SPATIAL DISRUPTIONS – The Writings
Logbook Writings about project Spatial Disruptions at Sugarfactory Area and surroundings.
Writers: Maartje Terpstra, Sanne Morssink, M. Groenen, Floor van Heuvel, Karlijn Vermeij
Artists: Janne Schipper, Isabella Francis, Luuk Smits, Roman Tkachenko Mischa Lind, Tudor Ulrich, Stephanie Rizaj
13. 21-08-2021 Suikerunieterrein
‘Luuk Smits: A Successful Journey’ , by Floor van den Heuvel
12. 21-08-2021 Broerstaat; Noorderplantsoen; Suikerunieterrein |
‘Isabella Francis 3: The Audience’s Response’ , by Floor van den Heuvel
11. 20-08-2021 Suikerunieterrein
‘Stephanie Rizaj 3’ , by M. Groenen
10. 20-08- 2021 Suikerunieterrein
‘Janne Schipper 3’ by M. Groenen
What makes a good conversation? (Roman Tkachenko 2) by Maartje Terpstra
8. 10-08-2021 Suikerunieterrein
‘Stephanie Rizaj 2’ by M. Groenen
7. 10-08-2021 Suikerunieterrein,
‘Janne Schipper 2 ‘ by M. Groenen
‘Het einde is nabij, schaam u diep’ : Mischa Lind and Tudor Ulrich by Maartje Terpstra
5. 03-08-2021 Suikerunieterrein
‘Janne Schipper 1’ , Text and photo’s by M.Groenen
4. 30-07-2021 Suikerunieterrein
‘Everything has Value’: Luuk Smits by Floor van Heuvel
3. 30-07-2021 Suikerunieterrein
‘Stepahnie Rizaj’ by M. Groenen
‘Algorithmic Materialism: Roman Tkachenko fumbles with the future of Suikerterrein’ by Maartje Terpstra
1. 28-07-2021 Soerabajastraat
‘The perfect Dutch student city’: Isabella Francis by Floor van Heuve
13. Luuk Smits: A Successful Journey , Logbook 3 |
August 21st | Suikerunieterrein , by Floor van den Heuvel
It is somewhat of a sunny day (for a change) in Groningen when I walk into the warehouse where the artists are working. Luuk is seated at the table: “Hello!” I exclaim, while putting on the cattle for a nice cup of tea. The day before my visit, the artist drove around the terrain to shoot his film. “It was a very long day and it was not always easy, but we did it,” Luuk says.
He takes out his phone and shows me a video that displays a somewhat anxious-looking Luuk: although the car made it around the terrain (twice actually, for filming purposes), it was a close call at times. When the van had to pass the road blocks or when the road was uneven for example, the van (and its stack of blocks) tilted to the side. The sounds of flapping lashing straps and vegetation rubbing on the bottom of the van were also not particularly helpful in trusting the process, the artist recalls.
“I can show you some of the videos we took,” Luuk says while he puts his SLR camera on the table. The shots that he shows me are very cool. I especially like the shadow play in the different clips. Sometimes, a shadow of the tower appears before the van actually comes into the frame, which reminds me of the invisible yet highly established future of the terrain. Currently, it is not visible that the terrain will turn into a hypermodern residential area, but we all know it will: the future casts a (positive or negative; that is up to you) shadow on the nature reserve.
Moreover, I like the insistent obtrusiveness of the white van: at times, the branches bend around the white tower and the long grass is crushed by the tires. The sounds complete the friction: the roaring engine forms a contrast to the natural sounds (e.g. bird sounds; wind rustling through the trees). However, Luuk might eventually trade the location sound for a voice-over that elaborates on the terrain and its rich ecological system. By adding this layer, the film will even become more of an ode to the nature reserve.
