Revisiting: Luca Frei – The so-called utopia…

While talking to artist Anthony Shrag, he referenced Luca Frei’s The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg. An interpretation, unaware that it is one of the titles from the Fabrications series I was responsible for, published by Book Works. In turn I was unaware that Celine Condorelli did a reinterpretation of the work at the Southbank Centre in 2007 in a sound piece.

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-21-41Here is the link to it on her website. The screenshot above shows the adapted introduction, transposed onto the reality of the Southbank Centre. I got back in touch with Luca and he informed that there now also is a Portuguese translation of the book, and a variety of re-interpretations of his translation have been made by others. I also came across an interesting analysis of the book here. There is also a review in Artforum and on 3AM and even an in-depth critical analysis in a PhD thesis. With the above-ground Centre Pompidou going in for a proper refurbishment it is time for a reread of the story about the alternative.

Niek Kemps, Big Eyes, Small Windows: Selected Writings

Having worked on a previous publication in relation to Niek Kemps’ work (the catalogue for his solo show at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in 1992), upon my move to London in 1996, I set out to translate his collected writings. This followed an installation of Niek’s work at Tramway in 1996, curated by Charles Esche.

After several years of tackling texts – which ranged from brief, poem-like approaches, to longer prose pieces – at a leisurely pace, the project accelerated in 1998 with several intense weeks in Wenduine, where Niek lived most of the time. Charles came over, and so did Otto Berchem, who – as an American having lived in Holland for several years by then – scrutinised my endeavours from his perspective.

The book was eventually published by Black Dog and designed by Luc Derycke. It was an excellent project to sharpen my translation skills with, as it wasn’t so much about literal translations, but about grasping the meaning in a more poetic way.

For more information on Niek’s work, please check his website.

Translations for industrial designer Alfred van Elk

Through the proverbial grapevine I am occasionally approached by organisations and individuals who sit more in the design and architecture corner than in the visual arts. I always enjoy the challenges that may offer, and certainly when it comes to translations, it keeps me informed as to what’s happening in those sectors now, often specifically in the Netherlands. Holland is by definition to a large extent a man-made country full of design, so one client now may lead me to new clients in future.

Industrial designer Alfred van Elk is one such client: I was recommended to him by someone who was in the process of writing copy for Alfred’s to be relaunched website. Translating statements about his approach, descriptions of products, and considering the differences between the shortcuts often taken in Dutch, while English tends to have to be much more precise in its use of tenses, and verb forms in relation to subject, I got to know a lot about Alfred and his work. His new website is now live and can be found here

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Peter Zegveld – Exploded View

At the age of ten Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 19.22.36Peter Zegveld visited the legendary exhibition ‘Bewogen Beweging’ (Moving Movement) at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which included Swiss artist Jean Tinguely’s Métamatic machines that produced automatic drawings. Zegveld’s first exposure to kinetic art would prove to be a defining moment. His experience would set in motion something that resulted in a rich and energetic career as an artist, theatre maker and performer.

For more than twenty years Zegveld has pursued a unique approach, producing performances that are visual, sensual and filmic. In both his theatrical works and installations Zegveld makes use of the laws of physics: the workings of light, air, sound and gravity. With his unconventional stance he traverses disciplines, allowing the viewer to experience and explore absurdities. In addition to his own productions for theatres, festivals and his artworks, he directs productions for the Orkater theatre company and television series for VPRO. Zegveld is artistic director of the Caspar Rapak Foundation.

Between November 2013 and January 2014, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam presented an overview of three decades of the artist’s visual art and sound works. Coinciding with the exhibition, the book Peter Zegveld – Exploded View was published, which explores his practice in all its diversity. The bilingual (Dutch/English) volume, was designed by Irma Boom, and features essays and reflections by Marina de Vries, Dirk van Weelden, Atte Jongstra, Marijn van der Jagt, Frits Lagerwerff, Alex de Vries, Sjarel Ex, Rene Coelho, Edna van Duyn, Dick Hauser, Jurriaan van Kranendonk, Ranti Tjan and Marc Whitelaw. Published by Van Tilt.

