A conversation between Bram van Damme and Heide Hinrichs on the day after
When was Vincent van Gogh born ?
Do you have to ask me that ? Do you
know it ?
Yes the year and the day.
I don’t know it.
On the 30th of March 1853.
I am curious, I organized the exhibition in Ieper, where you were showing your
pedestals. I think in the beginning there were a few things I didn’t realise,
for example the circus metaphor and I am curious how the circus metaphor has developed
since Ieper up to now in your work.
I wasn’t aware of this connection, but for sure the circus is here and was
present before, but the origin of the figure here is a completely different from
the origins of the work I showed in Ieper. But still it is playing with similar
elements. In Ieper the focus lay much more on presentation and now it is on the
movement against a structure. Also the medium is a different one: here it is video,
and performance and I’m dealing with the limitation of space. In Ieper there
were very small horses standing on white and red patterned pedestals, there was
much more irony. But the reversal is interesting: then the scaled down horses
on top of the pedestals, now the introverted video projection, but both are a
kind of criticism of presentation.
The clown is a subversive figure, who makes things visible and is showing a lot
despite his limitations and has the possibility and the role of stepping over
boundaries and to cross borders.
You know the title of the work: The Librarian,
the Clown and the Astronomer: Part One.
What is the story about the book?*, I am very
interested in that; it is like a not really visible red
thread through your work. What kind of role does
this book play in your work or literature in general?
The book is something like a reference, a point of departure, the figures (clown,
astronomer and librarian) have their origins in the book, although they don’t
feature as characters, but as buildings. What I am trying to do is to find a kind
of translation of the writing into the third dimension, if you can say it like
that, I’m trying to carry/translate/convey elements of form in the writing.
Literature is always a kind of description, realism is not possible in literature,
it is impossible to describe things precisely and for that reason archetypal figures
are used. I think of paper as melancholic, that literature sometimes can construct
I guess I am doing that somehow in this attempt at translation, by dealing with
the construction of spaces, that are more than single objects, and become a hint
at these literary spaces.
And you can do this with these finite objects?
It is more a description of a whole space, but
constructed with just a few, simple and fragile
It reminds me much more of theatre than architecture. There are two reasons: the
title makes me thinking of the Commedia dell’ Arte, where you also have
these archetypal figures such as the Arlecchino and the individual elements make
me think of drops – they are more than decoration almost symbolic elements,
like a bed on a stage to present a whole bedroom. And there is no pedestal anymore,
this installation is almost a stage, a set.
Yes the box is too big for a pedestal, but it has a
strong connection to the space around, it becomes
almost like architecture, but is functioning as stage,
both as a surface and an inner space (room, capacity).
This theatre, maybe theatre is not a good word.
I don’t know, this comparison between the objects and stage props has already
been made. They might have similar characteristics. They are built to be temporary,
fragile and light. But I believe, that these objects are much more focused on
themselves, that they are more concentrated or focused on themsel ves than stage
props. I always resisted this compari son, it feels like a valuation. Basically
I understand the objects as objects for action, which can be used, as medium for
something, as carrier of thoughts.
Maybe the connection towards the arts of thea
tre is not the one you like most, because it doesn’t
recall the best examples of good art.
Let’s talk about this beautiful bird.
There is another one inside the box. They are
looking at each other.
Is he swimming?
It is not clear where he is coming from, it is just
a hint of an animal and for that it is enough. There is
no need for a complete body.
In the beginning I wanted to use a real goose in the
Animals as different bearers of knowledge —
that is somehow similar to the archetypal characters
and the method of narration in literature.
And then I think about the pedestals, you have a
whole history of them, a hierarchy, a tradition of
pedestal thinking. There are some sculptors, who
are only dealing with pedestals. But in this case I
have the impression the question of hierarchy is not
important to you. The dimensions depend not only
on the architecture, they are relaying to an inner
power, to the clown inside, so that the feeling
comes up that the pedestal is growing and growing
through that what is happening inside.
Indeed the pedestal has two functions, the
upper side, the outside, and then the inner and it is
dealing exactly with that, to include a kind of life
factor. The growing is connected to the sound, the
rhythm, that is created through the steps and you
can find the same idea in the plants.
Of course you can find also the idea of dimensions
in your work, you are playing with proportions,
objects that are too small or too large and I asked
myself if this is a certain way of thinking.
I think most of my works are related in their size to the human body and reference
a human scale. But I think it is something more, it is way to direct the spectator
into a specific world. Even when the objects are objects, it becomes a transition.
I see them much more as a landscape than as single sculptures. It is connected
to the idea of models, or houses seen from a bird’s eye view. Is this meant
as a criticism of the hierarchical object?
I don’t see the lemon as a single piece, I see them all together with each
other and with the space in between them. The main focus is the interspace (the
And the objects are also in the interspace. The
objects are in the same time ephemeral and like bombs, like flowers and missiles. It is a similar form
to a flower, but in fact it is the underside of an old
kind of missile which is almost like organic form.
Is there a war story in the book ?
It is the story of a Prague Jew, who has been sent as a
child to England to be protected from the terror of
national socialism. It is about loss, mourning,
remembering, the generation of memory. It is not
about violence, but about the healing of wounds.
The grenades have become lemons. I thought
something like that, the lemons are also grenades,
but you are soon realising that these are friendly
bombs and not dangerous fruits.
*W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, 2002
in barrack, Gent 2007, pages 77–80