For the exhibition weekend, Luuk is planning on clearing out his van and inviting people to enter the car and watch the video inside. “I also thought about driving the van while people are watching,” he says lightheartedly, “but that might be a little too meta-meta.” Nonetheless, the film by Luuk promises to be a layered artwork that emphasizes the tension between nature and humankind: you are very welcome to take a look at Luuk’s work and other produced artworks on the 28th and 29th of August!
12. Isabella Francis, Logbook 3: ‘The Audience’s Response’|
August 20th; 21st | Broerstaat; Noorderplantsoen; Suikerunieterrein, by Floor van den Heuvel
It is quite early when I bike around the corner of the Broerstraat, but I immediately notice Isabella’s word spin banner that is located between two flagpoles: just like the flags, the banner blows in the breeze. A few meters right of the artwork, a sign for the new students can be found: “Welcome to Groningen! Nice to see you!”. It is a bleak contrast to the monochrome banner that describes the ‘perfect fraternity’ with words like ‘elitist’ and ‘sexism’. Indeed. Welcome to Groningen.
I am curious to see how audiences will respond to the work, but concrete responses remain absent. Naturally, the usual look is given or photo is taken, but the majority of passers-by simply glance, smile and walk on. Except for the young man that practically walks through the work (and decides to buck last minute), responses are mellow. Isabella is not bothered by this though: “It is part of the process,” she states wisely. The artist is probably correct: the fact that nobody dares to take a closer look definitely says something about the sensitivity that is embedded in the represented theme.
Personally, I can sense the sensitivity that surrounds fraternities: although I do not want to give in to the feeling, I feel somewhat anxious knowing that I have something to do with this work: what if people do not agree? What if they get mad? Although I did not have this feeling earlier, when the fabric was laying on the table in the warehouse, I do experience it now. In that sense, the word spin does not only disrupt the physical space, but the (spectator’s) social space as well: the theme of the work only comes alive when it is located in a place like this. It is inherently connected to the location.
The following day, Isabella presents her ‘perfect student city’ and ‘perfect cultural entrepreneur community’ at the Noorderplantsoen and Suikerunieterrein respectively. Although the artist struggled with suspending and removing the banner at the Broerstraat (supervisors asked if she had “permission to remove the banner” –“yes”), this was not much of a problem at the two other locations. In fact, the banner is still present at the bridge to the Suikerunieterrein, where people seem to be more used to these kinds of socially embedded artworks.
For the final presentation during the weekend of the 28th and 29th of August, Isabella is planning on presenting her banners around the terrain along with documentation (i.e. photos and videos) of the audience’s reaction. You are very welcome to come and enjoy Isabella’s works for yourself!
11. Stephanie Rizaj Logbook 3
20/08/2021 Suikerunieterrein, by M. Groenen
Conversing with Stephanie Rizaj outside on one of the benches on the Suikerunieterrein, a multitude of social, political, and economic issues are raised. No wonder that her video artworks are defined by heavy, in-depth questions; real questions that concern humans and their relationship to the multifaceted, ever-changing world that surrounds them. Rizaj uses her art to gain answers to these specific questions. New questions also arise when she is in the middle of a creative process. In As If Biting Iron, the question was centered on women’s ability to move a house (a metaphor for the pressure of the patriarchy). The question in the upcoming video work is focused on how, as a group, we can overcome a crisis while going about our day-to-day lives.
For Spatial Disruptions, the idea behind the video performance came about after reflecting on the events that took place during the past year(s). As explained by the artist, “At the moment we are facing a multitude of crises, be them climatic, economic, social, whatever names we choose. It is precisely this conflict and social challenge that drives me to overthink my own art-practice. I found myself having lost faith in a neoliberal system where the individual as the center-point can sustain itself and that only as a collective we can have the possibility to move on. Call me communistic, but I truly believe that as a group we can achieve a lot.” What becomes clear from this emphasis is that Rizaj’s artworks are characterized by a concentration on group dynamics, and it is this focus that drives her.
