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On April Fools’ Day 2015, The Art Department – the sum of Subbacultcha’s artistic endeavours – started an artist residency programme claiming the office basement for its headquarters and turning it into a project space. At that point we had been organising one-off exhibitions for a few years; committing to a residency programme was an experiment motivated by my personal interest as a curator to dig deeper into the minds of artists – because their minds are fascinating and their thoughts outrageous. The residency was there to push them further along, giving them a space and time to develop new work; together, we broke new ground and ventured into the unknown.
The residency was there to push them further along, giving them a space and time to develop new work; together, we broke new ground and ventured into the unknown.
At its core, the programme was based on the idea that the most interesting things happen when artists move between different disciplines and experiment in various media to find their own visual language. Art is about communication but sometimes artists speak in tongues, so in that sense my job as a curator was more like that of a translator. The residency was about allowing each artist(s) to develop that common language; what they actually made at the end of their stay was never high on my list of priorities, as making an art piece is merely a stepping stone for the next one and the one after that. Offering artists a space and some guidelines is usually the only thing they need.
Subbacultcha was the perfect environment for a residency programme, as the platform innately embodies the urge to cultivate new talent. After 12 ambitious months and a nonstop work process developing concepts into exhibitions, we ended up with 13 artists, 15 presentations, ten events, nine publications and seven performances. Here’s a little summary of our time at Da Costakade 150.
As with many of our residents, the first time I saw Hannah Polak’s work was at her graduation show at The Academy in The Hague in 2014. Her presentation with a fake sticky tree trunk and a giant weird popsicle did not really make sense until I actually met Hannah and she showed me the cotton-candy Disney world she inhabits. The artist investigated what it means to be a human being in today’s world, and although viewed through her rose-tinted glasses, Hannah still expertly crossed that line where innocence becomes cruelty.
Subbacultcha was the perfect environment for a residency programme, as the platform innately embodies the urge to cultivate new talent.
Berend Otto and Guus Kaandorp are not your typical photographers, often resorting to building their own objects before photographing them. The duo set out for Italy in Berend’s tiny Fiat Panda in search for the spirit of Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Giugiaro and Fiat Pandas were the main themes of their project, as was driving around, making things difficult for themselves and constantly assuring me things were going to be okay. I was never worried though; the two have a reputation for approaching their projects in an unusual fashion, but always end up pulling through.
Probably the most prolific residents we had, Timo and Rutger spent their first day of the residency building a rooftop installation. They were excited to be here. The two artists wanted to work together, but not make work together. So, as graphic designers, they ventured into a thorough investigation of Tetterode, the former type foundry that was then home to The Art Department and Subbacultcha. This led to a series of very informative and unique presentations in which the past met the future, and for their final exhibition, the duo made permanent interventions in the historical building.
Speak about visual language, these two have found it. When paired, Iris and Katinka bring out the weirdest in each other, and that can be pretty inspiring to watch. They crawled around our building in huge chihuahua masks and snail suits and turned our basement into a plastic, white wonderland. They even hijacked our attempt at a clarifying interview with affirmative retorts and circular reasoning.
These four came in with unprecedented focus and energy – they seemed so aligned I hardly felt the need to meddle. After about a week and a half of them murmuring in the dimly lit basement drinking copious amounts of red wine while their (giant) cigarette jar slowly filled up, they told me they were going to make a carpet. Saying yes to that was probably the best thing I did all year. Their completely idiosyncratic project Physical Culture was one of the most amazing transformations I have seen happen in the project space, and real tears were shed when it ended.
In collaboration with artist Hannah Carpenter, Goof Kloosterman made a very ambitious project involving about one ton of wood. Instead of just the basement, the two had access to both oors of our space on Da Costakade, which they took full advantage of. They even took part of their installation to Unfair Amsterdam for a live-stream installation and inevitably interactive mindfuck. While poking holes in our understanding of the spectator and the spectated by switching around roles and archetypes, their ‘white box / black box’ installation was smart and challenging.