this installation is almost a stage, a set.
Yes the box is too big for a pedestal, but it has a
strong connection to the space around, it becomes
almostlike architecture, but is functioning as stage,
both as a surface and an inner space (room, capacity).
This theatre, maybe theatre is not a good word.
Idon’t know, this comparison between the objects
and stage props has already been made. They might
have similar characteristics. They are built to be
temporary, fragile and light. But I believe, that these
objects are much more focused on themselves, that
theyaremore concentrated or focused on themsel-
ves than stage props. I always resisted this compari-
son, it feels like a valuation. Basically I understand
the objects as objects for action, which can be used,
asmedium for something, as carrier of thoughts.
Maybe the connection towards the arts of thea-
treis notthe one you like most, because it doesn’t
recall the best examples of good art.
Let’s talk about this beautiful bird.
There is another one inside the box. They are
looking at each other.
Is he swimming?
It is not clear where he is coming from, it is just
ahint of an animal and for that it is enough. There is
noneed for a complete body.
In the beginning I wanted to use a real goose in the
video. Animals as different bearers of knowledge —
that is somehow similar to the archetypal characters
and the method of narration in literature.
And then I think about the pedestals, you have a
whole history of them, a hierarchy, a tradition of
pedestal thinking. There are some sculptors, who
are only dealing with pedestals. But in this case I
have the impression the question of hierarchy is not
important to you. The dimensions depend not only
on the architecture, they are relaying to an inner
power, to the clown inside, so that the feeling
comes up that the pedestal is growing and growing
through that what is happening inside.
Indeed the pedestal has two functions, the
upper side, the outside, and then the inner and it is
dealing exactly with that, to include a kind of life
factor. The growing is connected to the sound, the
rhythm, that is created through the steps and you
can find the same idea in the plants.
Of course you can find also the idea of dimensions
in your work, you are playing with proportions,
objects that are too small or too large and I asked
myself if this is a certain way of thinking.
Ithink most of my works are related in their size
to the human body and reference a human scale.
But I think it is something more, it is way to
direct the spectator into a specific world. Even when
the objects are objects, it becomes a transition. I see
themmuchmore as a landscape than as single
sculptures. It is connected to the idea of models, or
houses seen from a bird’s eye view. Is this meant as a
criticism of the hierarchical object?
Idon’t see the lemon as a single piece, I see them
all together with each other and with the space in
between them. The main focus is the interspace (the
Andtheobjects are also in the interspace. The
objects are in the same time ephemeral and like
bombs, like flowers and missiles. It is a similar form
to a flower, but in fact it is the underside of an old
kindofmissile which is almost like organic form.
Is there a war story in the book ?
It is thestory of a Prague Jew, who has been sent as a
child to England to be protected from the terror of
national socialism. It is about loss, mourning,
remembering, the generation of memory. It is not
about violence, but about the healing of wounds.
The grenades have become lemons. I thought
something like that, the lemons are also grenades,
but you are soon realising that these are friendly
bombs and not dangerous fruits.
AConversation between Bram van Damme and
Heide Hinrichs on the day after the opening.
- W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz,2002