Gilbert & George were already very prolific when i went to art school, in 1986. I became a fan. I must have seen their work on the trip to Berlin, Germany in the first year. Mönchengladbach, Düsselforf, Keulen, Berlin. Not sure this was right for this trip, but these names have stuck in my mind. There was a great museum park with small buildings and sculptures and the most wonderful lunch you can imagine. I searched for it just yet, but it is hard to find. There was also a place in Düsseldorf, the musea in Cologne and then of course the musea in Berlin. Still divided in two. One day we did go to East Berlin, through Checkpoint Charlie. There was a restaurant where we had a bite to eat, with more than half closed of. It was a different world. A different time.
But, i’m sure there were some of Gilbert & George‘s works hanging around. In 1989 i wrote something about them. It doesn’t say for which section this was. Most likely it was for art history. The only section for which we had to write something.
After i finished school, when i went to work. I left art behind me. It was a world in which i wasn’t that interested anymore. I guess. Even when i started working on the internet, i wasn’t thinking about art, wasn’t reading that many books about it. So when i moved to London and lived there for around seven months, i didn’t realize i lived so close to Gilbert & George. I do remember one time, when i was sitting in a pub in Spitalfields Market, that they walked past. Someone one pointed them out. And i did see them, walking by.
I will write more about Gilbert & George. This post is about my memories, about something i wrote, about where i lived when i stayed in London. The next piece will be about their work.
Last night the greenhouse of the Peace Garden burned down.
Someone on facebook told me about it on one of my latest posts about the garden. This morning, around half past nine, i walked up there to check. My first reaction was actually relieve. I had imagined the whole garden burned down. Luckily it was only the greenhouse. Then my reaction was sadness. And then anger. And then sadness once more.
I walked back home to get my iPhone. I did call the two maintainers then and told them both in their voice mail. Then i told the whole group in our whatsapp group. After a few initial reactions i walked back to make some photos to post in the whatsapp group. (I don’t have internet on my iPhone. I can only connect back home with my wifi.) Back home once more there were many reactions in the group. And even more after i posted the photos.
I made some tea and went back with it.
I could see the center of the fire was towards the back of the greenhouse. At the back stood the water tanks, which were melted. The inside of the greenhouse was burned and cracked, the plastic molten away, the iron fences bent and deformed.
Soon other people came by, Jorinde and Andreas. We were all shocked. But also thinking about what might have caused this, what to do next, what sort of greenhouse to make next, what of the chicken run, what of the seedlings we should be sowing again in the next two weeks. Questions tumbling over each other.
John, our homeless person residing in the greenhouse came along. He told us it was another group of people who had done this, while he was away to work. Jealousy.
Murray, Daniel and Julien came along. We cleaned up a little bit.
Then Daniel treated us all to coffee and chocolate milk. And we talked a bit more, sitting on the benches outside the garden.
A week and a half ago i talked with Julien about my desire for someone special in my life. But i also said i didn’t want to date. Dating reminds me of bringing only the best parts of me. There is simply no way i will ever go in Tinder or some dating website and try to find someone there. It was hard to talk about this, to explain this feeling i had. I did say i was feeling happy. Really. Even though my money situation is extremely tight right now. I don’t worry about it. I’m not sure why. I know i should, really. I know a few years back i would be worried sick. But i am not worried right now. I trust myself, in who i am, in my work – this website. I know things could go wrong, but i feel they won’t. I don’t understand this, but this is a very strong feeling.
To me, this world we live in, the state of it, the way people live here in Western Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in the Middle East, in America. It just isn’t enough for me. There are so many people scared, worried sick, afraid for their lives. And here in the Netherlands people worry about the money they make. The money they set aside for their pension. The money they pay for their health insurance. The money they pay for their other insurances. The money they pay for their internet, and television, and phones.
I don’t want to live like this.
Only now i slowly begin to realize how upset i am. How angry. Livid. Furious.
So yes, i would love to fall in love. Have a boyfriend. Someone to talk with, sleep with, kiss with, have sex with. Of course. A friend. A true friend. Of course. But he is not around. And i’m not going to let that stop me from living my life. Fight for what i believe is right. Hell no.
…. breath ….
…. relax ….
…. 🙂 ….
—- Adrenaline was streaming through my body. Bit more average now. Better! —-
The plan is to work tomorrow, Thursday, to get the greenhouse cleared, the ground around it cleared.
And me, i am writing this post Fire now. After i read a bit more in my Gilbert & George books. I will make a post dedicated to them soon. I leave you with one of their works from 1984, Death Hope Life Fear. I do want to get my head clear about their work before though. So yes, reading, learning.
