#ASK: Johannes Langkamp
You may have already spotted the innovative work of the German artist Johannes Langkamp in the new exhibition ‘Art is the Antidote’ in Museum Voorlinden. Or in the new depot of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, where his work “Pleased to Meet You” is exhibited: a bench with a cheerful, yellow conveyor belt system. That’s the thing about Langkamp’s work, it often evokes a certain recognition. Movement and a certain playfulness are recurring elements in his practice. As a viewer, you sometimes wonder how his machines function exactly. During Rotterdam Art Week, you can visit his studio in the Steurgebouw in Rotterdam, which will be open to visitors for the occasion. Gilbert Curtessi founded the Steur building, a creative incubator for makers from various disciplines, which is why you’ll find studios there of artists like Ward van Gemert and Laurids Gallée and designers such as Sabine Marcelis. Today we speak with Johannes Langkamp, whose work was purchased by Museum Voorlinden last year during Rotterdam Art Week.
How do your kinetic works come about? In what ways do you play with the viewer’s perception and what reaction do you hope to evoke?
I mainly play with my own perception and wonder. Thanks to everyday small moments, I often wonder: what happens if…? What happens if I drop a sheet of paper from a building? Or when I roll an actively spraying aerosol can across the floor? What would happen if I make a wooden bench with 1000 wheels? That one question is always followed by another, in which unexpected elements play a leading role. By playing with situations or materials, I discover things that I subsequently try to grasp through kinetic models or sculptures. Basically it is a short moment of questioning, followed by a long process of material experiments. My work arises from curiosity and after that I mean to find out what effect the work has on other people. Whether they also marvel at the strange sensation. How does my perception mechanism work and how can I play with that or break through fixed viewing patterns to activate something new?
What is it like to work in the Steur Building? What makes this space special and in what ways are you able to develop your practice further there? What can visitors expect when they come to visit your studio?
The environment in the Steur Building, being surrounded by all kinds of fellow makers, thinkers and doers, is really important. The people have a willful and driven work mentality, which feels like coming home to me. Every now and then, I forget that I actually have a quite abnormal daily life, thanks in part to the STEUR work environment. During Rotterdam Art Week, these remarkable working environments are made accessible to the public. Workplaces that exist for individual working methods. In my case, that is a studio in which I enter a search for the unknown, by experimenting and failing. After all, failures offer the most unexpected and surprising outcomes. In other words, Rotterdam Art Week offers everyone an opportunity to visit a location-specific exhibition with open workshops, where, in addition to the results, the production processes are on show. That includes numerous tests and failed prototypes. In the arts, the division between what constitutes clutter and art can be unclear sometimes.
How would you describe your relationship with the city of Rotterdam?
Rotterdam has always been my favourite destination in the Netherlands, even before I came to live there 12 years ago. The raw side of Rotterdam suits my choice of materials and my openness to experiment. Making the open connection with people and the relationship to the material. The contrast between fragile and industrial suits Rotterdam as well as my work. I feel alive when I’m allowed to flow, mix and form, in a city that is constantly on the move (and will hopefully remain to do so).
What are you most looking forward to during the upcoming edition of Rotterdam Art Week?
These are exciting times, this year I will participate in the Art Rotterdam art fair in the Van Nellefabriek for the very first time, in the booth of Rademakers Gallery from Amsterdam. For this occasion, I have made a number of new works. Kinetic sculptures in which your gaze is confused by means of paper spirals, that move through each other and are driven by gears. I also show a new version of the work ‘Pleased To Meet You’, the wooden bench with hundreds of wheels as a seating surface. In this work, the user is being offered some room for discovery. But I’m also looking forward to the exhibition in the Steur Building. Last year this was a first, in which I was able to sell two works to Museum Voorlinden, which was of course exceptional. This work is currently on show in the exhibition ‘Art is the Antidote’. For the upcoming opening of the Steur Building, I am making a work in the same location. This new installation requires a renewed use of the wall. You can see how that works during Rotterdam Art Week.
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