What are the odds?
After scrutinising and evaluating their objective flatness, most coins will remain three sided: a tangible thing with two equal sides divided by a space in-between. That space is a sort of no man’s land and the intervention devel-oped by Rasmus Nilausen for Plt- is meant to loosely interpret, and then react painterly, to the physical and mental conditions of the project and its space as such. In this case, Plt- is a space with more than one clear purpose.
I was invited by Dee and Diego to develop a project with them. I started to wonder about chance and coincidence. Usually one would think about the flip of a coin as a way to reach a settlement, or as a form of random deci-sion-making. The coin is wrapped in this idea of fair chance, maybe even fifty/fifty. Either this or that. But I am not sure if there is such a thing as fair. Not before, not anymore. Culture, history and other circumstances play way to big a role for something to be understood as being fair or objective, especially when it comes to value and exchange. Awareness equals a loss of innocence and I think about this show in that kind of unfair way: trying to avoid the ob-jective by relating to the objects. I decided to develop an intervention, which is somehow about the idea of the project and the sum of three elements, well people, in this case.
For a while I kept counting one-two-three in my head.
Because of this counting business I realised that Plt- as a space has three quite eye-catching rectangular elements, which I consider unusual for an exhibition space: a large vertical wall-radiator, a bed, and a built-in cupboard with a wooden door. I spotted this from imagery. The three elements work as paintings in my head and have somehow provoked three rather literal reac-tions. Specific interventions are a bit like reflections from an untrustworthy mirror or a blank surface. Not really there, if not to be justified. The interven-tion is in dialogue with the banal and the mundane, yet somehow effective, history of Trompe l’oeil and still life painting. The quotation is of domestic painting in domestic space.
The last element in the show is another painting, jammed-in to work against, or at least reconsider, the general idea. Though it was not specifically made for this occasion, it gives the show its title. The work pictures the mental object as a painterly idea, but it somehow undermines itself by flirting with cubism and decoration due to what I can only call graphical necessities, in lack of a better term. It is a bit like a stumble or a pictorial stutter. I did not expect that, to be honest. Flat as a coin one might say.
Rasmus Nilausen llives and works between Barcelona and Maastricht where he is a participant at the Jan van Eyck Academie.
Nilausen did his B.A. in Fine Art at the Faculty of Fine Art in Barcelona and holds a M.A. from Chelsea in London. Nilausen’s work was shown most recently at the solo exhibition Idiolect, Not to be confused with Eye dialect at garcía | galería, Madrid and at the Open Studios at the Van Eyck (both 2018).
Further solo shows includes the collaboration with Pere Llobera for the Barcelona Gallery Weekend curated by Latitudes (2015), or other venues like Estrany-de la Mota (2015), Suñol Foundation curated by Frederic Montones (2014), Tranen in Copenhagen (2014) or La Capella in Barcelona (2012). Nilausen’s work was also included in group exhibitions at places like Cripta 747, Turin (2016), Archiv Massiv, Leipzig (2015), the Antoni Tapiès Foundation, Barcelona (2013), the Chisenhale Gallery, London (2012) and at the ICA, London (2011)
Today I am supposed to be doing two things: being home so Plǝt- is open, and attending Rietveld’s graduation show.
The way I was planning on doing this was to look at the graduation show online. But then I remembered your thesis.
It presented itself to me as the perfect way to engage with the graduation show from home. So I have been reading it, here in this almost objectless room, this afternoon.
Its funny how I perceive my living room as objectless, when Rasmus' paintings are definitely the result of a material practice. In fact, three of the four paintings have been declared by him as not being works - which might even strengthen their objecthood, as they are not even granted the aura of art to transcend their material existence. In doing so he has kind of disrupted the logic of “its art because an artist made it”, leaving me to wonder what it is they do in this room, and if the status of an object is the one that applies to them.
I think for one of the three it does: it is paint on canvas stretched over a wooden stretcher which is then hung on the wall. But the other two are painted onto the room directly, which I think would stretch the definition of an object pretty thin (quite literally).
