Among us

2020
Installation in semi-public space
12 objects
Various sizes and materials
Breda Central Station (NL)

In this work, twelve sculptures are seen hanging out together in a huge glass vitrine at a busy train station. All of them stand close to human height, forming an overview or summary of ways to be humanly present. Their familiarity behind the glass simultaneously includes and excludes the viewer in and from their intimate meeting. 

Esther van Zoelen, artist, frequent visitor of station Breda and intern at my studio in 2020: ‘The work turned out increasingly relevant over the course of the seven months it’s been exhibited, though it was made before the Corona crisis hit us. It speaks of closeness and distance at the same time. Objects that seem made to be touched, now stand on a platform and are separated from me by a high glass window. In the blue box there seems to be some sort of intimacy, or am I just imagining that? A pile of toilet rolls stands still, a bit in the middle of a group of persons. These persons are not human, but other strange combinations of objects. They are all different, but very open. They show what they are, nothing less and nothing more. On this place, on the edge of Breda Station, there is a certain solemnity, a stillness to be found. That pile of toilet rolls can be read differently now, through all that has happened. And especially now the search for closeness means so much more.’

Among Us was presented in a duo exhibition with Helmut Smits titled Something In-Between, curated by Roeliena Aukema and Liza Voetman. The show took place between 14 February and 27 September 2020.

The sculpture Happy Birthday, which became a part of Among Us, is a collaboration with David Bernstein, and was previously on show in our duo exhibition Between the Soup and the Potatoes at Billytown the Kitchen

Many thanks to Gemeente Breda and Jacqueline Kostermans for making the project possible. Big shout out to my interns, Yasmin Kök, Minne Ponsen, Boetie Zijlstra, and Esther van Zoelen for their time and effort, helping me to make, set up, and take down the work in challenging circumstances.

In this work, twelve sculptures are seen hanging out together in a huge glass vitrine at a busy train station. All of them stand close to human height, forming an overview or summary of ways to be humanly present. Their familiarity behind the glass simultaneously includes and excludes the viewer in and from their intimate meeting. 

Esther van Zoelen, artist, frequent visitor of station Breda and intern at my studio in 2020: ‘The work turned out increasingly relevant over the course of the seven months it’s been exhibited, though it was made before the Corona crisis hit us. It speaks of closeness and distance at the same time. Objects that seem made to be touched, now stand on a platform and are separated from me by a high glass window. In the blue box there seems to be some sort of intimacy, or am I just imagining that? A pile of toilet rolls stands still, a bit in the middle of a group of persons. These persons are not human, but other strange combinations of objects. They are all different, but very open. They show what they are, nothing less and nothing more. On this place, on the edge of Breda Station, there is a certain solemnity, a stillness to be found. That pile of toilet rolls can be read differently now, through all that has happened. And especially now the search for closeness means so much more.’

Among Us was presented in a duo exhibition with Helmut Smits titled Something In-Between, curated by Roeliena Aukema and Liza Voetman. The show took place between 14 February and 27 September 2020.

The sculpture Happy Birthday, which became a part of Among Us, is a collaboration with David Bernstein, and was previously on show in our duo exhibition Between the Soup and the Potatoes at Billytown the Kitchen

Many thanks to Gemeente Breda and Jacqueline Kostermans for making the project possible. Big shout out to my interns, Yasmin Kök, Minne Ponsen, Boetie Zijlstra, and Esther van Zoelen for their time and effort, helping me to make, set up, and take down the work in challenging circumstances.

Voor de Schermen

2019
Lecture-performance, 35 minutes
Installation, 5 x 5 x 2 m
Concrete, PCV, wool
VHDG Leeuwarden

This lecture-performance investigates the ways in which we look at art online and how our view can be manipulated by digitalisation. What happens if you only see the online documentation of a physical exhibition? Have you actually seen the work? What is the importance of the physicality of sculpture and performance in the transmission of information? It would be an understatement to say that this work gained relevance in 2020, the year the pandemic sent the cultural field online, but the work was actually produced in 2019.

