interviews

‘Forward in full flight’

Sanne van den Elzen, Hommage, 2017 Sanne van den Elzen, Hommage, 2017

‘All at once I am in full flight! That has everything to do with the Stipendium for Emerging Artists that I was able to obtain at just the right time in my development.’

Sanne van den Elzen (1986) talks about the shaky steps at the beginning of her career, and, especially, about the flywheel effect of the Stipendium. ‘I have been a graduate for six years now and it has meant so much for my practice as an artist, it has really lifted off because of it. At the beginning of my studies at the AKV|St.Joost in Breda I was already looking forward to working autonomously; my only worry being: how to make a living as an entrepreneur in visual art? My advantage is that photography is my medium. Commissioned jobs, such as making portraits, can go hand in hand with my autonomous work. That works, but it is limiting. If you want to achieve depth as an artist, you eventually face the need to focus. And to experiment, in order to keep escaping rigid patterns.’
With the Hommage video installation (2017) that she was able to develop, thanks in part to the Dialogue Stipendium 2017, Fotodok, and the Stipendium for Emerging Artists, Van den Elzen has broadened the familiar frames of the portrait as an instantaneous photograph. The idea of fixed identity changes in this work. Van den Elzen herself appears on seven screens on the wall in a digital portrait gallery, face-to-face with seven people from her inner circle on opposite screens, including her beloved, her parents and a childhood friend. One by one, she asked them for 15 minutes of eye contact without speaking, thinking about a specific, shared memory. The silent meetings evoke various worlds. With her father, laughter cracks through the silence; with her sister, seriousness prevails. Hommage is a subtle model of diversity and connectedness.

‘Exciting times, with a very nice growth – abroad and under one roof with international names’

‘And the special thing is,’ she now explains, clearly delighted, ‘that this positive development continues further. These are exciting, pleasant times, with a very nice growth. My work Hommage has been acquired as a complete installation, including all the material and programming, by an art collector from Belgium, Peter Rodrigues, who has housed his private collection in Ghent in a former shoe factory. He opens it up to the public by appointment. I have just returned from installing it on site, together under one roof with big international names and young artists. For me it has been an instructive process, also in business terms, because, yes, I had sold work earlier, but now I had to deal with with a permanent installation abroad.’

Van den Elzen got to know Rodrigues during Rotterdam Art Week last February, where she participated in Prospects & Concepts, the annual overview of promising artists who have developed their work with a grant from the Mondriaan Fund. ‘He was charmed’, she recalls, ‘by the intimacy of the work. By the nuances in non-verbal communication and the vulnerability of body language, that may speak so much louder than words.’ And he was not the only one. For Hasna Bajraktarevic, manager of the art collection of the Dutch House of Representatives, there was also no way around it. In Rotterdam, she too immediately approached Van Elzen and invited her for collaboration in The Hague. Bajraktarevic: ‘We often exhibit video work in the public part of the Parliament Building, which receives Members of Parliament as well as visitors and staff members; a broad audience. We usually present work from the media art collection of LIMA in Amsterdam, but sometimes I also discover a gem myself. Such as Hommage, which I saw at Prospects & Concepts, a work that is both witty and moving at the same time. In the coming weeks, from 30 April to 25 May, we present the version that Sanne made for one monitor.’

‘It’s almost as if everyone meets at the Prospects & Concepts venue,’ Van den Elzen laughs: ‘from colleagues, friends and staff members of the fund to the minister, critics, art collectors and exhibition makers. As a platform where new art becomes visible, and as a meeting point, it has brought me a lot of good.’