One of their largest and most ambitious pictures, the quadripartite DEATH HOPE LIFE FEAR tackles the central themes of human existence. Its powerful compositions and luminescent colours make this one of the high points of Gilbert & George’s art of the 1980s.
Together, DEATH and LIFE suggest an ongoing cycle of mortality and re-birth, with the figures of the artists simultaneously rising and falling, growing and shrinking. In DEATH, they are embraced by the petals of a rose and a daisy, while in LIFE giant leaves behind their shoulders resemble the wings of angels. In FEAR, the figures of young men are isolated from each other, dispersed at different levels. HOPE, by contrast, presents an image of unity and strength, with the youths arranged into definite groups in front of a landscape reminiscent of the white cliffs of Dover.
Alberto Giacometti – 10 October 1901 – 11 January 1966 – is one of the artists i knew before i went to art school. I went to La Grande Parade, the goodbye exhibition of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam director Edy de Wilde. Giacometti’s work was part of this collection. I’m not sure i saw it clearly at the time. But it did stay with me.
A year later there was an exhibition in the Haags Gemeentemuseum in The Hague from 1 March till 12 May 1986. I still see images in my head of walking through these exhibition. Drawings, paintings and sculpture were shown here. I bought the catalogue and read it thoroughly back home.
Over the years my admiration for Giacometti has faded. I still love his work, yes, but it doesn’t play a big part in my life. Still, a few thoughts have stayed with me.
My first year in art school was fantastic. I loved working for all the different subjects taught. I initially went there with the thought i would go into graphic design, but i switched. Painting! So that was my second year. I failed horribly. I got a big zero, a big null from my painting teacher. So the next year i had to switch. Monumental and photography. Better choices. I was getting more into political oriented art, current affairs art. I liked Gilbert & George, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol. Not that i completely understood why they made their work, but still.
When i had finished art school, with a proper diploma, i had a couple of years of care of the government. Those were the easy times. One or two assignments. The organization of Sexposition with a friend from art school. But i didn’t feel comfortable in the art world. So i jumped out, in 1994, when i got the opportunity to get a proper job and earn my own living.
Giacometti by that time was far back over the horizon. My time was spend with computers. I started working on my own website in 1997. And that was it. I found my way.
So i’m not sure why i picked Giacometti as a post last week. I have the one for Andy Warhol still standing as a draft. But that one requires more work. This one is a bit easier. I think. Not sure.
I always enjoyed his paintings more than his sculpture. Even though he is more well known for his sculpture. Maybe because it seems more finished? The sculptures are rough. You can see the manual labour in them, but they still appear before your eyes as a piece complete in itself. The drawings and paintings are sketchy. Lines are not used to depict all the textures and shapes of the visible world, but to almost write a person. The drawing or painting is not a world on its own, with its two dimensional depiction. It is an active looking into this world, into the objects and subjects of it.
A few thoughts have stayed with me. One is that when i am old with my life mostly finished, i will return to drawing and painting. Right now, i am not sure about this. I don’t know if this is still a true thought. I don’t know what i’ll be doing once i’m old. Still have a lot of life to live. I’m not planning my life all beforehand. I like some surprises!
I also see in Giacometti’s work someone struggling. To make an honest portrayal of what he understand this world to be. I hope he has felt he has succeeded several times. Not that success is the one and only measure of a life and a work. The work itself, the effort put into it counts too. I should know.
In 1945, while watching a film, Giacometti reports an equally important influence that prompted not only a change in his perception, but also made him “want to try to represent what [he] saw.”34 As he watched a film in a Parisian movie theatre, instead of recognizing the forms and shapes on the screen, he saw “only black and white specks shifting on a flat surface.35 The film, he realized, was only an imitation of three-dimensionality.36 When he turned to other members of the audience, he saw the same two-dimensionality, realizing that his “vision of the world had been photographic, as it had been for almost everybody, and that a photograph. . .cannot truly convey reality. His perception was totally altered, punctuated by the knowledge that until then, he had not experienced this reality. Having experienced both the photographic perception that most people possess, as well as a perceptual revelation that awakened a “truer” reality, Giacometti sought thereafter to convey his new way of viewing the world. His aesthetic was to represent his own reality.
Giacometti recognized the need to base his work in physicality, but also to convey what he came to understand as a unique visual method. His overarching goal was to find the most essential truth in the human, and to make use of outer appearances to convey that special truth. His search for truth, which he defined as the primary project of his life, was pursued through the lens of his personal vision. Except for his Surrealist period, Giacometti worked from a model, struggling to bring to the surface the inner force he felt in the human figure. He spent extended time studying his model before he attempted to paint or sculpt him or her, and was infamous for forcing even young children to remain perfectly still in order for him to feel, through his sight, their interiors. His gaze was so scrutinizing that one sitter described it as veritably tangible force, as if “Giacometti’s hands were actually touching his face.”