Some fragments of the performance text: 

“It’s easy to be judgemental about an online audience being lazy. But, just for a moment, try to visualise the group of people that will encounter this work online, behind their screens, spread all throughout the world. And not just now, but for quite some months, maybe even years to come. Funds increasingly value visibility not just offline but also online. So the fact that VHDG gets funding to have me perform for you here today, the fact that you can see this now, for free, is highly dependent on the fact that the online audience is watching. Because -they- are with many more than you are!”

“In Turkish there is a suffix that indicates whether the speaker describes something they saw first hand, or something they heard from someone else. So in everything you say in Turkish, you add that information by the way you conjugate your words. Always. (Or that’s what they say—I don’t speak Turkish.) It was only when writing this performance text that I realised I had been obsessed with menhirs for a while, but have actually never seen one in real life…”

“I frequently mix up the words requisite and relic because they are so much alike. A relic seems to offer security, something to hold on to, functioning as a kind of proof something in the past actually happened. A requisite often is much prettier because it’s made to be looked at, but normally hollow, or at least not meant to last. Or meant to see from far away or just one side; the perspective of the audience. I wonder whether art could have a bit of both. So that it is something that is meant to be looked at, and at the same time to hold on to, to remember. Both for action and for preservation. Something that can be yours, but that, simultaneously, can never be entirely owned by anyone.”

Voor de Schermen was produced during the residency of VHDG, Leeuwarden (NL), and presented in their exhibition space in June 2019.

This lecture-performance investigates the ways in which we look at art online and how our view can be manipulated by digitalisation. What happens if you only see the online documentation of a physical exhibition? Have you actually seen the work? What is the importance of the physicality of sculpture and performance in the transmission of information? It would be an understatement to say that this work gained relevance in 2020, the year the pandemic sent the cultural field online, but the work was actually produced in 2019.

Some fragments of the performance text: 

“It’s easy to be judgemental about an online audience being lazy. But, just for a moment, try to visualise the group of people that will encounter this work online, behind their screens, spread all throughout the world. And not just now, but for quite some months, maybe even years to come. Funds increasingly value visibility not just offline but also online. So the fact that VHDG gets funding to have me perform for you here today, the fact that you can see this now, for free, is highly dependent on the fact that the online audience is watching. Because -they- are with many more than you are!”

“In Turkish there is a suffix that indicates whether the speaker describes something they saw first hand, or something they heard from someone else. So in everything you say in Turkish, you add that information by the way you conjugate your words. Always. (Or that’s what they say—I don’t speak Turkish.) It was only when writing this performance text that I realised I had been obsessed with menhirs for a while, but have actually never seen one in real life…”

“I frequently mix up the words requisite and relic because they are so much alike. A relic seems to offer security, something to hold on to, functioning as a kind of proof something in the past actually happened. A requisite often is much prettier because it’s made to be looked at, but normally hollow, or at least not meant to last. Or meant to see from far away or just one side; the perspective of the audience. I wonder whether art could have a bit of both. So that it is something that is meant to be looked at, and at the same time to hold on to, to remember. Both for action and for preservation. Something that can be yours, but that, simultaneously, can never be entirely owned by anyone.”

Voor de Schermen was produced during the residency of VHDG, Leeuwarden (NL), and presented in their exhibition space in June 2019.

Demo

2018/2019
commissioned
Installation / performance
7 construction site signs
Dimensions variable, 2.5x12x5m in total
GET LOST Art Route, public space

Seven billboards are grouped together in public space, and are repainted each month. 

  • The first coat is applied by Sijben herself, painting seven monochromes in seven different tones of bright yellow, functioning as a kind of town crier, announcing three more collaborative repainting performances to come.
  • The second coat is made in collaboration with Amsterdam Black Women collective (ABW), co-founded by Tracian Meikle. ABW members paint the boards in various black skin tones, claiming place for themselves in the image of the city.
  • For the third color scheme, Sijben challenged male employers who pass by the installation every day during their lunch break walks, to help with painting it pink. 
  • The fourth color scheme is a response to the sculptural quality of the architecture of the Zuidas. Local residents, involved in painting the boards shades of blue and grey, are positioned as agents of change in the rapid transformation of the district.

