Yellow brick  /  Steps  /  STEP 18 | The title is to be formed in a later stage of the project with Niels Bekkema

STEP 18 | The title is to be formed in a later stage of the project with Niels Bekkema

with Niels Bekkema01/01/18, 01/05/2019 Steps

Over the past years my practice has come to span across different media, occupying both time and space. In early years, like many other artists, I became interested in the artist publication after seeing Edward Ruscha’s self-published artist books. Back then, the idea that art can exist in editions and that reproductions don’t necessarily negate originality drove me to work with publishing and editions, and embrace a DIY mentality toward artistic production.

While studying for my MA, I began writing short stories and self-publishing them into small booklets. Looking back now, I realise my stories followed somewhat traditional structures: they have clear beginnings and endings, and develop along the well known narrative arc. This realisation marked the beginning of a search for different, more expanded ways of working with narration and publishing. This resulted in an online platform, in library-sculptures, various radio plays, and a collaborative translation event of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons in the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum.

From these close engagements with the way meaning is conveyed through writing and publishing I became interested in how contemporary language pivots around – and to a degree becomes understandable through non-verbal notations and silences. The comma, semicolon, ellipsis or the hyphen are silent, but have different meaning, and to that end, they have different effects. The ellipsis, I feel, can express anything from crisis, hesitation, to anticipation, whereas the dash might be an interruption or an evocation of suspense. Punctuation marks, or silences in speech, convey what can’t be adequately expressed in language. Since my practice is mostly engaged with description, these moments that resist description are of great interest. For example, in one of my ongoing projects, ‘Notes From an Apartment’, I describe the rooms of my apartment in Rotterdam-Zuid to map out the overlaps between the public and private spheres through digressions into memory and philosophy.

In Ancient Greek, written language took the form of the Scriptura Continua – a writing without punctuation that is said to be closer to the free flow of spoken language. A sub-branch of this script is the Boustrophedon: a method of writing ‘like a plowing ox’, i.e. not only from left to right or vice-versa, but alternating, so one line from left to right and the next from right to left. These forms of written language were made be read out loud: without punctuation, the narrator is granted more freedom to add their own emotions. As written language developed, it found ways to express non-verbal utterances, and take away a certain subjectivity form narration. I wonder if Yellow Brick can help me find samples of these types of scripts in Athens?

With that in mind, I want to make a series of work that punctuate the space. What form and medium they will take I am planning to decide during the residency itself, but ultimately I want to work with the question when language becomes silent, which images appear?

STEP 18 was cancelled due to covid-19. 

is a Dutch artist and writer currently located in Rotterdam. He graduated in 2016 from the Piet Zwart institute with an MA in fine arts. The past year he has been working on a film capturing the rotary motion of the Dwingeloo Radiotelescope. He writes articlesfor de Nieuwe, and recently his work has been exhibited in Rotterdam, Johannesburg and Mexico-City. This summer, he will be an artist in residence at the Leighton studios in Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
His filmworks, installations, and short stories point to the strangeness that sometimes erupts in the midst of everyday life. Attending to these small moments of disorientation, contradiction and rupture, as well as the bewitchment of ordinary language, his work exposes the hidden narratives
and codes that organize daily experience. Niels explores the potential for new ways of framing reality, making poetic alterations to existing sites, structures and stories. In this way, his works propose alternative relations to time, the environment and others, opening up a speculative space in which to renegotiate our relationship with the familiar.