Alumni of the Rijksakademie - Ikebana City
Kim Knoppers interviewed each of the participating artists
in the exhibition, Alumni
of the Rijksakademie. Here, Semâ Bekirovich and Lotte Geeven
talk about their project, Ikebana City.
Ikebana City started in New York. How did the project come
Semâ Bekirovich: Our theme was to create a visual record of the
natural outgrowths of the city. Every day, we walked for dozens of
miles and encountered things like plants growing against a wall
covered with graffiti. They had accidentally been spattered with
many colours of paint, but still continued to grow quite happily.
That is Ikebana's focus: plants that find their own place in the
city, in symbiosis with human beings. We gathered these plants and
brought them to our atelier to create still lifes with them. Then
we photographed them. After that, we made posters of the prints and
hung them up in the original locations where we found the plants.
By doing this, the plants once again became visible for the
neighbourhood. We were interested in creating work that has more to
do with street art than high art. In the end, though, our work
still ended up in a museum. But we approach the museum as a
workspace where we also demonstrate our working process. We want to
present Ikebana City only as a performance or a process. Of course,
it is always interesting to see how you do this in the context of a
museum. We will see how it works.
You have done Ikebana City in New York and Lisbon and are
now presenting it in Amsterdam. Do you still wander the streets
without a preconceived plan?
Lotte Geeven: We let ourselves be surprised by what we see. We
talk about it and then put what we find in a bag. That's how the
collection grows for each neighbourhood. When we are back in the
studio, we sort through what we have gathered to determine which
things are interesting and which are just ordinary. During the
second sorting phase, we bring out the vases and the draping cloths
and compose the still lifes. The process involves a constant
dialogue, and it is not completely spontaneous. There are two
conditions that the project must meet. The plants must be
photographed against a grey background, and then given back to the
city in the form of posters. By following these simple guidelines,
you create beautiful forms that also allow the residents to look at
their city in a different way.
Are there differences between your individual working
Semâ Bekirovich: We are polar opposites, but that actually works
very well. Lotte is very uninhibited. I find her
spontaneity to be so liberating. Being physically focused on what
you are doing and losing yourself in it, and only discovering later
what you have brought into being. I don't think Lotte has any fear
Lotte Geeven: I am constantly moving things, doing things, and
this is also a form of thinking for me. Semâ is like a cat. She can
look at something for a very long time. She quietly compiles
information, and then suddenly she pounces and knows exactly what
needs to be done. It is helpful to see that you can approach things
calmly and from a certain distance. We think the contrasts between
us are interesting, and we appreciate them in all their aspects. In
our experience, these differences complement each other quite
naturally. But sometimes they clash too, in a good way, which only
serves to refine our work even more.
Semâ Bekirovich: We each put our own mark on the photos. Lotte has
a more aesthetic perspective than I do, while I have more of an
affinity for odd combinations that usually tell more of a story. In
the end, only one of us pushes the button to take the photo, but we
create the images together.
Can other people take part in Ikebana City?
Semâ Bekirovich: We really want to start experimenting with that
now. To date, we have been the only ones who collected the plants
and composed the still lifes. It would certainly be intriguing if
the project could serve as a framework and allow other people to
participate in the process. That is an experiment: to what extent
is it going to happen, and will we actually be able to let go of
the reins? Ultimately, it would be interesting to extend the
project to other geographic locations and to involve more and more
people, so it would involve more of a social element.
You both attended the Rijksakademie, but at different
times. What role did the Rijksakademie play for you each
Lotte Geeven: The budding and most experimental ideas are
nurtured at the Rijksakademie. You are given ample encouragement to
properly study an idea and flesh out its possibilities. As a
result, you can sometimes really exceed your own
abilities. Semâ Bekirovich: The Rijksakademie is truly a
catalyst. Suddenly, you are an artist, and you have been given the
stamp of approval. You have to break free of this pressure,
because, in the end, creating art is about daring to fail. That's
why Ikebana City is so interesting, because it is so different from
how we normally work.
The exhibition, Alumni of the Rijksakademie - RE-Search,
is on from 31 August - 14 October 2012.