The title Demo refers to both a visual explanation and a revolt in which signs are held up. In both meanings of the word, the sign has an explanatory role. This group of monochrome-painted signs announce the dynamics and the future of the Zuidas using nothing but colour. The work hopes to offer space for the periodically changing colors to speak for themselves amidst the hyper-efficient, goal-oriented, and homogenous surroundings of the business district.

Demo was part of the exhibition Get Lost Art Route in public space in Amsterdam-Zuid, from June until September 2018. It was commissioned by Zuid Plus, Zuidasdok, and Gemeente Amsterdam Zuidas. Requested and supported by local residents and organized with ZuidasToday and Zuidas Art Projects, two of the original commissioners (Zuidasdok and Gemeente Amsterdam Zuidas) decided to extend the existence of the work until March 2019.

Reviews: Zuidas Magazine, Groene Amsterdammer, Parool, Trouw

Big thanks to Suzanna van Oers, Bo Wielders, Marit van der Heijden, Mitzi Muriel, and Fiza Brakel, for their assistance with the yellow tones! Tracian Meikle, Jenna Burton, Sekai Mekoni, Coco Baileys and her cousin Camille Parker, and Lorenzo Schmidt, thank you so much for the amazing collaboration! Peter Kamphorst, John Oudejans, and Kenneth Goedhart, thanks a lot for volunteering for the pink part of this project. Marloes Vreeswijk and Fiza Brakel, thanks a lot for your help with the last act of the work!

Seven billboards are grouped together in public space, and are repainted each month. 

  • The first coat is applied by Sijben herself, painting seven monochromes in seven different tones of bright yellow, functioning as a kind of town crier, announcing three more collaborative repainting performances to come.
  • The second coat is made in collaboration with Amsterdam Black Women collective (ABW), co-founded by Tracian Meikle. ABW members paint the boards in various black skin tones, claiming place for themselves in the image of the city.
  • For the third color scheme, Sijben challenged male employers who pass by the installation every day during their lunch break walks, to help with painting it pink. 
  • The fourth color scheme is a response to the sculptural quality of the architecture of the Zuidas. Local residents, involved in painting the boards shades of blue and grey, are positioned as agents of change in the rapid transformation of the district.

The title Demo refers to both a visual explanation and a revolt in which signs are held up. In both meanings of the word, the sign has an explanatory role. This group of monochrome-painted signs announce the dynamics and the future of the Zuidas using nothing but colour. The work hopes to offer space for the periodically changing colors to speak for themselves amidst the hyper-efficient, goal-oriented, and homogenous surroundings of the business district.

Demo was part of the exhibition Get Lost Art Route in public space in Amsterdam-Zuid, from June until September 2018. It was commissioned by Zuid Plus, Zuidasdok, and Gemeente Amsterdam Zuidas. Requested and supported by local residents and organized with ZuidasToday and Zuidas Art Projects, two of the original commissioners (Zuidasdok and Gemeente Amsterdam Zuidas) decided to extend the existence of the work until March 2019.

Reviews: Zuidas Magazine, Groene Amsterdammer, Parool, Trouw

Big thanks to Suzanna van Oers, Bo Wielders, Marit van der Heijden, Mitzi Muriel, and Fiza Brakel, for their assistance with the yellow tones! Tracian Meikle, Jenna Burton, Sekai Mekoni, Coco Baileys and her cousin Camille Parker, and Lorenzo Schmidt, thank you so much for the amazing collaboration! Peter Kamphorst, John Oudejans, and Kenneth Goedhart, thanks a lot for volunteering for the pink part of this project. Marloes Vreeswijk and Fiza Brakel, thanks a lot for your help with the last act of the work!

The Sand Party

2019
sculpture performance, ca. 12 min
50kg sand, wooden sandbox on wheels
A Tale of a Tub, Rotterdam

In this etude, sand and water enter an erotic symbiosis. While making ephemeral shapes, I held a monologue about the political environmental aspects of sand. Halfway through the performance, the monologue evolves into a poetic thought-play on glass ceilings, an abundance of patriarchy in the arts, and a collective feminist solution. The piece concludes with everyone present humming Mrs. Sand Woman in unison.  