Somehow Peter’s practice had escaped my attention (or I’d simply forgotten) and reading about it through the musings of friends and others, it also brought home (no pun intended) the specificities of the Dutch art scene and its institutions in the 1980s and 1990s. Peter’s partner, artist Jacqueline Verhaagen, whom I knew when working at the Rijkskademie (around 1990) approached me in the spring of 2013, asking whether I was interested in translating the texts. Because they were so diverse, it ended up being a great pleasure, sending me down memory lane myself. It also reacquainted me with some wonderful voices in Dutch writing such as Dirk van Weelden’s.

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Valérie Mannaerts: An Exhibition – Another Exhibition


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An Exhibition – Another Exhibition is the first monograph of the work of Belgian artist Valérie Mannaerts. The book captures two solo exhibitions that took place in 2010 – ‘Blood Flow’ at Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen, and ‘Diamond Dancer’ at de Appel arts centre. Amsterdam.
Dynamically collaging across mediums – from paint to bronze, papier-mâché to concrete – Mannaerts playfully arranges sculptural elements to create spatial installations, which could be considered to be stage sets without stages. As scales oscillate and we are continuously wrong-footed as to the materiality, the works exist in a space of deliberate ambiguity, sitting on the threshold between object and image. The monograph includes an essay by Anselm Franke, a conversation between the artist and Ann Demeester, and images and illustrations of the two exhibitions.

Co-published with de Appel arts centre and Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen, distributed via Sternberg Press, designed by Saskia Gevaert.

I did the translations from Dutch into English for this book. Not being familiar with the artist’s works thus far, it gave me an excellent insight into her practice.

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The Shadowfiles #1 and #2

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Initiated and published by de Appel arts centre in Amsterdam, The Shadowfiles  is a journal that focuses on events behind the scenes, or activities with little public visibility. The first, bilingual Dutch–English, issue came out in October 2010 (time flies!) and was in some ways a response to the effects of the financial crash and the (renewed) pressure on publicly funded institutions to somehow relate to the market, and become less reliant on government support. It took as its starting point the project ‘Take the Money and Run’, an auction organised by de Appel, in collaboration with Witte de With, to raise funds for the refurbishment of the building de Appel was then due to move to. De Appel’s considerations, doubts and objections against such activities are exposed and the phenomenon of auctions is explored in a wider framework. Issue # 1 comprises contributions by Maria Barnas, Jan de Clerq, Ann Demeester, Nell Donkers, Edna van Duyn, Xander Karskens, Lars Bang Larsen, Martha Rosler and David Thomas.

Issue # 2, published in 2012, focused on notions of metamorphosis and carnival and comprises contributions from Anne Demeester, Esther Peeren, Edna van Duyn, Annemarie de Wildt, Daniël Rovers, Koen Brams, Sally O’Reilly, Isla Leaver-Yap and Piet Meeuse. Although the topic seems different, there is a link between the two in that this issue explores notions of turning things inside out and upside down as a response to and a method of engaging with changing circumstances and positions.

For both issues I did the copy-editing and proofing, but also translated the Dutch contributions into English and did some of the English into Dutch conversions.

The wrong way round…

Some 17 years ago I made the UK my well-chosen home, and over time I started to translate texts for various clients. As my confidence and fluency in English improved, translating from Dutch into English became an irregularly recurring activity.

An exception were two pieces for De Witte Raaf last summer. I was invited to translate two interviews conducted by Koen Brams and Dirk Pültau, De Witte Raaf’s editors – one with curator Julian Heynen and the other with curator Stefanie Kreuzer – from English into Dutch. Although it felt like the wrong way round, I took up the challenge.

The results can be found on De Witte Raaf‘s website here and here.

The conversations focused on seminal exhibitions in Germany in the 1980s.