The third eye
Artist Olivier Scheffer is doing a residency in his own city. As an experiment and as a bridge between an 'ordinary' house and a dakhuis. During his residency at the artists' initiative Stichting B.a.d in Rotterdam-Zuid he will not only be working on his art, but also on the realization of his dakhuis somewhere in the city.
I am here the Ground Floor Artist, above me there are two more studios. The residents live and work in B.a.d, the studios are old teacher's rooms, on the first floor I am in the former boardroom of the school. Because of the corona situation, the residency program was difficult, the international demand was partly lost, so I got the chance to sit here. I'm from Rotterdam West, so the jump to South was not so big.
Currently, I am without a home and in the process of designing a house to be built on a roof. My residency at B.a.d will be largely about my "roof dream. In addition, although I want to local am, enjoying being in a new place with new people as much as possible, that's kind of the core of a residency. I get inspired by the location, by the place itself and by the fellow artists in the building. B.a.d is a coming and going in that respect.
My residency at B.a.d will be largely about my 'rooftop dream'
Discovering the environment is much more difficult if the environment is already familiar to you; I can hardly walk through my own city with the glasses of a total outsider. It is slightly different here in the south than in the west, but that's in the details. What people here often notice, it's a cliché, is the number of evictions. You can recognize them by the piles of furniture, mattresses and junk on the street. Usually some of the junk is usable. There are many Rotterdam artists who have started to work with this, and I have started to do the same.
I walk and bike fixed routes through the neighborhood along which I look out for a junkyard bulge or for "beside placement," which is a new word for putting trash next to the dumpster. I am mainly concerned with appliances and computer parts. I don't delve into the stories and miseries behind the bulges, that's far too intense for me.
Dissecting the wastes of that society is a kind of archaeology of the Anthropocene
Ever since my early childhood I have been fascinated by machines, I loved to take them apart and then keep the parts as a sort of trophy. I must have taken apart thousands of machines over the years. My fascination goes to everything that man puts together or makes and more specifically things that are made by machine. Actually, I find the things that are industrially assembled the most interesting. I'm finding out that that has to do with the idea that it's absolutely impossible for a single person to invent or make those things, you need a society for that. What I find so fascinating is that you need humanity as a whole to make those machines, there are not thousands but many more links to make a device. They are the product of all of humanity. Dissecting the waste of that society is a kind of archaeology of the Anthropocene.
I have been dismantling things all my life and then filling boxes with the most beautiful parts. Once, twenty years ago, I started making a large series of lamps with the scrap I found at the iron dump at the Maashaven. Yes I also happened to live in the South at the time. Except for those lamps I hardly managed to do anything useful, except filling boxes, the most useful thing of all is that I can fix things well.
A friend said I could become a Brilliant Klutz
Speaking of usefulness, I have promised myself to be less "useful. This is a reaction to my past as a designer. As a designer, you are always striving to come up with things that are useful. It's also a reaction to society and politics that have somehow idiotically figured out that there should be utility in art, no there shouldn't be, worse useful art might become so useful that it will frustrate those politics, socially engaged art might have political power.
One friend said I could become a Brilliant Klutz ... with some training, another said I might have to spend an afternoon or week on a course for that. I started looking for the thread to tie this together. The wire through the boxes of trophies from the waste of humanity. To do this, I am teaching myself to solder and program things with simple electronics. I am using this residency to teach myself new things in the meshes of what I can already do, to fill the gaps in the cheese with new knowledge.
I've figured out that I'm going to show the archaeology of the Anthropocene, yes as a Brilliant Klutz
Soon I may exhibit, B.a.d has asked me to fill the eighteen display cases on the street. That's a mega big job, after all I've only recently become an artist. I've figured out that I'm going to display the archaeology of the Anthropocene, yes like a Brilliant Klutz.
It will be presentations that show the opposite of usefulness, barely working machines composed of parts that are themselves so brilliantly complicated, or it will be presentations that actually expose that complexity as a set of simple little things. Come see.
Unlearning utility is quite difficult, as a designer you can't do that. I've been an artist for a few years now, before that I didn't dare. I find the status of artist quite intimidating, but since I knew I would get an artist-in-residency position I really work towards it. I have also recently registered in the CBK Rotterdam register, to prove it to the skeptics. I am an artist. That also brings responsibility, I do feel called to become the jester of society or the one who exposes something that most live past. Artist is the most wonderful outsider, the third eye.
I am an artist. That also brings with it responsibility
So I use my residency to design a house, to make something out of the residue of humanity but soon I will also use it again as a base for my walking practice. Walking has become an important and time-consuming part of my life in recent years. I have laid out lines that I have walked. Those are the 51st parallel and the 2nd longitude. I walk those lines as accurately as possible, on normal paths and roads, nothing illegal about it, as straight as possible through Europe. The line determines what I am going to see. The line is the method of learning about the world, that should give me an objective view of the world around me.
Artist is the most wonderful outsider, the third eye.
In cities, by the way, I walk circles whose inner contours, obstructed by buildings, I walk as tightly as possible. The line is the curator. It is a bit of a protest against mass tourism, where people en masse, flying to the highlights from a distant land, completely waltzing over contemporary culture. Thinking you've been to Thailand when you've only seen the highlights have seen. The line determines what I see, for example I have in the meantime 'done' Germany all the way from west to east, soon Belgium will follow.
The best thing about a residency is that you can share all your ideas, in passing in the hallway, immediately with fellow artists or you can witness what is developing in someone else's studio. It sharpens your mind to talk about each other's work. You can balloon, test a theory, and enrich your vocabulary over and over again in a protected environment. The fellowship is very pleasant among artists because you are never each other's competitor, the source of ideas is so great that the danger of stepping on someone else's territory is very small. What makes it so cool for me in this building is that it allows me to develop collaborations in those very areas that are the intersection of two creatives. You don't steal ideas but you take the whole artist.