Uncontrollable?/ Too soon to tell

Collaborative residency with Vladimir Bovt, Maxime Coster, Anna de Vriend and Yanxian Zhao.
The livestream and exhibition have ended. Click on the coloured tiles to visit the exhibit. 

Uncontrollable? Maybe it’s too soon to tell. Newly graduated artists, Yanxian Zhao, Vladimir Bovt, Maxime Coster and Anna de Vriend had their show “Uncontrollable? / Too Soon to Tell” in Kunstpodium T in Tilburg from February 18th till March 14th 2021.


Graduating during a pandemic and continuing an artistic practice under lockdown has been challenging. It has forced us all to rethink the borders of being in and out of control. Exploring this theme, the four artists relinquished control to each other in order to explore the boundaries between autonomy and collaboration.


Yanxian, Vladimir, Maxime and Anna inhabited the spaces of Kunstpodium T for four weeks, alternating every three days. During this time, their communication with each other was limited to leaving notes, works, scores and challenges in the spaces themselves.

Some Introductions

The intent of Kunstpodium T's Apprentice Master project as I understand it, has always been collaboration. Put some freshly graduated makers together with a more seasoned maker and see what comes out. I had so been looking forward to this project, and so to quickly realise that we would most likely not meet physically throughout this project was disheartening to say the least. Here was a group of mostly strangers, meeting only through a screen expected to connect and set forth a coherent exhibition together. I could feel the panic rise in me each week, as the date of the exhibition came closer. Yet despite the weekly meetings we had, we were barely making a dent the distance we felt to each other and each other's work.

 

Until we made that our connection. We could all easily come together in our want to connect and collaborate. And what had been our main restriction in achieving this, we turned into our playing field. What would an interaction, a collaboration look like, when none of the participating members meet face to face? Could we meet in a space without ever meeting? What would that meeting look like? Each of us leaving traces of our presence for the others to find and interact with, the responses coming in slowly as each of the others gets their turn in the space.  

As I applied for the Apprentice Master project, it seemed to be the right next step after graduation. Should they accept me, I would throw myself into it and see where it brings me from there. I just wanted to make new work, develop my artistic practice and be inspired by new people; without having a clear end-goal in mind to leave room for spontaneity.

 

As the project started to unfold, our weekly zoommeetings, which I saw as the moments that I worked towards, felt rigid to me. We came online, talked about what we did, sometimes we got a reaction and then our meeting ended. On top of that, although I often felt that I was making progress with my work, by the end of some meetings, these feelings turned around, and the main feeling that I was left with was guilt for not making any progress. Trusting myself became harder, for I had the feeling I wasn’t being trusted. Still feeling a distance towards the other members of the group also didn’t help me to overcome these feelings.

 

I communicated my concerns to our master about a month prior to the exhibition via email. In that email, I was mainly asking her for equal communication and trust. Although I never got what I asked for from my master, things turned around for the better slightly after this. In hindsight, the news of the lockdown being extended around the same time as I wrote that email was perfectly timed. Since this lockdown ensured that a physical exhibition was not possible anymore, we were forced to rethink what we wanted to do. Taking our personal experiences with the Apprenctice Master project so far, as well as our experiences with the lockdown, we decided to make use of our time of our exhibition at Kunstpodium T as a collaborative residency. We would now inhabit the spaces of Kunstpodium T for four weeks, alternating every three days. During this time, our communication with each other would be limited to leaving notes, works, scores and challenges in the spaces themselves. Through all these materials we would leave in the spaces, we made a job to overcome this distance that we still felt to each other, without ever meeting face-to-face during the process.

 

I am now writing this introduction almost two months since our residency had ended. For myself at least, I can confirm that by being alone in the spaces with only the works that were left by the rest, the distance that I was having towards the other members of the group has been reduced; through the interactions that I was having with Maxime through the collections that I had started, by seeing Anna’s personal struggles translated into art, and through the space that Yan created for us with her glove farm and lamp. Having this distance being drastically reduced after this residency does not mean that there is no distance to be reduced between us. Even after this residency, I do experience caution when communicating with the others, as if we can still be more vulnerable to each other than we are right now. And perhaps this is the reason why we are still working together; to reduce the distance we feel to each other even more.

For me, the focus of this project was the space. A way to focus on the agency the space in Kunstpodium T has and how our materials and works influenced and contributed to that agency, as well as having an agency of their own. 

By not talking or meeting each other as physical human animals, we were able to meet each other through our interventions in the space and the expressiveness of the materials and works created. 

After almost a year of lockdown or semi-lockdown I was in desperate need of connecting with other spaces, beings and materials in a safe way. This project was a way to give us these connections and provide input and inspiration that had been so scarce for so long. Going in to it I was very curious if it would be enough, to connect without physical presence. Now I realize it was enough because it was something else. Something else from your own home, studio, inner circle, city, and in these times something else is enough.