If they are not artworks, and not objects, then perhaps I would suggest them to be motifs: (repeated) decorative images forming a pattern; or dominant recurring ideas in an artwork. I feel they fit both descriptions because each of them repeat an element in the room, or an idea found in Rasmus' oeuvre. In this way, I see the room as the work, rather than the individual paintings.
What I really enjoyed of your thesis is the idea of the object as a vessel for memories. Speaking to Rosita this week, she told me of her Grandmother’s collection of textiles, and how interacting with these fabrics - the tactile and visual contact - would stimulate memories. At last year's graduation I remember many process-based practices in which the objects held the memory of their making by keeping visual traces of process. This year, I feel I encountered more conceptually driven forms of making, which could also be said here at Plǝt- with these paintings.
I think when confronted with works of this nature, I start thinking of the objects as placeholders. Rather than being there for what they are, they are there to reserve a space for a thought, or to keep a thought up on the surface of our memories. In this way, an exhibition can become a site reserved for an idea, a way of thinking, or a memory, rather than a location for contemplation. By severing the aesthetic importance from the experience, a space is produced to think, rather than to observe.
In your thesis I feel you make an appeal to stop this, to stop storing memories externally in objects - to which many of my senses cry “yes!”. But another part of me hesitates. Following this logic to disregard objects, I also notice that I disregard memory: slowly becoming a more (and more) forgetful person. Which often leads me to ask, where do I store my memories if I feel my own memory failing? And then I remembered that perhaps you had already reminded me of the answer:
We were (one last time) looking out over the Rietveld building - a grey gridded rectangular face with undulating grey curtains. Depending on the activity in the room, the sun, the time of day, these curtains move - making a composition of varying shades through varying rectangular planes. “Its an infinitely changing abstract painting.” I had once said to you, and then totally forgot the notion. But now, meeting you -same place, different time- looking over this building, you recount the story to me, and in doing so restore the memory, the viewpoint, the way of looking.
I guess it reflects notions of storytelling - an (objectless) form of passing on history and knowledge from one person to another (and back again). In your thesis I feel you grappling with the idea of making objects - finding a reason, a justification, to perpetuate your practice. And in this room, surrounded by paintings, I feel myself grappling with the same question. Am I perpetuating this object-based logic by running a space that shows paintings? Is it necessary? Has Rasmus managed to negate the object with other ways of reserving time for thoughts in space?
In your conclusion you write, “The reason I make objects is to hand a pair of glasses to the other. To give them another view of the world we live in.” And I realise that through your writing, you have also done so. By reading your words in this space it has addressed a number of questions I have been struggling with for some time. But then is your thesis an object? Are printed words on a page as thin as a painted image on a wall?
I guess I don’t have definite answers. But for the moment I will continue to let the idea of stories and motifs swish around my mind.
Thank you for letting me read your thesis, and for getting to the end of this meandering thought.
I hope the rest of your graduation went well, and see you soon I am sure!
Faceless night / Nightless face
Saturday, 26 May
Get up […]
Shower coffee breakfast.
Clean the apartment – books piled, papers filed –
the doorbell rings, Valerie is here.
Hand over the keys and is there wifi? [Fuck.]
Its 9.30AM and I leave.
[Install, discuss, reinstall, discuss, open another exhibition]
I don’t usually bike but today I do and I’m back at Plat- finding Valerie preparing a multiscreen installation. She’s been here since 1.
Her clothes pretend she’s been sleeping in my bed but I feel she has not.
A wire is kindly entangled into the balcony’s washing line, extending the neighbor’s
Live loop, live feed.
Tokyo […] Mecca […] Outer space.
The bell rings.
I open the door
The bell rings
I open the door
The bell rings
I open the door
Sitting in silence. Valerie sleeps, body doubling me, double screens doubling the
world live streaming into my apartment. Into the space where double doors give
double meanings, shaking all meaning into chaos.
Her rest creeps into our eyes, our bodies, our ears distracted by neighbourly noises,
neighbourly cabel accessing neighbouring countries via a neighbourly wire.
Conversations dispersing the end of the performance, the doorbell prolonging the
end of the performace, the screensaver pausing the middle of the performance, the
open sign lighting the length of the performance [the room is re(a)d]
The balcony and kitchen offer refuge,
while the couple on the far balcony extend it.