The performance itself will be executed by a group that will carry out everyday gestures. Rizaj: “Being locked in for a long period of time has made me rethink everyday life gestures performed everyday by myself: sleeping, washing, cooking, brushing, working out, watching. But also performed everyday by everyone.” Furniture and props for the set have been acquired: a white couch, a simple chair, a lamp, a table, and wooden planks (that are going to be transformed into a wall) are stored on top of each other in a corner of the smaller shed where some of the artists sleep. The plans for Rizaj’s video performance are directed at an attempt to redefine ordinary life by examining our routines: the similarities and contrasts between people are highlighted and will make unconscious acts more conscious.
10. Janne Schipper Logbook 3
20/08/2021 Suikerunieterrein, by M. Groenen
Over the course of this past week, Janne Schipper has put the previously mentioned ideas and abstractions into physical action. With the help of her boyfriend and sister, the artist has completed the build of two impressive molds that resemble the height of a human being. The smooth, visually appealing outsides of the molds contrast with the rough, stained insides that reveal the artist’s fingerprints and working process. Schipper’s visit to the stained-glass artist has resulted in the creation of two circular stained-glass pieces of art. These will be inserted into the sides of one of the molds, creating a tube-like effect that echoes the Zeefgebouw’s industrial character.
At the moment, the two molds are located in the loods on the Suikerunieterrein. To form a group, a third one will be created. Schipper’s mind is currently occupied by questions that concern the semi-public space. Examples of this particular space are municipal buildings, libraries, schools or college buildings, hospitals, and museums. The artist herself mentions the church as an example: residing between open and closed, a church exerts some sort of attraction on people. These thoughts came to her while working late at night. By playing with the stained-glass windows and placing a candle within the mold, an intimate environment was created. This reminded Schipper of a church, and she began to wonder what draws people to these types of locations. The Suikerunieterrein is another example of a semi-public location. This aspect, as proven by Schipper, raises intriguing questions and concerns about the role of the artwork and its impact on this particular terrain.
The process of making the stained-glass windows and the molds is guided by the artist’s intuition. As explained by Schipper, “Within an idea or notion that I have, I want to keep a space or opportunity to not know, or to use my intuition. So that within a framework, there is freedom.” Having predetermined notions and ideas in mind limits the possibilities of the creative process. Schipper: “You’ll turn into some sort of machine that is ‘producing’ an artwork.” She explains that the entire process of creating her art is based on some guidelines, but that the outcome is not predetermined: the creation of the artwork is founded on a balance of knowing and not knowing, and in the end, trusting where the creative process will take her.
The artist has decided to display the artworks on the pallets on which they were constructed. In doing so, Schipper gives the impression that the molds are easily transportable (despite each weighing roughly 80 Kilograms): an element that contrasts sharply with the heavy, robust character of the Zeefgebouw. Where the molds will end up, and whether they will be accompanied by a piece of information or will be objects devoid of too much information will become clear in a later stage. What is clear at this point is that the artwork is going to be exhibited outside of the Zeefgebouw during the weekend of the presentations (the 28th and 29th of August). Where the structures will go afterwards is unclear for now.
9. What makes a good conversation?
Maartje Terpstra | 12-08-2021
I spoke with Roman again and it was a very nice conversation. We philosophized about land and earth and ownership, we talked about regulations and temporary freedom, I recognized his struggle of finding form in multiplicity, he introduced me to his great deal of theoretical and artistic inspirations and I made, as I cannot control myself, unasked puns of serious stuff. I will not tell you what Roman told me. I will not invite you to his thinking process or repeat my joke. Today is about form.
The lines I write will be complementary to my previous piece on the more theoretical considerations in his work. Pointing towards an algorithmic method of positioning himself as a mediating analyst at Het Suikerterrein and among its users, I rounded off my reflection with the social turn in this work. And that’s where we are.
This is where we are now. What does that mean?
