The Void

Ode de Kort: De Brakke Grond

Ahead of her the opening of her solo show – UU TWOO – at Brakke Grond, we caught up with Belgium artist Ode de Kort. Developing a series of performances, photography, installations, videos, she invents a surrealist landscape of iterations. Ode centres herself around the circle: an oval or half-formed “U”; words that slip and shudder out of place. A two-letter alphabet; a score, a cut-out silhouette for the body to interact with. 

What is your inspiration for the upcoming exhibition? 

Throughout most of my practice, my co-workers have been “O” and “U”. I do not solely see them as “letters”;  they are my colleagues and co-creators. As bodies, they are omnipresent in my studio. I consider their ongoing relation, how they constantly amplify each other. In contrast to the word inspiration”, which sparks the idea of a sudden blow of insight, this exhibition is the result of constant collaboration, a working-together. And so the concept doesn’t just suddenly appear but is always at work. Hence the title, UU TWOO, is a bodily and linguistic play upon this idea. This shift amongst selves and others, a sort of mirroring that continues in TWOO UU, my other solo show currently on view at the SpazioA Gallery in Italy. 

“You can only surpass the idea of repetition by even more repetition.”

So what exactly do you have planned for us at Brakke Grond? 

Central to the exhibition are two large paper scrolls or landscapes onto which two new text-films will be screened. In these films, my writings from the past year are being put to work. These texts can also be found in my new artist book (designed by Ruud Ruttens), published by het balanseer and launched during the show. The films were also the starting point for the audio that sound artist and musician Inne Eysermans made for the exhibition. Staging a play of transliteration from script to body and back, an alphabet of legs stand out from the landscape, a score of P’OSES in which my body becomes a cut-out sign. Walking towards the last room of the exhibition space the visitor encounters him/herself in the footnote/rehearsal space.

The circle reappears again and again in your work – what does it symbolize or refer to? 

“O” or the circle, is not defined for me. In a sense, it’s our decision to work together, and there’s no deadline or need to formulate definitions of each other. Let me be clear, I’m not speaking of an indifferent relation. It’s more this idea of letting the other be, instead of holding on too tight to what you think you know. Of course, it can be understood as many things but it’s also unknown. “O” (and also “U”) allow me to think, exercise and perform. We rehearse and practice together. After 5 years of playing around with the same rubber band, you might assume that I’d be sick of it. But that’s the moment when this idea of repetition and rehearsal becomes even more interesting because you can only surpass the idea of repetition by even more repetition. What does it actually mean to get to “know” something? So to conclude, you could say my relation to “O” is two-fold (“UU”). Yes, there’s a distinct focus on the particular letters, but then again it goes hand in hand with a refusal of fixed definitions. 

“A medium functions the same way as how a language does… every specific language has its own way of saying and doing things.”

You move between so many different mediums – photography, sculpture and performance just to name a few! How does each discipline allow you to speak?

I started out as a photographer, making these balancing compositions with found materials (mostly stone, wood, paper and rubber). What drew me in the most was photography’s ability to influence how we view these objects in an image, how size and proportion shift. Looking back at it from where I stand now, photography is still a huge starting point in my practice, both in a typographic (the medium’s ability to move between two and three dimensions – think of photograms) and collaborative way (the camera as the public or third eye). My current way of working presented itself already whilst making these images/sculptures, making a collection of objects, constantly (re)using them, playing and rehearsing with them. These photographs then became more spatial, carefully balancing over metal lines, still containing this sense of almost-maybe-toppling-over. After graduating I wanted my own studio space (as photography students we didn’t have one) and gradually I evolved even more towards sculpture, then video, performance, now text, etc… And then somewhere in between, I made the video ‘Suspension of a Circle’ (a dancing circle rubber band, twisting and turning on a stick). At that moment I recognized this oval shape being present in almost all of my works and made a decision to choose it as my companion. 

A medium functions the same way as a language does, in the sense that every specific language has its own way of saying and doing things. You might say that one has the ability to talk with multiple bodies. The word “inter”’  in “interdisciplinary” means “amongst other things” or “among, between”, which for me also relates to “interaction” and “relation”. And so moving between different media allows me to actively use different languages to speak about the same subject matter. My practice can be understood as doing the same, again and again, whether it’s through photography or performance. These multiple media occupy themselves with the same objects (“O” and “U”), so in that regard, I don’t perceive them as different.

Which performance artists have influenced you? 

Performance is everywhere. Whether it’s on the street, in a book, art … I’ll sum up a few names and specific works in random order: Guy de Cointet, Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Christian Bök – Eunoia, Robert Filliou – Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts, Laure Prouvost, Gertrude Stein – Tender Buttons, Buster Keaton, Aldo Van Eyck (playgrounds), Chantal Akerman – Saute ma Ville, Robert Walser, and many others. 

Ode de Kort was featured in The Void magazine, Issue 4. 

Catch Ode de Kort’s solo exhibition – UU TWOO – at v 21 September – 13 October. The opening will be held 5pm-7pm on 20 September. Free for all.