Tique | art paper asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Emmeline de Mooij.
Lives in Amsterdam
How do you describe your own art practice?
My work consists of outlining speculative scenarios through which I examine the possibility of restoring a lost unity between man and his surroundings. My photographs, installations and performances are characterized by the fluid approach of the medium and the use of unconventional materials.
What was your first experience with art?
Going to places- and doing stuff I was afraid of as a child. I guess by challenging myself, looking for discomfort, at these moments as well as moments of ‘flow’ (being absorbed in a repetitive act, while drawing, sewing or singing in a choir), I was experiencing a certain magic I now associate with art.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
Touching my children.
What do you need in order to create your work?
An oscillation between daydreaming and crisis.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m organizing Huishoudschool (Domestic Labor School), three restorative workshops/performances on repair and maintenance techniques during Cure Park in Amsterdamse Bos.
The focus on repair and maintenance in this piece deals with the idea that our global obsession with growth and progress provokes the abuse and exploitation of the earth and ourselves. While our western privileges crumble away, we now have reached the point where our belief in progress is no longer sustainable. This manifests itself in new forms of pathology and decay: loneliness, the fear of the other and the dissonance between our digital self and our analog body. All the signs are there, Western civilization is in decay and progress might turn into regression. A regressive future insinuates austerity and loss of comfort, at the same time it offers a chance of restoring the broken relationship with our environment and the other.
The facilitated activities in these workshops are generally seen as chores. In the domestic context we perceive these tasks as being disgraceful and boring and we perform them without engagement, as quickly as possible. However, the care for the other and our environment is becoming increasingly important in an overstrained world. Housekeeping and most care tasks are characterized by a repetitive element, if performed well, these routines have the appearance of a ritual and therefore they have spiritual potential. The practical nature of the workshops offers the opportunity to be part of a social and physical process and thus has a therapeutic effect. Huishoudschool is a recovery place for objects and people.
The first performance is called ‘Bed Bath’. How do you properly wash a fragile patient? Where do you start? Can the soft and caring touch facilitate the healing process? And can art benefit in the same way as a frail and damaged body of the intimacy of a cleansing touch? The idea that healthcare can benefit from art is widely considered, but what can healthcare do for art?
These questions sparked the idea for the Bed Bath Performance in which I follow the protocol of a classic Bed Bath as performed in nursing homes by nurses and care takers. I will gently wash a damaged and orphaned sculpture.
The second performance/workshop is called ‘Exercise for Dying’ in collaboration with Giene Steenman. Participants bring their own full vacuum cleaner bag, the content of this bag is the basis for a meditative workshop. Dust is the result of degradation and decay and a confrontation with mortality. Exercise for Dying sets of with contemplating our own mortality and moves through the performance of repetitive acts such as sweeping, dusting and brushing, to free space and the possibility of reflection.
Cleaning and housekeeping is often done in seclusion. In our homes we make sure the cleaning is done before the guests arrive and professional cleaners do the job often very early in the morning, before the day begins. Me and Giene will guide the participants through Huishoudschool 2: an exercise for dying. Confrontation and rehearsal as self-medication.
For the third workshop focuses on clothing repair and is a collaboration with Golden Joinery. Repair is an act of patience and care. At its best, it encourages a cautious handling of the world, a special form of attention, an awareness imbued with hope. As opposed to consuming something new, the act of repair embodies a sense of commitment and trust.
Participants are asked to bring a beloved and damaged garment. Inspired by an old Japanese tradition where broken ceramics are repaired with gold, fashion designer Saskia van Drimmelen and director Margreet Sweerts will guide the participants to repair their ragged clothes with a golden thread.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
My son’s first hesitating plunge into the water during his first swimming class. The fear, the hesitation and then the decision to trust, to jump into the unknown, on his own, without me, I found that incredibly moving. I’m not sure if this can be a ‘work’, but it has a similar intensity as art does..