Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Benjamin Francis .
Lives in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
How do you describe your own art practice?
I would consider my practice as very social. Very often my work is the result of an ongoing conversation I am having with others (be it colleagues or the audience), or even myself. Initially, I spend a lot of time reflecting and researching what has happened within a space before I came into the picture. What the output of this research is can very fluid, from performance to working with text, installations, sculptures to video. I am interested in the idea of activating spaces; meaning creating settings, performances and sculptures wherein the audience has to react and relate to the world I create in a symbiotic way. This can happen by sometimes having sculptures that break by being walked on, or a performance wherein the audience will be asked to actively participate in some way.
Which question or theme is central in your work?
The main theme would be decay and the brain in relation to our body. The body creates errors that influence our ability to be fully conscious, which in turn causes us to unconsciously feel things or to be touched by something without actually sensing it.
This functions as a central theme within my work but also as a way of thinking. An understanding wherein I am aware that sometimes the history that is collected within my body creates errors with my present self without me knowing about it. This might sound abstract, which is why I like to give the example of the chair. It’s an object we are most of the time sitting on. Because of muscle memory you do not have to think about how you have to sit on the chair. But muscle memory might also contain trauma that has been collected in your body while sitting on a chair.
What was your first experience with art?
I would not know the exact first experience. I do know to have seen a lot of art since I was young. Not always contemporary. My parents used to take me around to see old historical buildings, churches, castles and museums. You could say my parents loved to be touristic, but I would rather say they were truly longing for a certain kind of meaning beyond the physicality of these buildings. I on the other hand, felt uncomfortable to be in these places. I could not relate (and sometimes still don’t) to them. At some point I managed to get them to limit the amount of cultural buildings we saw within a week when we went on trips.
Reflecting on these moments, I can say it was surely a privilege that I was able to see that many historical spaces from such a young age.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
I would say Bjork’s song Unravel. Unravel is basically about a couple in love and its decay. Bjork symbolizes love as a ball of yarn that unravels after the couple loses contact. The love or the complexity their relationship once had is lost. Every time the couple loses this contact it needs to start anew. The ball of yarn symbolizes the complexity in the relationship which becomes flat by not being in near proximity. The idea of a relationship in a constant state of decay, and of two people having to together recreate this love while knowing it will fall apart once again; I find super interesting. I am also fascinated by the idea that there is a certain energy when two people are in near proximity, just as there is in keeping distance.
What do you need in order to create your work?
Maybe that’s an unorthodox answer, but my main requirement is chaos. Everything else naturally follows.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
There is this Dutch book called “Metamorphose of the Baroque (Metamorfose van de Barok)” by Frank Reinders. What I found most interesting about this book was the way that it dealt with the idea of melancholia, longing for a purpose/god and how the baroque style uses these concepts to expand the boundaries of art.