When designers are asked to do like artists, they can have a tendency to over-explain the explorations they made on this unsafe terrain. And like the ones before me – Lernert & Sander, The Rodina and Our Polite Society – I too will elaborate with some words before you even had the chance to see the work I have on display in The Small Museum from Sunday 10 July until 10 October, 2016. Jeldau – my commissioner at Paradiso – said: Bart, keep it short, would you? I said: Okay, I’ll try...
On a car trip to Zeeland, Linda van Deursen told me a story that has comforted me being the designer I am today. Our families live in Zeeland and for the sake of song and carpooling, we occasionally offer each other rides. The difference from driving down south alone is that with her the rides include short stop-overs in Antwerp where we attempt to shop. We discuss potential outfits, but besides paying to park and buying sandwiches we never really end up spending much. When we do, our purchases seem to be made in vain: I endorse her to buy shoes which she forgets on taxis. Linda motivates me to buy trousers that I end up wearing never more than once and then have ‘em tailored after which little of the designer’s cut remains. A medium-priced white knitted sweater was quickly passed onto a friend who sports it so much better than me.
Oh, I am sorry, I am drifting off. Some years ago, Linda was part of a jury in a graphic design competition in France. At the end of the day, a poster which had been ignored by the other members of the jury caught her eye. The others had discarded the poster as “a mediocre student work” and “an ambitious but failed try-out”. To Linda’s opinion however, the poster – a rhythmic series of brush strokes – had an energy that she thought needed the attention of the jury. After some debate, the drawing was admitted to be selected for the competition and later, exhibition. A quick glance on the back of the paper read the maker’s name: Pierre Bernard.
An afternoon with my nephew and niece with the Legos sparked another thought. My sister and I have always been the best of friends although our lives are anything but alike. The way we played with Lego as kids seems a good way to illustrate the difference: She would build up a red Lego fire truck according to the book, then take it apart and build it again, just like the little manual would tell her to. I never cared about the fire truck. Neither did I about the ice cream stand, the knight’s castle or the space station we later got as presents on birthdays and Christmases. I always saw the Legos as an addition to a vast growing collection of blocks to build whatever came to mind.
I made my nephew cry when I took “my Legos” back with me to Amsterdam that day. I wanted to play and be alone with my Lego. Curious to find out how my current Lego constructions would be effected by the fact that it has been 25 years since I played with them last. Could I apply Lego as a medium to fit into my design practice? Comforted by the idea of the experiment, I emptied the white Curver box and started Lego-ing, rummaging my hands through the blocks — that feeling goes together with a sound that brings back memories — looking for a grey four, a flat blue six, and a long flat black ten, I know there are only a few – in the hope that eventually as an artist I would be more like an abstract painter instead of being a very conceptual once. I know what you’re thinking: Stop explaining! You promised to keep it short.
Matt Damon in his Good Will Hunting days
President Barack Obama, along with cabinet secretaries and members of Congress, during a basketball game on the White House court, photograph, Pete Souza/The White House
The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen, Edvard Eriksen, 1913
Funny Leonardo goofing around the set of Critters 3 (1991, Kristine Peterson), his film debut