iPhone Flash-rite, 2014, 132 x 66 x 38cm
Photographic situation of 2 prints directly on Plexiglas clear, piece of Plexiglas radiant, customised 3d aluminium frame
You are walking down the street but you are not actually looking in front of you. You are texting with your lover or emailing a friend about something you’ve experienced lately, maybe about the movie you watched last night and liked so much. And then suddenly you stumble into another person on the sidewalk that is doing exactly what you’re doing, but walking in the other direction. There is a physical collision. A digital accident. In that moment you realise that you are part of the material world. It’s intense when you understand that you are not by yourself anymore, but surrounded by people, things, sounds. That relationship we have between our mental state and our physical consciousness is at the centre of much of Anouk’s work. She told me she is a contemporary humanist. And, by looking at her work, I can understand the deep fascination she has with people and how impossible it would be for her to produce work without any contact with the public sphere. It is almost the opposite of that romantic idea we have of the artist locked in his/her studio, far away from the outside world and the people living in it. Anouk loves the street and walks around looking for possible collaborations and that physical contact that brings us back to human interactions.
In her wanderings down the streets of big and over-crowded Western metropolis – especially New York City — she realises how much stress is a driving force (in both negative and positive terms) in our lives. We are always exhausted. It is hard to live where we live. We always run, always work. We sweat. And in her work, sweat becomes the material metaphor of the uncomfortableness of our society, of the crisis we are living in. A sweaty armpit is the sign of nervousness par excellence and with photographs of it, she builds sculptures of capitalistic walls and skyscrapers made of grey sponges and suffocating plastic wrap. Or she honours this bodily fluid by going to a gym, exercising for hours and then taking self-portraits of her wet forehead and sweaty t-shirt on solid coloured background. It’s what she calls The Daily Exhaustion. Hearing the story behind these projects always makes me smile, but also to understand that beyond the ironic foundations of her practice, there is an amount of anxiety and apprehension coming out of her beautifully composed and colourful installations. It’s bitter and sweet, depressing and exciting at the same time. A maniacal-depressive attitude that scarily reminds us of our own life and the relationship we have with power, privacy, politics, or our public and private life.
Even though she has a background in photography, I think of her as a performing artist. She questions photographic issues such as the contemporary status of the camera and how people experience photography and image making nowadays, but at the same time she often talks about these aspects using more flexible medium such as sculptures, installations and performances. And, as it always happens with contemporary artists, what we see in the gallery space is just a small part of a more complex and interactive process. That’s why she produces so many books. It seems to be the perfect form for her to tell us the progressive nature of the work. Flipping from page one to the very last, we learn how she got to the final point. It’s the evidence she gives us to understand what she encountered during the journey.
Having lived in the US for quite a bit, she started to question the idea of surface and façade, which is something inherent in all modern societies but particularly evident in the American one. It’s in these environments that we ask ourselves: What do people think of me? How do I have to look in order to get to that point of success and personal satisfaction? Is my sweaty armpit an acceptable thing in an environment where appearance seems to be more important than anything else? We all put a mask on our face at some point and pretend to be something we are not. It is the very meaning of the capitalist system.
We need to fit in somewhere, or at least pretend to do so.
Performance on September 29th 2012 at Autocenter, Berlin
ENCLOSED CONTENT CHATTING AWAY IN THE COLOUR INVISIBILITY, 2009-ongoing, 410x230cm
Above installation from an exhibition at Galerie Capitain Petzel, Berlin, 2013
Spatial installation, video loop + photographic installation of approximately 3500 found coloured books
PIXEL STRESS, 2013, 12 Ultrachrome prints with diasec of various sizes, 1 wallpaper 300×400 cm
Complete installation of 3 photos, 3 photomontages, 5 screenshots
Pixel Stress, 2013, solo exhibition Boetzelaer INispen at UNSEEN Amsterdam
(POWERSPONGE) BRICK, 2013, 214×53×111cm
Sculpture of approximately 1000 BlinQ powersponges, projection of laptop with Apple screensaver spectrum projector,
Security Camera wall mounting bracket arm
(POWERSPONGE) BRICK, video installation
FAÇADE, 2014, 110×141×100cm
Sculptural situation of inkjet prints on radiant and clear Plexiglas, polystyrene, photo stickers, cellophane, bricks
THE DAILY EXHAUSTION, Shifting Colour, solo exhibition at DOK Delft, 2011, 190×1070cm
Installation of 14 framed Ultrachrome prints (30×40 cm), 1 empty frame, 1 frame with blue glass
PUSH UP, video installation
SWEAT-STRESS (ARMPIT/COLOUR-BLUR), 2013, 120×180cm
Ultrachrome print with diasec on 2 power sponges
SWEATY SCULPTURE (SPECTRUM), 2013
SWEATY SCULPTURE (SPECTRUM), 2013
Written by Alessandro Teoldi / Published 18 December 2014