Interview: Frijke Coumans
Luca Curci talks with Frijke Coumans during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2019 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Frijke Coumans is a photographer graduated in Photography at the Academy of Art and Design St. Joost in Breda. She is intrigued by the difficult relation between the desire for control and balance, and the desire for chaos and irrationality. She finds these seemingly contradictory desires strikingly present in everyday life. She thinks the power of images is that they can portray what we cannot really comprehend with words. Images provide a totally different way of understanding and exposing reality and all those complex and infinite others around us. Inspired by Emmanuel Levinas and Friedrich Nietzsche, she is investigating her surroundings, her own behavior and assumptions, and try to turn these into new experiences: the experience is the only certainty.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Frijke Coumans – I came to photography through my interest in social science and every day observations. To this day, I photograph mainly just to have new experiences and try to understand my surroundings the best I can. I really believe in getting out in the world and even getting lost for a while until you figure out what it is you want to photograph. In my studio and at home these ideas about what I want to photograph are getting further elaborated and given shape. Sitting in a classroom or going to galleries never really helped me. Photography is all about responding to what’s going on around you and developing your instincts. For me, the value of art accrues in the interstices, hidden away from the “sexy” power machines. The value of art happens as gossip between artists. Tons of time is spent with peers at each other’s places, studios, getting high or drinking and looking at each other’s work, discussing, doubting, looking again. To quote Damien Hirst: “Art is about life, the art market is about money”.
LC – What are you currently working on?
FC – From April till June, I’m going to New York City for an artist in residency, so I’m mainly busy with preparing everything in order for the residency. A few months ago I visited an exhibition at the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven called ‘Carnival of the Oppressed Feelings’, where I read translated diaries from the Kurdish writer and activist Tuncay Korkmaz. His texts were about different interpretations of the concept of freedom. He writes about how our European view of freedom is heavily influenced by the media and capitalist culture. He wrote: “You need to strip your mind or the state-instituted presumption of otherness and instead start to develop a more powerful connection to meaning”. This made me think. A concept such as freedom seemed to have a more definite meaning. In my opinion, the desire for the unknown and the other represents the desire for freedom. I am doing a lot of research into the shifting definition of the concept of freedom at the moment: which has taken on many different nuances in the course of history. Why is freedom so hard to define? What is seen as ultimate freedom? The manufactured seems to carry the character of the free, but I want to investigate this further within this project.
LC – Which art themes do you pursue? What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
FC – Desire is always the central theme in my art, the desire for control and balance, and the desire for chaos and irrationality. In between this contrary desires I find some important questions: Unanswered questions represent a need, and fuel my projects and correspond to desire. I also want this to be the guiding theme in my new project, but specifically aimed at the desire for freedom. I do not only want to explore that freedom within my photography, but I also want to find more freedom in the way I present my art.
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
FC – Sometimes, unfortunately I’m not always able to be present at exhibitions where my work is displayed. I wouldn’t say that specifically the suggestions enrich myself an my art, more than just conversations. Often with the unexpected visitors, friends from exhibitors, or little kids. The people who notice other things about our conversations, because they listen in their own way.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
FC – Like all my projects, I’m never quite sure where I’m going at the beginning. Other peoples’ opinions and voices can get in the way or sidetrack you before you see your own vision through to the end.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
FC – It was a part of preexisting works, from a year and a half earlier. I made the project right after graduating at Art School. After four years of studying photography at the art academy it suddenly ended in the summer of 2018. The systematic way of working all of a sudden became completely voluntary. This provided a lot of freedom, which enabled me to bend my photography to my own needs without taking any kind of school organisms in concern.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? In which way did it inspire you?
FC – Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be present at the festival, and I haven’t seen any pictures yet, so I didn’t had the chance to get inspired.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
FC – I think it’s nice that there are many opportunities at many great locations.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
FC – The communication was really good and everything felt clear and accessible. I have to admit that I had different expectations. I thought my work would be exhibited in Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi, and that location really appealed to me. However, I was very honored to participate.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
FC – I think so, it’s kind of hard to say, because I wasn’t able to