This performance was developed in response to David Bernstein’s exhibition The Water Party which addressed matriarchy, divine holding, and soul-flooding (instead of brainstorming) for alternative sex education. The Sand Party took a stand as a poetic political sparring partner to the exhibition and took place during its opening and finissage at A Tale of a Tub in Rotterdam.

In this etude, sand and water enter an erotic symbiosis. While making ephemeral shapes, I held a monologue about the political environmental aspects of sand. Halfway through the performance, the monologue evolves into a poetic thought-play on glass ceilings, an abundance of patriarchy in the arts, and a collective feminist solution. The piece concludes with everyone present humming Mrs. Sand Woman in unison.  

This performance was developed in response to David Bernstein’s exhibition The Water Party which addressed matriarchy, divine holding, and soul-flooding (instead of brainstorming) for alternative sex education. The Sand Party took a stand as a poetic political sparring partner to the exhibition and took place during its opening and finissage at A Tale of a Tub in Rotterdam.

A SCULPTURE LIKE YOU AND ME

2016 / 2017
Collaboration with Sarah Boers
Performance, ca. 25 min
De Appel Arts Centre Amsterdam, Art Rotterdam, Linköping University Sweden, Lokaal 1B

Do you own your body? Is your body an object? Or a collection of objects? Can you sculpt and sell your body parts? Do objects have any will of their own? Are you a sculpture?

Medical ethicist and general practitioner in training Sarah Boers and artist Rosa Sijben investigate the ambiguous nature of objects, and the interchangeable roles of persons and things, through a collaborative performance. Boers begins by talking about her research on organoids: a kind of miniature organ, derived in a laboratory from human stem cells. Sijben interrupts, manipulating the meaning of Boers’ words by instructing her to change position, both in relation to objects made by Sijben and to the audience present.

Suzan Drummen, visual artist and teacher: ‘I haven’t seen such a successful collaboration between an artist and a scientist before. The input of both seemed to exist autonomously next to each other, showing the full scope of their work, while it was clear that the one couldn’t exist without the other. A combination of the currently relevant text, the curious props, the repetition and the nearly self-evident dance of persons and objects created a curious experience. While at the same time, the atmosphere was remarkably relaxed.’

The project exists of two independent but complementary parts: a performance and a publication. The performance premiered at De Appel Amsterdam in June 2016, had a try-out at Lokaal 1B Amsterdam and was shown at Art Rotterdam and Linköping University Sweden. The publication was released in February 2017 within Prospects&Concepts at Art Rotterdam. The publication is a print of the texts and documentation of the objects used in the performance, plus a selection of photos from Rosa’s archive on which these objects were based.

Simone Hogendijk (artistic director Over het IJ Festival) about the publication: ‘I felt a form of involvement when reading the book, that I can imagine would be the same when seeing the performance. The meeting of two lines, a more concrete and a more abstract one, opened new frames for thinking. It made me read and see better.’

The publication can be ordered for 28€ (incl. tax, excl. shipping/ packaging costs 7.98€) via email.

Directory advise by Jantien Koenders. Performance documentation by Konstantin Guz (camera and editing assistance) and Jaap Sijben (sound). Book design by Lotte Lola SchröderA Sculpture Like You And Me has been made possible with the support of The Apple Amsterdam, the publication budget of the Mondriaan Fund and the 3-package-deal by AFK.

Do you own your body? Is your body an object? Or a collection of objects? Can you sculpt and sell your body parts? Do objects have any will of their own? Are you a sculpture?

Medical ethicist and general practitioner in training Sarah Boers and artist Rosa Sijben investigate the ambiguous nature of objects, and the interchangeable roles of persons and things, through a collaborative performance. Boers begins by talking about her research on organoids: a kind of miniature organ, derived in a laboratory from human stem cells. Sijben interrupts, manipulating the meaning of Boers’ words by instructing her to change position, both in relation to objects made by Sijben and to the audience present.