Relational aesthetics, coined by art critic and curator Bourriaud in the 1990-ies, helps us understand what art’s got to do in creating conversation. The artist invites social reality to reveal itself through the material production of a situation (= this is where we are now). In my previous report on Romans activities as residence at SIGN I defined him as a ‘mediating analyst’. Let us now replace that with dramaturg. Although dramaturgs have diverse roles within different groups there are common denominators. With communicative sensitivity and sharpness the dramaturg contributes to the efficacy of the work. In the wideness and vastness of the artistic process that involves so many perspectives and art forms the dramaturg needs to be aware of the intentions of the sender and the character of the receiver. It is about the efficiency of the form of the matter.
Romans work is about organizing relations in many senses: to instigate, facilitate and to structure. It’s quite the challenge for an individual artist to be so deep in matter and form. Relationality relieves the pressure of delimiting because as an artistic methodology and genre it has the advantages of fluidity. Matter is form, process is product, vice versa and so on. This is why this piece of writing is obviously not only about form.
What makes a good conversation?
A group of people stand on a small piece of grass framed by blackberry bushes. Between them, on the ground, three times a square meter is disturbed. One square has been dug out 30 cm deep, the removed layer of grass is heightened on a pallet next to it, the third square is just weeded. They seem good-humored and expectant. They wait. Somebody gets an intuition…
Somebody: ‘Is this an intervention?’
All others are triggered and they answer simultaneously.
Others: ‘Well, but whose is it?!’
Check the theory out:
Bourriaud, Nicolas, et al. Relational Aesthetics. Presses Du réel, 2010.
8. ‘Stephanie Rizaj 2’
10/08/2021 Suikerunieterrein, by M. Groenen
In contrast to the other artists working in the warehouse on the Suikerunieterrein, Stephanie Rizaj has taken a less object-oriented approach to the Spatial Disruptions project. Following an insightful conversation with independent choreographer and theater maker Nina Wijnmaalen (who is part of a group of artists appointed by SIGN to give useful feedback and reflective statements to other artists working at SIGN), the artist has decided to create a video artwork in the style of her previous works. To gain an idea of her earlier video projects, Rizaj talks through two of them: As If Biting Iron (2019) and Traces (2020). Whereas the first focuses on the weight of the patriarchy, the second follows two children and has a more innocent, dream-like quality. The enticing and alluring mise-en-scène and cinematography found in both works inextricably connects the two.
In some ways, the concept Rizaj has settled on for Spatial Disruptions is a combination of the ideas discussed last week: the space found in the work-out area and the performance centered on domesticity and group dynamics. Right now, in the artist’s mind, the idea unfolds as follows. The performance will be executed in a space enclosed by trees that resembles a thick, remote forest. Two white structures have been ordered and will be placed in this location, where they will serve as walls and give the space a homey atmosphere. The interior is going to be white and minimalistic, with only the bare essentials such as a table, chair, and bed. A group of people will occupy the space and in it, will engage in activities that are typically performed in residential settings (reading a book, drinking a glass of water, cleaning, etc.). The whole setting reminds a bit of Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003), in which the set is clearly visible throughout the film. In Rizaj’s video, the group will complete a domestic action at the same time and at a similar speed, displaying the artist’s fascination with group dynamics. Rizaj explains that the video artwork is inspired by Sally Potter’s film The Gold Diggers (1983). Specifically, the scene in which a group of men is watching a film in a movie theater. In this sequence, one of the men turns their head to the left and the rest of the group follows a split second later. Rizaj praises Potter’s use of image, text, and sound, noting that each aspect was carefully constructed by the director and executed flawlessly.
The upcoming week is defined by the construction of a logistical plan for the execution of the video. There is a chance that everyone involved is reading the same book at the same time. As possible sources, Rizaj is thinking about the book Poetics of Space by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard or something by the French filmmaker, novelist, and essayist Georges Perec. Over the course of the week, the specifics and exact details will become clearer.