I picked only a few photos i found while searching the internet. Larger ones. And mostly paintings and drawings. One sculpture: a woman, standing. I like that one.
The books i have
I was sitting in front of the television this Sunday morning. I thought about this post. On Saturday I came across a link on facebook and was enchanted by the quote on the linked page on Brainpickings. I copied it to a new post. I first gave it another title, but changed it to Live boldly. I don’t even remember the first title. Something with silent.
My thoughts wandered away.
The dream and photo i wrote about in an earlier post, Memories.
My earliest memory came back to me in a dream. Around my twenties i dreamed i was crawling on a short stairs with maybe two steps. It was warm. I felt the warmth in my hands which were resting on the steps. I felt the warm stones beneath my fingers. My mother was sitting in front of me. She pointed to somebody behind me. My father. He was standing there with a camera in front of his face. He clicked. I had the photo. Somehow i lost it. I searched for it quite a few times. I still hope it’s somewhere in a book or a notebook. Somewhere hidden. I do love this memory. I can still feel the warm stones. I was like a year, a year and half old.
This photo was taken in 1965. It is something that really happened. And the dream i had, when i was around twenty years old, happened too. The dream, even with this distance of around thirty years, this dream i can still remember clearly. Pointing to myself, feeling the warm stones beneath my hands and looking behind me. The memory of the event itself, when i was only one year old, has faded away for a long time.
This dream is the counter point of the photo. In this dream i look at my father, with a camera in front of his head. His finger on the button ready to make the photo. I had only turned around a second before that. My mother was pointing at something behind me. My mother with her dark hair in a high knot up above her head, smiling. The sun shining. Warm stones beneath me. I turn around and look at my father. I do not see my father’s face. A mechanical object is in front of it, a camera.
My father is the one not in the photo. He took it. What i see in the photo is me and my mother, still pointing. Me, the one person i do not see in the dream. Me, the one person who is experiencing this event. I feel her, i feel what she feels, but i don’t see her. What i see is my dad.
My dad who has been absent from my life for the past twenty-eight years. My dad who is still alive. Who lives in a older people’s home somewhere in the west, between Rotterdam and the beaches. My dad who is slightly demented. Not sure about the slightly. My dad whose voice i last heard on the phone. You are not my daughter.
As you live your life, you are the only person you can not see entirely. You see your hands. You see your hair, when it is longer. You see your legs, your tummy. You do not see your back. You do not see your eyes. You see your nose only from the side, a bit blurry. You see your mouth only when you make a kissing face and put your mouth way out in front. Still blurry.
You do see other people completely. You see their face. You see their eyes. Their nose, their cheeks, their mouth. Their hands, their feet, their legs, their tummy. You see their backs. The top of their head.
But you can not see what is in their head. You can not see their thoughts. You can not feel what they feel.
They are a mystery.
I made many self portraits. When i was at art school, i started out with drawings. Then photography. My final project was with self portraits.
Making these self portraits was not extremely difficult. I only needed myself, a tripod, a camera and film. I started out with black and white film and ended up with colour. I used 25 ASA film most of the time. Very fine grain. Great colour. I still have all the negatives.
I used a whole film for each set. Looking into the camera with different facial expressions. A smile. A serious look. A look away. Different angles. From above. From the front. From the side.
I postponed seeing the look on myself. I only got to see what i looked like when i developed the film and started printing. Contact sheets gave me an overview, a chance to pick the best photo. The ones i believed to be the best anyway. Very difficult to get to that one.
This situation was very different from my initial photo opportunity, when i was one and a half years old. I was grown up. I was making these photos myself. Picking the right time myself.
For years i didn’t make photos of myself. Or they were hopeless failures. Not good. Not a good look. Not a pretty girl. Not a good photo.
I did make a few in 2010 i liked. And last year i made two great ones. In the sunshine. With the sun shining on the white cd cupboard. With my iPhone camera. I did need to make a cutout. The photo was ok with the entire shot. But a square cutout worked like magic.
I confess, i do like it when i look pretty in a photo. Of course i have so much more ugly photos of myself. But i get to pick the ones i show you. So yes, i show you the pretty ones. Even though i don’t feel i’m that vain, a bit of vanity i don’t mind.