Suzan Drummen, visual artist and teacher: ‘I haven’t seen such a successful collaboration between an artist and a scientist before. The input of both seemed to exist autonomously next to each other, showing the full scope of their work, while it was clear that the one couldn’t exist without the other. A combination of the currently relevant text, the curious props, the repetition and the nearly self-evident dance of persons and objects created a curious experience. While at the same time, the atmosphere was remarkably relaxed.’

The project exists of two independent but complementary parts: a performance and a publication. The performance premiered at De Appel Amsterdam in June 2016, had a try-out at Lokaal 1B Amsterdam and was shown at Art Rotterdam and Linköping University Sweden. The publication was released in February 2017 within Prospects&Concepts at Art Rotterdam. The publication is a print of the texts and documentation of the objects used in the performance, plus a selection of photos from Rosa’s archive on which these objects were based.

Simone Hogendijk (artistic director Over het IJ Festival) about the publication: ‘I felt a form of involvement when reading the book, that I can imagine would be the same when seeing the performance. The meeting of two lines, a more concrete and a more abstract one, opened new frames for thinking. It made me read and see better.’

The publication can be ordered for 28€ (incl. tax, excl. shipping/ packaging costs 7.98€) via email.

Directory advise by Jantien Koenders. Performance documentation by Konstantin Guz (camera and editing assistance) and Jaap Sijben (sound). Book design by Lotte Lola SchröderA Sculpture Like You And Me has been made possible with the support of The Apple Amsterdam, the publication budget of the Mondriaan Fund and the 3-package-deal by AFK.

Place

2017
sculpture-performance, ongoing, 55x50x95cm
fibreglass, polyester, metal, wood
Over het IJ festival, the Belgian Senate, Ferry Festival Amsterdam, Billytown the Kitchen, V_2 Rotterdam

Place is a solid object, as well as an ongoing performance. It’s taking place, both literally and figuratively speaking. It proves to be quite an attention seeker, even though it’s usually very quiet. On the many trips that Place and Sijben have made together, the artist exhibits it just as much as it exhibits her.

Place was inspired by the poem De Stoel by Dick Raaijmakers.

This work was part of the performance Mensding in collaboration with theatre-maker Margit Odems at Over het IJ festival, 14–23 July 2017. On the first of October that year, Place and Sijben gave a performative statement during the exhibition Superdemocracy in the senate of Belgium in Brussels, curated by BOZAR, M HKA and BPS22. On 2 November 2017, Place and Sijben performed on a ferry in the context of Museumnacht Amsterdam, in a preview of the Amsterdam Ferry Festival. In December 2018, Place was on show in Billytown the Kitchen in Den Haag as part of Between the Soup and the Potatoes, a duo show with David Bernstein. On 2 October 2020, Rosa and Place performed at V2_ in Rotterdam (NL), invited by Maud van den Beuken.

Place is a solid object, as well as an ongoing performance. It’s taking place, both literally and figuratively speaking. It proves to be quite an attention seeker, even though it’s usually very quiet. On the many trips that Place and Sijben have made together, the artist exhibits it just as much as it exhibits her.

Place was inspired by the poem De Stoel by Dick Raaijmakers.

This work was part of the performance Mensding in collaboration with theatre-maker Margit Odems at Over het IJ festival, 14–23 July 2017. On the first of October that year, Place and Sijben gave a performative statement during the exhibition Superdemocracy in the senate of Belgium in Brussels, curated by BOZAR, M HKA and BPS22. On 2 November 2017, Place and Sijben performed on a ferry in the context of Museumnacht Amsterdam, in a preview of the Amsterdam Ferry Festival. In December 2018, Place was on show in Billytown the Kitchen in Den Haag as part of Between the Soup and the Potatoes, a duo show with David Bernstein. On 2 October 2020, Rosa and Place performed at V2_ in Rotterdam (NL), invited by Maud van den Beuken.

