Birgit Donker blogs

Bridging worlds

Next year, the imagination and our relation to the world around us will take centre stage in the Dutch Pavilion in Venice, which will be filled with the work of Iris Kensmil and Remy Jungerman. Together with curator Benno Tempel, they developed the exhibition ‘The Measurement of Presence’, which forms not only a place for new work by these two artists, but also a tribute to the artist stanley brouwn, who died last year. The latter had a solo exhibition in Venice in 1982. Kensmil and Jungerman create new work resounding their own voices and also their wide view of the world they share with brouwn.

(L) Remy Jungerman, image in front: FODU. HOLDER, 2015; image at the back: INITIANDS, 2015. (R) Iris Kensmil, Rhythm of Dutch spoken Words, 2015. Foto: Gert Jan van Rooij

(L) Remy Jungerman, image in front: FODU. HOLDER, 2015; image at the back: INITIANDS, 2015. (R) Iris Kensmil, Rhythm of Dutch spoken Words, 2015. Foto: Gert Jan van Rooij

The artists have created work in which bridging places, cultures and times has an important role to play. And they relate to modernism, the art movement that, amongst other things, brought forth De Stijl and to which staney brouwn added a human measure. That is why it is no coincidence and highly appropriate that Benno Tempel should be the curator of this exhibition. He is, after all, director of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, with a collection that excels in De Stijl. His proposal originates from a fertile context and incidentally makes visible the unity of established modern art and its surprising, contemporary continuation.

In this plan, both artists come into their own, adding to the work of the other and carrying modernism to the present day: Jungerman who lets himself be nourished by what the spirits tell him, and Kensmil who gives meaning to the as yet unknown history of a number of black women who dedicate themselves to their ideals, as writers, activists or artists. Just like brouwn did previously, for example with his measurement system based on the body. The exhibition aims to add another perspective to themes such as identity and the relation to the other.

Overview Dutch Pavilion 2015. Photo: Judith Jockel

Overview Dutch pavilion 2015 Photo: Judith Jockel

After three solo exhibitions in the Dutch pavilion in Venice, by Mark Manders, herman de vries and Wendelien van Oldenborgh respectively, a duo exhibition will be on show. Even though it was not what the jury had in mind specifically, this exhibition relates to themes that were also central to Van Oldenborgh, such as identity and the relation to the other. The Black Archives, the archive that sets down the history of black Dutch people and that Iris Kensmil will be cooperating with, formed a source of knowledge and inspiration for Van Oldenborgh too. With that, the exhibition matches what is sometimes referred to as the ‘choreography’ of Dutch contributions to the Biennale.

For the fourth time, the selection was made by an expert international jury after an open call. Unlike previous years, the shortlist has not been made public. If the shortlisted candidates themselves choose to go public with their selection, we do not prohibit this, of course. It is after all quite an honour to pass through the first round of no less than seventy proposals. But in the end, only one of them can go to Venice. In this case that involves two artists, standing on the shoulders of illustrious predecessors.