7. ‘Janne Schipper 2 ‘
10/08/2021 Suikerunieterrein, by M. Groenen
As you enter the warehouse on the Suikerunieterrein, two large wooden structures stand out among piles of equipment and supplies. At this point, most of the artists who are part of the Spatial Disruptions project have taken up their tools and have started to breathe life into their projects. In accordance, Janne Schipper has spent the past week successfully constructing the two wooden constructions she spoke of last time. The artist even dreamt about them. In this dream, the size of the structures corresponded to half of the length of the Chinese wall!
The next step in Schipper’s creative process will be to fill the wooden constructions with plaster. Once they have dried, the molds will represent part of the fascinating facade of the Zeefgebouw that has captured the interest of the artist. This, however, is not where Schipper’s project ends. During last week’s talk, the artist hinted at the idea of personalizing the molds in some way. Following this, she has arranged to meet with an artist who works on the Suikerunieterrein and crafts stained-glass artworks. If this visit is fruitful, Schipper would like to make small stained-glass windows and add these to the molds, creating the impression that spaces exist within other spaces. In doing so, the artist demonstrates her capacity to work with and include a variety of mediums in her art (a characteristic that is consistent with her past work). The small stained-glass windows will function as representations of the holes found in the walls of the weathered and worn-out Zeefgebouw. According to Schipper, by adding the stained-glass windows, the molds are given an architectural element that gives a poetic depth to the piece: they allow a specific type of sensation to be expressed.
With the artwork, Schipper is trying to tell a story. A story that involves the Zeefgebouw which has been in existence for over one hundred years. A question that the artist continues to ponder, however, is how to establish an intervention. “The Suikerunieterrein is one massive intervention,” Schipper says. Hence, situating the structures in this terrain would result in an intervention within an intervention: a meta-intervention. This ties in with the artwork itself, which visualizes an architectural structure within an architectural structure (through the reproduction of the facade and the stained-glass windows). For the time being, one thing is certain: the work’s poetic depth cannot be denied.
6. ‘Het einde is nabij, schaam u diep’
05-08-2021 by Maartje Terpstra
‘This is the land of the frogs’, Tudor tells me. ‘And what is this place actually to you?’ I ask while we creep and crawl through bushes of nettle, thistle and blueberries. ‘Ah,’ – a playful smile and subtle shrug – ‘it’s just the place, for now’. Mischa Lind and Tudor Ulrich pull out their foldable spades and start pointing into the bunker, which looks like a tomb to me. Today the water and clay needs to be removed, they agree.
On a Sunday I tag along with their duo-project for Spatial Disruption. As usual I hurried to arrive early, just before noon. The pace was slow at De Loods. If I want some coffee? Yes, sure. Maybe some pumpkin soup? No, thanks (I came for adventures, not soup!). I settled myself on the wooden bench in the sun. Conversing with Mischa about the beauty of the rural and natural area just past Het Suikerterrein he goes right to the core telling me it’s a complex thing, intervening in a landscape. ‘You really force yourself and your will unto a certain place’ and he refers to their experience with digging holes and growing weeds. But now, here, there’s more to it, because ‘it is Suikerunie’s swansong’. Nothing that’s here now, such as the endangered ducks or bats, will stay…
The moment the train to Leeuwarden passes, a lets-go-vibe bubbles up. It looks as if the two have their own Thoreau-ian lifestyle here. Like a Suikerunie, or life at the loods the artists intuitively but consciously roam the area and find essential spots where their practical and philosophical perspectives connect. The way they speak to each other, quietly and in economically short sentences, is not secretive but rather musing. Deep into Het Suikerterrein, even beyond the map one can find online, they discovered ‘the place’: an overgrown pier in De Vloeivelden. The geocache tells us another adventurer was here the day before the artists arrived…
While I see the two artists digging, imagining, playing, I am amazed by my inability to define their doings as violent or caring. This is when I understand that this is exactly the artistic and theoretical nodal point of land art – the ambiguous human power to destruct and create simultaneously. ‘We never use power tools, everything must go by hand. And in a year they come with the big guns.’ Mischa puts the irony where it belongs.