So most of my work has a relationship with my dream of me and my mum and dad when i was around one and a half years old. I didn’t realize this at the time. This dream i still remember. I don’t know why i had this memory dream. I don’t know why exactly i made the work i made. But it did call to me. And yes, it is becoming clearer. I can put it into the story of my life. The story i’m telling you here. Which i forged out of my memories of the fifty two years of my life so far.
The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.
We all make stories. We grow up, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. All different things happen to us. Happy things. Sad things. Painful things. We meet other people. And things happen. We fall in love. And out of love.
We try to make this story matter. We have so much inspiration. We have all the old stories. Fairy tales. Movies. Television. Books. Myths. Religion. But all the stories in our lives are only pieces of these old stories. Our own lives are a multitude mass of little pieces, each told with a slightly different voice.
But each one of us is also a physical person. A whole being.
Born. Growing up. Walking. Working. Loving. Dead.
There is mystery in each of us. Fractured existence. Different voices. Each telling another side.
Me, here, on ellenpronk.com, i’m talking about my own existence. Fifty two years now. Halfway. Or slightly over.
I’m trying to make my stories work. For me. To understand my life, so far. To see threads. To make new threads. To tell new stories. To notice new things. Sometimes i fail. Many times i fail. But everything i tell here is true. In a way.
From me to you, i do hope you enjoy it here.
You are welcome.
John Berger (5 November 1926 – 2 January 2017) has died the day before yesterday. His name was mentioned a couple of times on my facebook feed. I looked up his videos on youtube.
Today’s post was supposed to be another one, but i’ll leave it as a draft for now. I’ll be watching the series Ways of Seeing and some other videos i found.
The above i wrote this afternoon. It is in the evening now. I did watch all the four episodes of Ways of Seeing. The rest i will watch further on in the week. I also came across a Guardian article linked by a friend: Past present. Still need to read this too.
I actually do think i have seen this before, maybe even on television. It reminds me of my own personal stuff i made with ads, like Beautiful girls and Ads, a videoclip i made with clips i recorded from television.
Still, i do not think this is the entire story of Western art of the past 500 years or so. That would be too simple. To say Western art is about the representation of objects, textures and skins only is too limited, in my world. It does leave out the final 130 years or so, in which there was a definite move towards abstraction. Also because photography did take over this representation in advertising, but also in movies. Commercialism is a huge aspect of moviemaking, yes, but still, some of the best art works of the past 130 years are movies. And some of those are also commercial successes. Films Like Back to the Future, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Harry Potter series, Lords of the Rings are all great movies. But i digress. More about this in another post, hopefully.
Another article i found: Why we still need John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. The picture of the three Victoria’s Secret angels requires some study. A quote form the article itself:
Consider the Victoria’s Secret Angels. A fleet of women so beautiful, so primped and preened that the name bestowed on them is inhuman, tells us that they are not of our world. The Angels (who yes, actually wear wings) present the ultimate female fantasy, with one one even donning the multimillion dollar ‘Fantasy Bra’ for her strut down the catwalk – each year held in a different global location. They are living, breathing advertisements, existing for mass consumption – the show, seen by millions of mostly women, is the most watched fashion event in the world. December’s event has generated almost 100,000 Instagram posts alone.
John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 1 (1972)
John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 2 (1972)
John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 3 (1972)
John Berger / Ways of Seeing , Episode 4 (1972)
John Berger or The Art of Looking (2016)
John Berger About Time (1985)
John Berger and Susan Sontag / To Tell A Story (1983)
Face To Face
On Saturday i walked to the market, bought myself a sandwich doner kebab and walked on a bit further. The thought of buying nail polish came up. I first went into the Etos and looked at all the Essie nail polishes. No colour really spoke to me. So no. I went into the Hema next. Nail polishes there too, and a lot cheaper. There was even an action: two nail polishes for only three euros. One costs €2,50. So i picked two: olive green and rose gold.
Today i use the nail polish for the first time. The olive green on four nails, the rose gold on the ring finger. I was thinking of how the nail polish would be after i went to the garden. But really, i didn’t do that much in the garden anyway. I cleaned up all the plastic thrown down, i checked out garbage of the train rails working place. And when everyone else came, we drank tea and coffee. I did harvest a couple of amsoy leaves, but that was it for today. Still lovely to be there and see everyone else coming there eventually.
I also bought a string of Christmas lights yesterday. Warm lights with LED. I put it on my chimney. I love it. It is a dark time, these lights do brighten up the house. I’m not doing that much about Christmas, no tree, no wreaths, no special Christmas decorations. But i do like the lights. This week i will also get out my die-cutted paper surroundings for small candles. These are specially made for Christmas. Clear and distinct trees are cutted out, making a good looking light play around it, once the candle is lit inside it.
Enjoy your Monday!