Zelf

2017-2018
8 sculpture performances
materials and dimensions variable
Corridor Project Space, Amsterdam

Each of the eight unique sculptures of Zelf is modelled to fit perfectly inside an existing, secondhand case. All of them are temporarily owned by eight different neighbours of the exhibition space. During the exhibition’s opening hours, visitors of the exhibition are invited to ring the neighbours’ doorbells and ask them to show their object. Inside the exhibition, a pile of flyers states the exact addresses, and a video is playing that shows a compilation of the neighbours’ first reactions to the sculptures and their expectations of the visits.

Hreinn Friðfinnsson (artist and one of the participating neighbours): “In a way it is very much nothing, it is just itself. So you are a little bit lost and then you are supposed to react! I think I’ll say as little as possible because I have no explanations. I think you will think about it afterwards: what was that now? I think it will come back to you, you know? (…) I like it, I like it very much.”

Zelf was created for ‘The future of what’, a duo exhibition together with artist Mariko Kuhawara at Corridor Project Space in Amsterdam.

Reviews: Kunstblijfteenraadsel, Parool

Between 2020–2021 I adapted this work to become an autonomous short film titled Zelf in een doosje


Each of the eight unique sculptures of Zelf is modelled to fit perfectly inside an existing, secondhand case. All of them are temporarily owned by eight different neighbours of the exhibition space. During the exhibition’s opening hours, visitors of the exhibition are invited to ring the neighbours’ doorbells and ask them to show their object. Inside the exhibition, a pile of flyers states the exact addresses, and a video is playing that shows a compilation of the neighbours’ first reactions to the sculptures and their expectations of the visits.

Hreinn Friðfinnsson (artist and one of the participating neighbours): “In a way it is very much nothing, it is just itself. So you are a little bit lost and then you are supposed to react! I think I’ll say as little as possible because I have no explanations. I think you will think about it afterwards: what was that now? I think it will come back to you, you know? (…) I like it, I like it very much.”

Zelf was created for ‘The future of what’, a duo exhibition together with artist Mariko Kuhawara at Corridor Project Space in Amsterdam.

Reviews: Kunstblijfteenraadsel, Parool

Between 2020–2021 I adapted this work to become an autonomous short film titled Zelf in een doosje


Things You Know

2014
Installation and situational choreography
Various sizes and materials
Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf (DE)

This work consists of two identical groups of objects; one positioned in an exhibition room, and the other one at a construction site nearby. If the objects obstruct their work, the construction workers can freely move the objects around within a marked space that corresponds to the size of the exhibition space. Every Saturday, the position of the objects in the exhibition is adjusted to match that of the objects at the construction site. On the handout made for the exhibition there is a small map with directions to the construction site, so the audience can view the objects in both contexts.

This work was part of Rosa Sijben’s solo exhibition, also titled Things You Know, at Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 15/02/14–16/03/14.

Documentation of Things You Know is released as Jahresgaben at Kunstverein. Each edition consists of two photographs taken every week from the same perspective on both locations. Set #5 is still available here.

Review Contemporary Art Daily
Review Reinische Post
Review in Kunstforum Mai-Juni 2014

View and/or download invitation
View and/or download English press release
View and/or download German press release

Photos by Katja Illner.

This work consists of two identical groups of objects; one positioned in an exhibition room, and the other one at a construction site nearby. If the objects obstruct their work, the construction workers can freely move the objects around within a marked space that corresponds to the size of the exhibition space. Every Saturday, the position of the objects in the exhibition is adjusted to match that of the objects at the construction site. On the handout made for the exhibition there is a small map with directions to the construction site, so the audience can view the objects in both contexts.

This work was part of Rosa Sijben’s solo exhibition, also titled Things You Know, at Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 15/02/14–16/03/14.

Documentation of Things You Know is released as Jahresgaben at Kunstverein. Each edition consists of two photographs taken every week from the same perspective on both locations. Set #5 is still available here.

Review Contemporary Art Daily
Review Reinische Post
Review in Kunstforum Mai-Juni 2014

View and/or download invitation
View and/or download English press release
View and/or download German press release

Photos by Katja Illner.