We may often regard a pristine, finished piece of art at a gallery or a sublime final performance at a theatre hall. However, the initial concepts and unique choices taken toward an artwork’s final resolution will always differ from the definitive image or performance we clap our eyes onto.
For the next coming four weeks, Treehouse NDSM in Amsterdam-Noord is holding a unique exhibition that diverges from this norm: Rather than showcasing a completion of perfected, finished artworks, the “process of making” a piece of art is playfully explored instead by a diverse group of participating artists who will operate as the guiding co-producers together with audience members, the co-creators.
On Thursday March 16th, I had the opportunity to attend the opening of the exhibition where each artist was present to introduce their project, the ascribed meaning and to already encourage the audience to partake in some of its co-production. Whether participants be adolescents, elders, experienced or amateurs – all were and are welcome in these 4 weeks to conform the exhibition space into a “playground” and engaging scene “for reflection for both artists and audience.”
For example, Pedro Gil Farias, in his project, Creative Communities, explained that he explores the conflicting issues of authorship and the autonomy of an artist when several people are involved in the fabrication of an artwork. Participants in his workshop are urged to utilise magazine cut-outs to feed a computer which will hence generate several other combined collages already made by previous audience members. He asks us “Who is really the artist? You or me or all of us?” His workshop (occurring on March 18th and 25th, and April 8th) pertains particularly to the growing uses of AI-assisted image making and the issues of copyright.
Kelly Mullins, similarly explores AI and the questionings of co-creation in her project through a poetry installation that touches on the foreboding, fragile boundary of what remains private to us on our phones versus what is made public online for all to see. Her project, Source.txt (April 1st) encourages participants to answer randomised questions through headphones about items on their phone. Some answers already generated by audience members throughout the evening were placed into a ‘computer algorithm’ that were then used to compose a poem.
Other workshops presented have predominantly socio-political discussions, specifically one that investigates concepts of immigration and displacement in the globalising world of today. Neyde Lantyer, in Transit (April 2nd), encourages the audience to place different objects within a floor installation that suggests a circular atlas made of black sand. Myself and others closely observed the choices available to us: old photographs, marbles, sea shells, toy cars, rocks… all of which had acute associations to memories, lost dreams, hopes and disappointments that people experience when migrating. The placement of new objects by participants throughout the evening eventually began to depict an interpretive story. For instance, one audience member placed a toy boat where they attempted to emphasise a trail of ‘ripples’ in the unmoving black sand. Later on, someone placed an old photograph adjacent to the boat. It begged the question of the kind of persons undertaking the journey and what sentiments were provoked in their departure to another land.
Aterrizar/Landing, by Lina Bravo Mora, quite starkly different to the other workshops, uses a very tactile and alluring approach to involve the audience. Her craft includes making body parts made from clay with the idea of grounding oneself when experiencing grief or trying to “land” oneself in a foreign land. She presented a box of clay submerged in a tank of water that was open to all of us to be felt and played with. Next to it, a clay sculpture shaped as a human colon was positioned on a table. Her workshops (March 26th and April 2nd) involve the audience to partake in the creation of clay as a means to evoke a deeper understanding into the relations and “intimate and sensuous dialogues” about our body and the fragility of our organs.
All workshops, although various and individualistic, all share a deep kind of self-contemplative reflection to one’s inner self or a reflection to the questionings of society as a whole. This exhibition, co-curated by Rose Wildsmith, also a participating artist, was present for the evening. She explains that the idea to curate this theme came about when she wanted “to show a behind the scenes rather than the finished piece…” This exhibition is not only an emphasis on the creative choices, artists and non-artists alike, will take to complete an artwork, but also the physical sensations one experiences when venturing into the creative realm.
As the 8 projects are to unfold in the next 4 intense weeks at the NDSM Treehouse, the art scene will begin to alter as people of all ages involved will engage in the process of making art; the questioning of beliefs, truths and the falsifications of it.
I believe it will be very interesting to see how the exhibition will conclude; how it will appear in its ‘final resolution’ and what creative processes participants will endure in the means to express themselves. Anja Herrmann 17th March 2023
Treehouse NDSM in Amsterdam-Noord is well known as an incubation station for the arts with the goal to “foster the growth of creatives from diverse disciplines and help them bring their projects to life.”