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Art at De Brakke Grond

Philosophy in Practice: Visual art at the Third International Deleuze Conference.

Departing from the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, we could start to think about art as a ‘philosophy in practice’. We should not try to 'interpret' art, says Deleuze, or try to write 'about' art forms such as cinema, literature or painting. Instead, we should try to look at the way art can reveal new worlds beyond our everyday experience.

The exhibition Philosophy in Practice in the theatre and exhibition space ‘De Brakke Grond’ shows the work of six artists who have all been inspired by Deleuze in disparate ways, ranging from Deleuze’s notion of the body to his theory on difference and repetition. The exhibition provides a starting point to think about the position of art in relation to philosophy and serves as a visual counterpart to the conference.

Cara Judea Alhadeff (USA, 1971) is a writer, visual artist, and Iyengar yoga teacher. Currently, a PhD candidate in Media Philosophy at European Graduate Studies, she exhibits and lectures nationally and internationally. Her work is part of several museum and private collections. Alhadeff’s photographs possess a surrealist erotic quality and position the viewer on the edge of attraction and repulsion. She explores Deleuzian corporeal topologies that are intended as strategies for social action.

In the photographic series entitled The Gestation Project, Alhadeff depicts naked pregnant women in public arenas. The pregnant woman, whether directly present or not, is emblematic in Alhadeff’s entire oeuvre as the ideal subversive human, exempt from societal constraints that inhibit body awareness. The pregnant body represents a Deleuzian simultaneity of inside and outside, of private and public, and plays with the illusory distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them’, the familiar and the unfamiliar. Alhadeff’s photographs illuminate, as she describes: ‘a call and response between anxiety and beauty: anxiety in the moment of recognizing the familiar within the unfamiliar—feeling a connection with the other, yet clinging to a separate identification; beauty in the moment of responsiveness to our undeniable connectedness’.

Victoria Lucas (1982, UK) is an interdisciplinary artist and curator working with photography, video and books. She graduated in Fine Art Sculpture in 2004 from the Norwich School of Fine Art and was awarded a MFA Fine Art Degree from the University of Leeds in 2007.  In her work she examines objects, places, and moments that reference the act of living, thereby reinforcing the ephemeral nature of existence against the passage of time.

In The Sinking, Lucas responds to the topographical projections drawn by man on the smooth spatial plane of the sea; directly inspired by Deleuze’s elaboration on the sea in The Smooth and The Striated. On a small fishing boat, Lucas sets out to find the place where her Great Grandfather accounted of a sea battle that took place in 1941. With no map to guide her, she experiences the borderless expanse of writhing space that keeps its secrets hidden. In this video work Lucas creates a metaphor for the expanses of time and allows the viewer to consider the fragility of his own existence.

Andy Broadey (1978, UK) is currently undertaking PhD research at the University of Leeds, where he also did a MFA programme. His artistic practice previously focused upon large-scale interventions within public spaces. Currently, he is using photography to examine how ‘white cube’ galleries, as sites of artistic appreciation, define objects and activities as art. Broadey makes use of Deleuze’s concept of striated space -as ‘a space drawn and riddled with lines of divide and demarcation that name, measure, appropriate and distribute space according to inherited political designs, history or economic conflict’- to further examine these sites of artistic appreciation. In his installations he enables audiences to challenge preconceived notions of how art forms ought to be categorised and presented, and to reconsider their own expectations of art and art galleries.

In the ‘Philosophy in Practice’ exhibition Broadey is showing a series of photographs from leaflet holders. The photographs question different modes of display and examine the effects of recontextualization. The series are made from the same configuration of leaflet holders and differ only in terms of the light conditions under which they where photographed, this use of repetition can be linked to Deleuze’s notion of complex repetition, wherein the notion of difference is hidden within the repetition itself.

Lorna Collins (UK, 1981) is an art theorist and arts journalist currently undertaking her PhD at the university of Cambridge. Her philosophical work develops the concept of ‘making sense’ through the aesthetic theories of Deleuze and Guattari, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière and Bernard Stiegler. Collins describes herself as not specifically a writer, nor artist, nor philosopher, but uses these genres simultaneously to make sense of the world, to discover her place within it, and to think about what might threaten our most basic need to inhabit it. By using art to write philosophy and philosophy to inspire the plastic forms of art she makes, Collins hopes to invent a practical, accessible method of ‘making sense’. For ‘Philosophy in Practice’ Collins literally puts philosophy into practice in a collaboration with the abstract painter Xéna Lee (USA, 1970). Lee studied at the major art museums of the world before apprenticing under modern master Frank O’Cain. In her recent interdisciplinary projects Lee aims at creating multi-sensory experiences through collaboration with dance and music groups. Furthermore, Lee is currently co-authoring a book called ‘Painting as Philosophy’ which discusses how abstract painting is not merely an absence of representation but a different way of thinking on the side of the artist.

In Collins and Lee’s performance Making sense of territory: the painting as a territorial gesture, presentation, painting and active participation of the audience are all combined to create an installation, or rather a ‘Making sense event’. In showing people how to engage with art, Collins and Lee open up a way of being in the world and making sense of it.

Wim Kok (NL, 1959) studied at the St. Joost Academie in Breda, AKI in Enschede and Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam. Shortly after his studies he received two awards: Prix de Rome (Painting) 1989 and the Royal Award for Painting, 1990. Through the years he was selected for numerous grants and stipends from the Fond BKVB in Amsterdam. He is represented by Galerie van Gelder in Amsterdam and has been exhibiting in venues like: Witte de With, Rotterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Museum de Lakenhal, Leiden, Kunstbunker, Nürnberg; Museum Gouda, Le Magasin CNAC, Grenoble, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede. At this moment he takes part in two group exhibitions: Dutch Connection in Hebel 121, Basel and in Portrait de l'artiste en motocycliste in Musée des Beaux-Arts La Chaux-de Fonds, also in Switzerland. Teaches at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. From 2004-2008 he has been member of the Research group Art and Public Space, Amsterdam. Since 2008 he takes part in the Research group ‘Artists theories and artistic practices’ in The Hague. In 2009 he started his PhD research at the Leiden University, titled: Deleuze and Series: From Conceptual Art to Philosophy and Back Again. Kok’s lecture will be oriented at the state of affairs within this research.