About Ieke Trinks

Posts by Ieke Trinks:

#10: Circulation of lines

I didn’t know much about Met Cloister, nor did I know what exhibit to expect to find there. One good thing about TPS is that it allows for an unprepared and uninformed participant. One can be ignorant at first and then find things out while visiting the place. In the first hours, while walking around, I learn that we are surrounded by medieval art works that were purchased and shipped from Europe to New York City. The pieces were placed in a building that is itself partly built out of separate ornamental pieces originating from different historical buildings of medieval Europe.

As a TPS participant my behaviour in museums differs from my regular visits to art museums. Participation makes me patient and more tolerant towards art outside the area of my interests. My focus was soon on the museum’s wall texts. Besides the facts about a work such as the techniques used, its material, country of origin, and period of creation, some texts also contain a short narration about a historical figure that the artwork represents. But what struck me in particular were the descriptions of works that mention missing parts, such as hands, arms, wings, or a baby Jesus.

In the short paragraphs of wall texts, material facts about production are combined with historic and mythological narratives, and then joined to the artwork’s current physical condition. In these texts several types of persons are also present. The first consists of the living historical figures, whether they are fictionally constructed or actually existed. Such figures include the Virgin Mary, a Bishop, a Saint, the Child Jesus, or a King. The second consists of the countless visual representations, and varied depictions that the physical artwork realizes. The third type are the makers of these visual and physical representations, some of whom have a name and others of whom remain unknown. A fourth type is the art historian, someone who oversees the writing, and a fifth the reader of a wall text.

I gave lines from wall texts to other participants. As I encountered the work, I wanted to add a sixth type of person to my list: persons who are present in the museum and embody parts of what a wall text says that are hard for me to relate to. From the wall texts that accompany the wooden carved artworks, I wrote down several short lines. I edited them by changing verbs from third person to first. To different participants I handed a different line of the result. It’s up to them whether they want to speak it out or just keep it in mind. I think of the theatrical element that this proposal entails, as it might bring us into an awkward form of role-playing. A few of the edited lines that circulated the museum were: 1)My celebrity derives from my reputation for curing victims of plague, having myself been miraculously cured of the disease.” 2) “My hands, which would have held the infant Jesus, are carved separately and have been lost.” 3) “In my right hand I once held a lance, and my wings are lost.” 4) “The lack of attributes makes the identification of myself uncertain.” 5) “My left eye is slightly higher than my right eye, so that seen from below, both eyes remain visible and appear focused on the Child.” 6) “Whatever I once held in my hands may have been a clue to my identity.”

My line in this performance was number 2) above: “My hands, which would have held the infant Jesus, are carved separately and have been lost.” I walk in a building of architectural fragments used to construct a cloister. There are artworks here that are also incomplete and together form an exhibition of medieval art with religious themes. The wall texts are created out of multiple voices. I rehearse my line aloud in the museum’s rest room. I say my line to the other participants of this performance, when I meet them separately. In some cases an exchange of words occurs, at other times we are in an awkward situation, not knowing what to do, and we silently separate, moving on.

Ventiko’s line was number 6): “Whatever I once held in my hands may have been a clue to my identity.” She manages to point out, using her line, that food is stuck between my upper right teeth. I sit down on a bench next to a visitor and remain silent until I speak my line without looking at the person. It’s as if I’m passing on a secret code. I walk randomly up to other visitors and begin, “My hands . . .” and I show my hands. I repeat the beginning of line, “My hands . . .” Someone asks: “What about your hands?” and looks confused. I then finish the line. I try speaking it with my hands in my pockets. People are puzzled and others are curious. Someone wants to see the infant Jesus and asks me where it is.

Photos: I.T.

#5: Static Painting

Choose one artwork and spend 15 minutes looking at it. Before all 5 of us start executing this idea, each one points out on the art fair’s map the gallery where one will go to watch an artwork.

My decision was arbitrary. I didn’t know the gallery, and I can’t remember from my earlier visit what kind of art is present there. When I walk into the gallery’s stand I don’t take the time to look around but go straight to the first work hanging on a wall. It’s near the gallerist table. As soon I stand still in front of the work I set the timer for 15 minutes.

I start looking at the artwork. What do I see? It takes a while to get my concentration into the activity of seeing. I’m distracted by the thought that I’m going to stand here for 15 minutes and that I might get noticed. An art fair is not a museum. In a museum one can spend time in front of a work without being noticed too much. Here it is unusual. My presence could be understood to be a provocative gesture. Could I be recognized as an art collector or a curator? If not, what could be my interest in spending such an amount of time this way?

I redirect my focus back on the artwork. Then the doubt comes in. Was this a good choice? Wouldn’t I rather spend time on a different artwork? Will this become a rewarding experience? Is it about having a rewarding experience? What does rewarding here mean? Is it rewarding if I discover something that I wouldn’t have known if instead I had taken a quick look at it?

I tell myself that time is the important factor, no matter what I’m looking at. There is always an opportunity to discover a deeper meaning or something unexpected to discover, as long one takes time for something. I am looking at a canvas hanging in a standing position with blue and pink paint. The blue is the first layer covering the whole canvas. The pink’s arbitrary brushstrokes are the second layer. When I take a closer look the pink strokes are vertical and seem to be carelessly placed. Here and there they overlap one another. I get the impression that the painting doesn’t want to be something other than paint on a canvas. I try to think figurative. I see a sky at sunset and pink clouds. I can’t stay long with this in my imagination. The painting doesn’t want me to make it into something other than a canvas with blue and pink paint.

What do I know of painting in general? Maybe I haven’t enough knowledge to read such a work. It worries me. I go for a different strategy. What do the colors mean to me? The pink reminds me of my early teenage period, where I was allowed to paint my own bedroom. I was warned to use subtle colors. The pink in my room was an ugly color, just like this pink. But the blue in the canvas is worse. Baby blue. I fail in my attempt to appreciate the work. It might be because I don’t know a few things: the title, whether it is part of a series, and who the artist is.

What was the artist’s intention? What if the painting is a detail of something bigger? What if the pink brushstrokes are an imitation of the artist’s studio wall? What if the painting is of a painting in its early moments of creation, when it is first being set up? Maybe I’m going too much into conceptual thinking. Why can’t it be a work that allows for brushstrokes intuitively placed? The painter taking pleasure in the action of painting.

I feel a sudden shock going through my body. For a moment I think I hear the gallerist’s voice addressing me, but it is to someone else. I wouldn’t know what to say to the gallerist but I am curious what she would say about this work. My attention is drawn to my body now. I suddenly think I’m too motionless and start shuffling my feet, change the position of my arms and move my head unnecessarily, as if I am actively browsing the painting. The alarm goes off. I turn around to see if the gallerist looks in my direction. Nothing happens, she talks with someone. Dazed I leave the stand.