Matthijs Bosman : www.matthijsbosman.nl
Jean-Michel Crapanzano: Matthijs, there are many ways to take a look at your work. You deal with fictions, urban strategies, public’s participations, unimaginable stories, legends, lies, hoaxes and rumours. We see models, sculptures and installations in open spaces, performances and theatrical scenes. The public is therefore an important part of your work: how important is it for you to conceive projects in open spaces and why?
M.B: To achieve that there are many ways to look at my work is a goal in itself to me. I look upon these fictions, legends, strategies, etc. as building materials for my art-pieces. I love it when my work has to compete with all the other stories, ideas, lies and newsflashes that the public is bombarded with. When I work in public space, my audience is often unprepared, I catch people off-guard. With this approach I like to deny the art-world from time to time, turn my back to it. It’s a relief to do so, but after that, it also feels great to work in a white cube again for a ‘professional’ audience. I seem to be someone who is mostly occupied with realising his own boyish dreams and desires. Art and it’s (accidental) audience seems to be the best stage for this, by far.
J.-M. C. : You explore urban legends and myths through several installations. Urban legends are interesting for us because of its relation with myths and belief. “Many urban legends depict horrific crimes, contaminated foods or other situations, which would affect many people. The teller of an urban legend may claim it happened to a friend, which serves to personalize, authenticate and enhance the power of the narrative.” Source : Wikipedia. One of the most famous urban describe how Coca-Cola developed the drink Fanta to sell in Nazi Germany without public backlash originated as the actual tale of German Max Keith, who invented the drink and ran Coca-Cola's operations in Germany during World War II. I think personally that urban legends are actually a very important subject matter: the fact that U.S. government lies and spread rumors that Irakian regime was supposed to have and may use weapons of mass destruction is probably one of the most tragical example of what urban mythology is.
Can you explain why do you have a fascination for urban mythologies and where does this fascination started ?
M.B: I see artists as thought-inventors. I realised that when I was still in the Art-academy. Among other things it lead to my first of several art pieces in cooperation with a hypnotist. I had written a memory of a walk through a house, which was read to the participants while they were under hypnosis. I ‘implanted’ the event in their minds. In later editions I found out that it is not so much this art piece, but the story of the art piece, the anecdote it provides, that spreads like wildfire. Using the metaphysical strength of a myth, legend or lie, emphasises the purpose of my art; to start an unusually poetical or romantic thought. These thoughts should have the comforting qualities of a mental escape from life. As I said; they are my materials. So are steel, concrete or a play from time to time. The increasing power of stories is very hot; products, services, political parties or even individuals with a good public story to them are generally found more interesting then others, nowadays.
I’m reality’s own spin-doctor, and to hell with the ones that use spun reality to do serious harm. Nonetheless that’s what people do. Your examples show that stories are extraordinarily powerful. They can start wars, destroy lives, save banks, raise children or make me drink Fanta.
J.-M. C. :The notion of “emptiness” is also a big part of your work: installations “Absent sculpture tour” and “A promising emptiness” in Deventer–NL- Empty houses, or non-practical houses or models placed into a landscape. The contradiction with your interest for people’s participation is evident and very interesting at the same time. You combine two antonymic statements. What are your intentions behind this?
M.B: I don’t see them as completely contradicting, actually. A world without people would be an abandoned one. It would be one great monument to human life on earth. The absence of people can make them more present even. For instance, an installation of a room that looks and feels as if somebody is about to enter is more about human presence then a sculpture of a person. This kind of ‘pregnant void’ is very attractive to me. It makes me long strongly for whatever is going to happen next, and fantasise about it. To me it would be too tragic and frustrating to try to create a sense of time or motion in something as static as a sculpture of a man for instance. Furthermore, the fact that people sometimes participate in my art projects does not necessarily mean that there input becomes tangible. Their side of the story can be felt in the project as content, not seen as shape. Although I have had some very successful experiences with participating public, I’m also convinced that people’s physical participation in art-projects is a highly overrated way to include them or even worse, turn them into accomplices of the ordering party. Looking at art is already in itself participating in it.
J.-M. C. : you are also a performer. The “Situationist-Dadaist” performance in Geldrop, a serious joke if I can say that, blurred the notions of reality and fiction. You acted as real, which is not the same as to act as an actor. I like that work very much for it’s sense of humour of course, but also by it’s almost political and ironical statement. I am also in my own work interested by differences between social-classes, elites and games of power, acting, behaviours and dissimulations. What have you experienced during the performance, something unexpected? And what have you learned from it?
MB: The whole project was one big confirmation of how much people love a contemporary fairy-tale if you will. ‘A young, working class hero-type inherited a castle!’ The overall enthusiasm for the myth I created with my family emphasized that the gap between ‘all of us’ and ‘the (even) more fortunate then us’ is still very current. It also shows that cultural heritage can be really noticed again, given that the right approach is used. Stop reconstructing fortifications and palaces, it’s a highly un-historical thing to do! Start inviting people to amazing trains-of-thought.
One of the strangest things I noticed in my time as ‘Lord of Geldrop’ was that all sorts of people find their way to you. There’s no reason to leave your castle; the world will come to you. For instance I received letters from a man that had noticed the rotating sky-beams that I had set up for a party. You know, those big beams of light that wave through the air at night. He was worried that I was trying to attract visitors from ‘the east’. Showing ‘the reds’ a place to land their planes… There were many letters and presents, by the way. Also things that made me uncomfortable to receive. There was a great local cook who came to prepare a five course dinner for us as a present. Before accepting her gift I felt I had to let her in on our secret; the whole thing being not real. She said ‘now that I know this, I want to cook for you even more!’ and she did and it was great. It does something to you, you know, being a lord and all. Even if you have made it up you start to feel a bit superior… Couldn’t help it.
Near the end I also started to feel vulnerable. I lived in a big empty castle with my wife and our two small children. People were following our every move, drew strength from the story, persuaded others to believe us, even news reporters did. And I was about to tell them it was all based on a lie. In my mind I saw them banging on our front door, carrying axes and torches. Fantasy and reality got mixed into a whole new thing, and I don’t feel I have reached the limit to that yet.
J.M-C : If you imagine the future of humanity, what gives you the energy to wake up or not wake up every morning ? What makes you confident or afraid of ?
MB: What are you, my psychiatrist? I already spend too much time on questions like these as it is.
Having to wake up can be a terrible experience. Dying seems far worse to me, though.
People looking at me for input makes me feel confident. Fantasies becoming real make me feel afraid.
It’s comforting to think that people will still be here, thousands of years from now and realising that puts things in perspective.
It also raises a question: where will we put our stuff? If we keep wanting to hoard and preserve ‘important’ things the way we do now, the planet will become a stuffed garage.
Say yes to inflatable replicas of historic buildings!
And make way for new history.