I help them make a mud wall from the sludge they shovel out of the slurping ibbiss. When I take a step back, glancing at them just doing their thing I tell them what I see: ‘You are not building walls, you are giving this bunker arms! Maybe wings even!’. Two advertising aircrafts hover above us. It’s hard to read their banners but one seems clear:
The end is near. Be ashamed.
5. 03/08/2021 Suikerunieterrein
“Janne Schipper 1” by M. Groenen
The artistic projects executed by Janne Schipper (1996) vary from sculpture, installation, and photography to earth art and textile-based artworks. Each of these artworks can be linked to one another as “poetry flows through each of them like a red thread.” The artworks created by the Dutch artist are based on existential questions. These inquiries primarily relate to a general sense of awe regarding the events that humans encounter during their lives. Schipper studied sculpture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague and co-founded the ANNASTATE artist collective in 2018. For Spatial Disruptions, the artist exchanged her home in Denmark for the Suikerunieterrein in Groningen.
As soon as Schipper set foot on the Suikerunieterrein, the artist was confronted with her repeated affinity for heights: her eye was immediately captured by the tallest and biggest building on the terrain, the former Zeefgebouw. This is in line with her graduation project, in which Schipper built a skeleton-like structure on top of the art academy where she was studying at the time. The wooden structure was attached to a bell inside the academy that rang every 20 minutes and 27 seconds. With the artwork, Schipper intended to give form to an almost ungraspable occurrence, trying to make audible the earth’s fundamental tone, which has a frequency of 0.000815 Hz (equating to a period of 20 minutes and 27 seconds).
Unlike her graduation project, which was based on a very conceptual and abstract idea, Schipper’s first thoughts on her plans that include the Zeefgebouw are more visual. The artist is particularly taken with the building’s step-like façade, describing it as a “stairway to heaven”: the gloomy sky seems to take the overhand on the building, making it appear as if the only thing that exists are the sky and the grey steps heading up to some unreal, dream-like alternative world. Due to its intriguing and captivating presence, Schipper has decided to create a cast of the step-like structure. The artist visited the Groninger Archieven and met with various people on the Suikerunieterrein as part of her preparations. She calculated the exact dimensions of the façade using mathematical equations. The next stage will be to cut the wood that is going to be used to make the mold. Questions about the design of the artwork (whether it will consist of one piece or separate parts), its eventual location (on the Suikerunieterrein or elsewhere), and its final appearance have yet to be answered. Regardless, Schipper is certain of one thing: the artwork will be some kind of tribute to the monumental Zeefgebouw. Whether this will involve a personal claim (involving a butt sculpted out of soapstone) remains to be seen.
4. July 30th | Suikerunieterrein
‘Everything has Value’: Luuk Smits and the question of material value by Floor van Heuvel
It is a few minutes past eleven when I walk into the warehouse where the seven artists for Spatial Disruptions are staying and working. Luuk Smits (b. 1986, NL) crawls out of his van, after having tried to connect a second battery to the motor of his car: “fancy a cup of tea?” he asks.
Luuk, trained in photography at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts (KABK), is a visual artist that is interested in construction material (‘material that is defined by functionality’, as he states himself). He almost always works according to the same methodology: his artistic processes often commence with the artist taking walks, during which he likes to take heaps of photos. In pursuing this practice, Luuk is inspired by artists such as Richard Long and The Situationist International, who have very sensuous approaches to the practice of walking as well. By undertaking an unplanned journey through the urban landscape and allowing the materials to draw one into the attractions of the terrain, (materialistic) inspiration strikes.
