In conversation with Johns

When Johns meets Zeevaarders

I think one can safely state that once we got started working together we had to move away from our (more) comfortable zone. Because in order to work together we needed to find a new kind of working method/area on a common ground for the both of us. 

During the time we worked together thus far, our former working methods within this area where quite present and began to reveal themselves to us. We realised we applied certain rules to our actions and how they are different from one another. So by making something together, we could take a better look at what it is we do different, and what is congruous. We realised we may have been deceiving ourselves in the sense that there was a working method at all, or simply were very unaware of its presence perhaps. And denying the intrinsic value within the work and accepting it for what it is. (This last is Zeevaarders’ position, Johns’ acceptance and value occurred during the last year of the Bachelor.)

These similarities and differences can be found in our working methods, in the “what are we looking for?” questions, as well as in the rules created along the way for ourselves, and perhaps even what we believe in. 

We suspect there is something going on that goes beyond the “we do our thing, and that is what it is”. Perhaps ‘Adventure' is one of the words that brings us closer in our quest to identify our working method, (as well as Motivation). Especially within the relation between the things we made, and the joy we experience when looking at them. The word ‘adventure’ may not be sufficient, but the implication of ‘discovering something within new territory’ that lies within it, is a big part of the works conception. Let’s state as Johns is telling me now: “We are exploring the unknown, by making, in search of wonder”. 



 So, there are RULES: 


-  100% Handmade. (The Action should not give a ‘designed/made’ look and feel to it. Although within my rules the object could never be in its original form, it is necessary for me to have changed/made it. So the goal is to do something that does not look like it is made, but in fact is.)

-  Paint and Carriers are trusted materials. (Also empty materials such as plaster and clay are within this trusted zone.)

-  White paint as basis. (In order to be able to add pigments, white is the basis; it stands for a novel beginning. Something new can be created.)

-  Using a new carrier after a failed (entire) work is not an option. (I believe that one shouldn’t be overwhelmed by mistakes, but use them as a reactionary stage. Therefore the failure becomes the carrier again.) (Z.&J.)

-  I want to grasp the casual/spontaneous beauty; (so it can become a translation of my aesthetic experience. “But why wouldn’t actual reality be enough; what makes my hands a necessary contribution?” I’d say: I want to be the one who created it, be ‘the giver of life’). (Zeevaarders as the ‘God’s Position’, Johns as the ‘last position’; the last unfolding of the universe’s folds.)

-  Make objects individually as interesting as possible, (next to each other). (As opposed to Johns; to bring objects in relation with each other (piling/layering) as well as next to each other.)

-  Constellating how things come together. (The taking and giving control during the making process; control vs. coincidence.)

-  Working on the ground and leaving it there. (Putting it on something, hanging it up seems like being dishonest, because it was made on the ground; the origin.)

-  Works are made within time. (They are an accumulation of time, manifested in one piece.)

-  No glitter permitted. (Choice of material does not allow this frivolous form; they are in need of some testosterone). (Johns permits ‘feminine’ materials as the one mentioned above.)

-Within my choices of colour, I have no preferences. (Every colour has the same position in a hierarchical sense. So no aversions, and no favourites.)



-  Bring in balance. (Although this gives the so named ‘fillers’ potential to exist.)

-  Create relations between materials/objects/carriers in order to evoke visual joy. (Communication between the entities, because I am not interested in the individual objects, but the relations that merge through the manner of placing, for example layering.)

-  Synthetics are allowed. (Unlike Zeevaarders choice of materials, the rule is; if it gives happiness, it is allowed in. This also includes plastic in some cases, or as often experienced as ‘feminine' materials.) (Zeevaarders believes that some materials give a false sense of happiness and therefore distrusts non-self made materials.)

-  Colours are a choice. (Based on the amount of joy they are capable of, as well as a harmony between them). 

-Certain shades of purple are not allowed. (Subjective, yet true.) 

-  Joy within looking is one of the rules the others appeared from.