The evening leaks into a bunch of kids sitting on the floor asking what the next art
movement will be.
Asking who Alexander Calder is and activating the archive.
Asking about live streamed Mecca
And live streamed Tokyo
And live streamed space.
Do not wake me up from this dream where people come by to talk about art.
The dream where the conversation skips what’s up[.?.] and goes straight to can I
offer you a drink[.?.] and lets watch this performance. This improvisation. This
muddle of images and movements and references and aesthetics and meanings and
And the rest
It’s hard to think about the opening without talking about people. And it’s hard to write about the exhibition without looking up to the new painting that adorns my wall. I say adorn because it hangs above the mantelpiece, like a decoration made to fit the furniture. But its not (even though the round table coincidentally reflects it). The painting is rather a lingual key - one that opens the lock of the painted door. It gives the exhibition its title, A Three Sided Coin. And so it is much more than decoration.
While the rest of the exhibition follows patterns of three, this painting is the anomaly. It takes the spotlight (literally), but it does not dominate the room. Rather the room is dominated by stories: stories brought in by Rasmus - pasted to our lips for each new comer’s ears - but also stories brought in by the faces who make the room’s surface fluctuate.
The room is in flux because it’s made of more than four walls. More than furniture and a floor and a ceiling. It has a voice. A voice that eats and sleeps and thinks between paintings. And over the course of this project, it has acquired the company of a growing choir.
The opening of Rasmus’ exhibition (the fourth pictorial guest at plat-) made me realize, see, how the visitors were becoming a haphazard community - with a vast portion having contributed to the program somehow at some point.
“Have you met Silke? She participated in the discussion Locating Narratives” and Vytautas is working on a contribution for the publication, and Timo is here to pick up the drill we borrowed to make A Three Sided Coinstand. And all these small movements, these exchanges of tools and words and energy, pulled people here, connected through the space that they have occupied over time. A small ecosystem of activity. Heidi comes with memories of Siete y Medioin Madrid, shadowed by the subject of a thought in a thesis. And all the while new faces of people who write and curate and host their own spaces, direct their own programs, or live in the neighbourhood conduct conversations that sway from paintings to space, to past and future. Plans are mapped out by words that form another’s question; memories are recalled by a group of lips. The orange of the painting becomes a referent, the bed becomes a prop becomes a couch becomes whatever it needs to be - quoted out of the question - grounding the words that are not there, giving the space a feeling of living while still exhibiting stark white aesthetics. Crinkly aesthetics. I snap my eyes away from the computer, and within a moment the four-walls are back. The crowd is gone and I’m sitting alone in a space addled by the paintbrush of Rasmus. The painting is not a painting, The door is slightly less of a door. But this is not the right moment to write of that.
A Three Sided Coin
When walking paintings across town, from studio to train station, to eventual exhibition space, the migratory walk begins to feel like a parade. The flat sur-face - masking the body behind it; reacting, as a sail to the wind, as a reflector of the sun - becomes a sign no matter how blank the protective packaging is.
This painting, covered in paper and bubble wrap, screamed Malevich, in my mind.
“How much is it worth?” I inquired.
Diego made the calculations. And though the number should have made me tighten my grip, all I did was smile and lengthen my stride. And we carried on walking towards the station.
A meter long painting is wider than a human. Almost wider than the double set of seats that flank the isle. And while the second painting - rolled tightly into a baton – was easy to tuck between one’s feet in the train, this painting required constant attention to make sure it was not bumped into by arriving passengers
It was rush hour.
And our painting parade soon announced that we valued art over our fellow travellers. Spanning across seats while other passengers stood, did we smile in awkward acknowledgment of our socially skewed priorities? Or did we just ignore all eye contact and pretend nothing was amiss? In either case, the paint-ings held their place. But as the train’s population ebbed and waned, my pro-tective grasp on the painting-baton began to slack. My eyelids grew heavy; the light outside began to drop, and while the roll of canvas had once resembled a stick, it was now looking much closer to a headrest. My arms wrapped around its body. My head tilted to the side, and falling asleep in this somewhat peculiar embrace, I carried this painting safely from its studio in Maastricht, to my living room in Amsterdam