For Luuk, the photos that he takes function as a funnel in two ways. On the one hand, the photos themselves can become artworks. The Rotterdam-based artist is, for example, working on a book called Container, which is going to be a publication that brings together over 300 photos of urban settings (both built and staged by Luuk himself, as well as simply found in the landscape). As the images are juxtaposed throughout the book, the spectator is invoked to interpose connections between different settings and materials.
On the other hand however, the photos serve as individual sources of inspiration. ‘Everything has value’ reads a sign on one of the photos, for example. The photo has been taken at the disposal station nearby: “I think that is an interesting way of looking at material,” Luuk says, “when is material something [iets] and when is it simply garbage [afval]?” The friction between value and trash is also visible at the Suikerunieterrein itself: “you barely ever know if you can take material here, or if it is placed there on purpose,” the artist states.
For his first artwork for Spatial Disruptions, Luuk is planning to build a tower of Styrofoam blocks on top of his van. The blocks serve as insulation material for buildings and have been collected by the artist around the Suikerunieterrein. The act of stacking blocks on top of each other is strongly interrelated to the practice of construction, which is a theme that is highly embedded in the area of and around the Suikerunieterrein: already this year, the municipality of Groningen will start construction work on the terrain and the plan is that the terrain will house up to 5000 residences in 2024. Moreover, the blocks address the earlier- mentioned friction between value and garbage. Questions that might arise are for example: Where do these blocks come from? Who has orphaned them? Can they be considered waste?
In the coming week, Luuk will finish the structure on the roof of his van that is going to carry the blocks: “I have already taken precautions,” he says jokingly, “I am not planning on ruining my windshield!”
3. 30-07-2021 Suikerunieterrein
‘Stepahnie Rizaj’ by M. Groenen
The artworks created by Stephanie Rizaj (1989) reflect her broad training as an architect, (fashion) designer, and artist. Currently situated in Ghent, Rizaj has followed studies in architecture and fashion design, and has attended the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. The artist discovered her red thread in Amsterdam, where she gained a better understanding of her fascination with the body’s relationship to space, social identity, group dynamics, and labor. In her site-specific and performance-based artworks, (altered) industrial elements are brought together. An example is an artwork in which the artist removed backpack straps from their bags and put them against a white wall, giving the impression that the concrete structure could easily be carried away.
Rizaj has investigated the Suikerunieterrein and devised various concepts. One of these takes place on the eastern side of the terrain, at a workout spot. Large tires, a climbing rack, and wooden boards are among the sporting equipment available here. Rizaj would like to contribute to this space and believes that her previous backpack-inspired project is a good fit. The artist’s main idea, however, is to stage a performance that involves as many people as possible. Domesticity, labor, and group dynamics are all explored in this. In her mind’s eye, the Suikerunieterrein would be occupied by approximately 300 people, all of whom are engaged in comparable or disparate daily home activities, such as brushing teeth or washing dishes. This inextricably relates to the future of the Suikerunieterrein, as the area is intended to be utilized as a domestically-infused living environment.
At the moment, Stephanie Rizaj’s artistic practice is shaped by a great deal of thought and deliberation. Her mind is clouded with notions of how to carry out her plans. Tryouts and rehearsals are part of the plan to get a sense of how her thoughts will manifest in physical form.
2. Algorithmic Materialism: Roman Tkachenco fumbles with the future of Suikerterrein
Maartje Terpstra | 30-07-2021
This wednesday I drank a cup of coffee with Roman Tkachenko in his tiny house at the Suikerterrein. He is one of the seven residents working on the project Spatial Disruptions. Visual artist with an expertise in architectural design, he has a fascination for future functions of buildings and areas; roams archives to analyse architectural pasts; is extremely aware of the specific time and place in which he resides. Roman shows me he is currently submerged in the data he collects, and collects, and collects… The extended map on his laptop is growing into a grant network of artistic research. Different levels touch and blurr. The question hovering above and beyond his adventures of the last days: ‘Who are the unseen in planning the future of ‘Het Suikerterrein’.
