STEFAN CAMMERAAT - the dutch artist discusses his work including 50 year time capsules and a Manual for aliens.
Time Capsules to be opened in exactly 49 years, 7 months, 1 week, 4 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 47 seconds from the time he did this interview. Meet the artist whose work has been described as having a prophetic quality.
When, why and how did Stefan Cammeraat become an artist?
I started studying Fine Arts at the HKU in Utrecht in 2011. The decision to do so might’ve been a bit on the fly (I was 18 when I enrolled), but I figured it was what I enjoy spending my time with the most. It felt natural, and it still does.
You have been described as: using historical sources for your work, especially of the kind that has been attributed with a prophetic character. What does that mean?
I generally look at works stemming from early Modernism. Most of those works have a vision of the future, or at least some kind of ideological basis. In my work I try out the proposals of those modernist pieces by researching them thoroughly, acting as if they were never made and recreating them as if they were made now (comparable to the Borges story about the Don Quixote). Through this methodology my works reflect on the way in which we view history as a static source. Instead I approach it as a material, which is to be actively used, twisted and expanded upon to remain relevant.
You created Gallery Semi Colon: an online platform for the arts with some impressive differences – why?
I was looking for a way to deal with ideas I had which were impossible to produce in real life. At this point I turned to the possibilities of a digital space, where basically everything is possible (for example blowing up a show at the MOMA in 1934 and displaying the ruins as a work itself). It struck me that there weren’t many digital platforms for art, which fully embraced those qualities. For Semi-colon I mainly invite artists who aren’t too familiar with digital work, so for example sculptors or painters, and I challenge them to produce something, which would be impossible to present in any other way than in digital space. It’s all very experimental because of this, and I hope each show brings something unique, not just to the gallery, but also to the practice of the artists themselves.
In the project ‘50 years’ you invite guests to create works for time capsules that will not be opened until 50 years into the future?
I’ve had a long-standing interest in time capsules for multiple reasons. Firstly because it’s an absurdly difficult endeavor to present our time to a future generation, secondly because anything of significance we might put into them is at the same time lost for the generations between the burial and the target date. Oddly, while digital reproduction gives us many outs to the second problem, most time capsules were made in the 20th century. For ‘50 years’ I asked an archivist, an archaeologist, an artist and a sociologist to produce something specifically for the future. Each of them approached the commission from their area of expertise and their own personal background. Naturally until 2067 the pieces they provided won’t be displayed, or revealed in any way, while the closed capsules act as a monument for future thinking.
How long exactly at the time of answering this question is left before the capsules are opened and what do you hope the impact will be?
The capsules will be opened in exactly 49 years, 7 months, 1 week, 4 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 47 seconds from now (17:50:13, August 13th, 2017). With the project being split into two over the span of 5 decades, the closed capsules employ the natural curiosity of the audience to initiate a conversation about the future, while in 2067 the piece works as a historical document for future generations.
In Futurists without prospects you combined a series of shows with a publication (Crash) to tell the story of how a car accident in 1907 “served as a mythical big bang for all of Modernism”?
In my opinion this car crash was one of the first truly modernist works, which was of course amplifed in Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto. The image of a car crash is a massive metaphor for both the industrial revolution and the ever-increasing speed of daily life. Crash takes the perspective of a car mechanic who happened to be in the passenger seat when the incident occurred, and approaches the history of Italian Futurism through a car maintenance manual specifically for Marinetti’s FIAT. I aimed to provide a history of Futurism which is much more fitting to an art movement which above all wanted “... to destroy four centuries of Italian tradition” than a purely historical display or document.
In a guide to making sense of a senseless world you create a manual that helps aliens come to grasp with basic concepts of human living?
Kazimir Malevich stated that rather than representing existing situations, painting should strive to create new realities. Creating even one new reality felt like too big of a burden to me, so I flipped his statement upside down, and figured I’d represent existing situations to show to beings from a reality much different from our own. This small publication dissects everyday life into very simple two-dimensional drawings, and by this process of abstraction creates images reminiscent of Suprematist works, as well as a way to ‘understand’ Suprematist artworks in a completely wrong way.
What have you got in the pipeline that we can look forward to?
The 28th of September I open a show at the SBK in Amsterdam with my friends Koen Kloosterhuis and Bruno Slagboom, where each of us will present new works fresh out of the studio. Much later, from the 7th till the 11th of February 2018 I will be showing at Art Rotterdam as part of the Prospects and Concepts show.
Find out more about Stefan Cammeraat: www.stefancammeraat.nl