-  Achievements of the past are allowed to be reused, or are the starting point to a new work. (Therefore I often start from something I know.) (Zeevaarders has problems with things that have succeeded in the past, because then the assumption is easily made that everything that ‘worked’ previously, is a success guaranteed.)

-  The past achievements are allowed. (Because while seeing during the making, it can give a head start to the yet unknown, that can come along only by doing).

-  ‘Shapes’ are allowed. (Even if they are preconceived of in my mind, though preferably not. In this case I mean shapes that are formed consciously beforehand, as well as shapes that appear through the ‘inspiration of doing’) (‘Inspiration of doing’ is like a domino effect: from one thing comes the other.)

-  To style, or not to style? (When I make work, the way it is placed plays a great role. I place it intuitively, led by acquired knowledge through the try-outs done previously. This doesn’t always work though; the precision of the placing can waver. Sometimes it tends to become decorative instead of harmonious or candid aesthetics. This keeps me balancing between the thin line of placing or styling.)

-  To ‘de-recognise’ objects. (To take away their initial associations and erase the meaning imposed upon them.) (Zeevaarders recognises herself in this; she also used to use found objects and transform them, in order to create a different meaning. But the items in question where not separable from their connotations, which eliminated the desired effect.)

>>Just because they are rules, they do not define us, and does not mean we like them. (Z.&J.) <<


Conclusions so far: 

Crossing more boundaries, (each others boundaries as well as our own), “Because what happens if…” and realising where the rules begin and where they might end, and in some cases: do they even make sense?

As a Concluding Rule: Question the rules we could now observe, (through the process of working together), by researching them trough our work in order to deduct if they are relevant or legitimate in our work.  

There is a high amount of concentration in the work. Two pairs of eyes see more, two minds have a greater capacity and a greater distance from one another; conventions are visible to the other. There is enough freedom for critique to lay these bare to the other.

Johns can take more freedom in acting now; Zeevaarders can take more distance between moments of making/moments of destruction.

The greatest difference between the work of Zeevaarders and Johns: In the manner in which we handle work. Z: “When I work, every work needs to be valuable, afterwards I struggle with the placing. Sometimes the work can become a glorification of debris; then the gold gets lost in the amounts of sand. In order to get the gold out of the sand again, I need to take a step back and see what there is. Then I can separate it, through the placing within a given space.” Z about J: “She has a natural selection in how she places one thing on top of the other and sees relations between different pieces in a space, through which they communicate and become a seemingly visual coherent constellation, a whole. Johns stopped using fillers. Perhaps this is where the styling is hiding usually.”

Zeevaarders: “I never consciously realised I didn’t want finished works on top of each other, when working with Johns, I discovered that I did. It’s an interesting development; it made me wonder why I never had problems with layering the individual materials during the working process, but once they were done, piling them wasn’t an option.”

Site specific?
Previously, the moving of materials into another space never seemed to have had a great impact on the work; we never had to transport a work literally to another one. But due to the circumstances, the works we made at the Polis Studio had to be transported to Achter de Barakken. A strange thing happened: the exact same objects placed in the same way didn’t work at all in this space. So we were confronted with several questions we didn’t think of/didn’t take into consideration, or couldn’t predict the outcome of. 


After a couple of days we could conclude that the works lost some of their significance. We could state now that the ‘birth’ place is equally as important as the things themselves. The leaving of their ‘home’ changed them somehow. Zeevaarders states: “What does this mean for the work then? Does everything need to be created in the same space as it is presented? Or could we say that the works that don’t have the same value in this space, weren’t good or finished yet in the first place?” 

Apart from the struggle with the direction of the things, we didn’t take into consideration that a space has a specific orientation with an explicit direction. Going against this direction meant an imbalance within the work. The room forced us to take its entity into consideration.

Being together means being sharper, we get to know ourselves through the other. For now, it will be an challenge to keep breaking the rules and find out which ones can stay and which ones can leave, perhaps there are even new ones along the way to be found. So let’s keep going, lets keep playing and chase the possibilities!



Sophie and Gladys