Platform for Unasked Art

Second Unasked artwork: Cecile Wentges – Composition nr. 1

In this performance piece, the artist Cecile Wentges takes the audience through a construction site in the centre of Amsterdam as though it was an installation which she had made herself within an established gallery space. This performance reflects on the role of aesthetics and discourse within contemporary artistic practice, often producing abstract artworks which only have the appearance and rhetoric of being meaningful.

Performance Speech by Cecile Wentges:

I would like to welcome you to gallery ‘Bernardus’ and to have a look at my newest work: ‘Composition nr. 1’. This work is developed for ‘The Platform for Unasked Art’, a platform that offers a framework for artists to do interventions in social space.

Before I start I would very much like to thank Rhoman Hillen from gallery Bernardus for his support and understanding during the last couple of months of construction of this work.

For the next 20 minutes, half an hour, I would like to take you through the gallery and briefly explain the decisions I have made during the process of development of ‘Composition nr 1’.

I chose to show my work in this gallery considering its in-exclusive approach and public situation. The central location of this gallery in combination with an outstanding reflection to Amsterdam’s historic background in terms of water (the Singelgracht) and housing both strongly benefit to the compositional qualities of the work.

Looking at this gallery from a top view and with a two-dimensional approach, as if it is a painting, I first of all wanted to divide space in two areas. A white and clear space that shows the sculptural relations towards its surrounding, and a disordered area that shows structure versus chaos. Keeping in mind the in-between spaces, routing and surrounding, I researched for the optimal compositional arrangement of space and elements.

Then, as citizens of Amsterdam you can all imagine that in order to build this huge sculpture I needed a serious foundation. To support the weight per area I worked on a foundation that would also provide me with the possibility to place these rectangular sculptures with a height of 4 meters.

Looking again from a top-view I researched the specific characteristics of this site in relation to its surrounding. Following the openness on that site of the gallery, and in relation to the water I wanted to create a feeling of protection, safety and separation without loosing contact with the outside, or the other. In order to achieve this sense of intimacy I decided to place various concrete elements on the edge of the site. Playing with the sense of limitation of space. Where does space end? Is it a wall, an object or actually our vision? Until where do we see?

In search for a strong relationship to the outside I decided to break this enclosure of space by cutting out various rectangular shapes. While doing this, I realized that I was giving the work another layer of framing and directing vision. What do I want you to see? Moreover, what do I want you not to see? Keeping all these thoughts in mind I was constantly looking for the perfect composition and relationship between the outside in and the inside out.

As many other interiors of Galleries I decided to paint this specific area white. I wanted to create the perfect balance between the distracting surrounding, the white elements that give direction to inner an outer space and the various sculptures I would like to place in that space. At first, I wanted to disturb the horizontal flatness with steel vertical bars. I carefully placed these orange dots on every end of these bars in order to play with the top-view two-dimensional feeling of colour compared to the three-dimensional sense of height we see from this position. The bars are meant to give some kind of structure to the overall randomness of other placed sculptures. Giving it a sense of functionality.

To break this functionality I had to take a step away from the work to be able to see what was still missing. I realized that I needed smaller sculptures from different materials in order to intensify the various relationship of scale. Having to deal with the city of Amsterdam as the background of my work I realized that I would have to come up with details intensifying the compositional relationship of elements. It took me a couple of days to play with these smaller sculptures in this part of the gallery, but luckily I reached the point of perfectness. At this moment it feels good, it works.

Now, I would like to invite you to follow me through the various elements of ‘Composition nr 1’. Please be careful to not touch these small sculptures.

As many other artists, I also have to deal with the exact moment in time and process to decide when a work actually is finished. In other words (when we focus on this particular work) where does construction end and aesthetics begin?

In this part of the gallery I wanted to create a sense of chaos. What is chaos? Is it the moment of stepping out of a structure or a grid? What if we put several layers of structures over each other, do we eventually reach the point chaos?

When placing these concrete reinforcing bars I first of all wanted to draw three-dimensional thin lines through the horizontal area of nothingness. I started with using bars with triangle shaped sidebars emphasizing the difference of scale. When entirely scaling down (for example) we could imagine these triangle shaped bars as the working constructors of the artwork. Men, walking in straight lines as factory workers, carrying materials throughout the artwork in order to build civilization. Society’s structure.

On the other hand, compared to the entire gallery space these steel triangles can be seen as small details of the artwork. They are placed carefully in lines questioning the force of repetition. By repeating an action over and over again does the work become stronger?

After placing various layers of concrete on top of each other using these same reinforcing bars for construction, I clearly had to decide at what level to stop. Obviously this process could be continued up to a level that would go beyond human capability of construction but I would rather wanted to keep it small.

To come back to my research for chaos, I continuously stacked steel reinforcing bars with various grids on top of each other. The triangle shaped grid as a basis and rectangular shaped grids of steel over them. I wanted to find the exact moment in time and space where these structured grids of steel would develop into the perfect image of chaos. Leaving several areas open in order to keep its relationship with emptiness.

In order to frequently disturb the linear composition of lines and squares I randomly placed red tubes. I used the grid of the steel bars as my basic framework and with rolling dice I determined the exact locations of these circular shaped elements. Also providing the work with another layer of colour. Red is known for its attractive characteristics. I repeated the circular shape of the tube by carefully placing this tube in the shape of a circle; creating another tube in a bigger scale.

Taking a step away from this area and these red rubber tubes and then looking at the concrete reinforcement bars I wanted to show various effects of a three-dimensional drawing in space. Now, these circles of tubes become red dots, whereas the carefully positioned grids of steel become ever-changing rectangular shapes in space. When walking to the other side and around these structures of thin steel bars, the position of the spectator changes and therefore the three-dimensional lines and shapes in space change. Emphasizing each person’s individual freedom of perception of an artwork. What I see could be totally different from what you see.

Please feel free to walk around the gallery and of course get another drink if you would like to. I could talk about every detail of this work for hours but I would also like to leave space for your own interpretation. Thank you for coming and listening!

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