The multi-layered approach of the artist may be brought back to quite a familiar line of criticism: historical materialism. Het Suikerterrein is inhabited by educational institutes, businesses, event organisations, short stayers, catering, creatives and more. The division and occupation of this ‘chunk of city’, in Romans terms, is not evenly arranged. This materialist development started when surplus surfaces could be sublet by their owners. The price of the land rose higher. Territorial expansion led to growing differentiation between “have-lots” and “have-less”. One can berate this inequality but also go a step further. Should only the people present have a say in the distribution of this big chunk of Groningen, the artist is wondering. Thinking about the have-nots he has set his mind on the homeless people of Groningen. Shouldn’t they have a say in the gentrification of city chucks?
Somewhere there are people drawing out the gentrification of the amazing piece of urban-rural anyland that is Het Suikerterrein. At this very moment! The artist feels the urgency of his presence. By this residency arranged by Sign, he has got the opportunity to dive into the situation and potentiality of this location. The wry thing is, we ponder upon in our conversation, that his presence here is temporary. He is here now with but little time. Could a ‘spatial disruption’ really make a difference or is he part of a ‘cultural hub’, a notion that nauseates him? Community art is in effect often a cheap and superficial softening of a problematic situation, and solutions to societal issues should come from systemic change. It is not Romans ambition to do a mere passing through.
From his earlier work Roman has experience with translating data of past gentrification projects into prognoses for obsolete architectural bodies (Neighbours of Zero). He is now putting himself in the mix. An analyst, a translator of data. From a very social approach Roman is making lots of conversations in the neighbourhood. Within the more abstract historical approach he is redefining the material momentousness of human presence and relationships. As esthetics: what does it mean to see one another (also the tucked-away)?
Well, I’ll be here to see and I’ll let you know.
1. July 28th | Soerabajastraat
‘The perfect Dutch student city’: Isabella Francis and her protest art. By Floor van Heuvel
While struggling to open the door of the apartment complex where Isabella Francis (b. 1998, UK) is staying, Isabella races downstairs and smiles while opening the door for me: “Welcome!”, she exclaims. Whereas most artists are relatively new to Groningen and stay at the Suikerunieterrein at the Western side of the city, Isabella has received her bachelor of arts at the Minerva School of Arts and is thus familiar with the city.
The UK-born artist has just turned twenty-three and typifies herself as a protest artist: her works are almost always socially engaging and often focus on conveying political messages. Her first work for Spatial Disruptions has a similar theme: Isabella’s plan is to create a word spin that describes ‘the perfect Dutch student city’ in a somewhat cynical way. The word spin is a recurring motive in Isabella’s work. She made her first one while she was on exchange in New York. Back then, the teachers at the academy had asked her to “sober up” her work: less colour; more simplified forms. Eventually, Isabella ended up with a word spin that depicted ‘the perfect Western world’: “I was quite happy with the end result,” she recalls.
The word spin that Isabella is going to make for Spatial Disruptions is, similar to her previous ones: heavily socially-engaged words such as “systematic racism”, “class-A drugs” and “providing tents for new students” refer to the problems Dutch student cities deal with on a daily basis. Moreover, the lines that are drawn between the words initiate relationships one might not have come up with immediately. Moving through the work is an inter-psychological experience: the relations between the words are not clarified by Isabella, but the spectator has to initiate these him- or herself. In that sense, the work is able to bring people together (by enabling them to create relationships themselves), while also drifting them apart: it is probable that not everyone will agree with what is written. The latter effect is one of the artist’s main intentions: by addressing injustices, she hopes to raise awareness and initiate discussions.
For the coming week, Isabella will start painting and try to figure out where and how to exhibit her artwork. For now though, it is certain that the artwork will be exhibited at a busy location: after all, it is the reflection and input (in whatever shape or form) of the audience that makes Isabella’s work complete.