SITE LAB project
SITE LAB Online artist residency initiated by ZAC (Zest Artist Collective) LAB-SITE is an online artist residency program initiated by Elena Redaelli and Karin van der Molen (ZAC). This project is an open-ended, pilot program intended to find solutions, new brewing possibilities in a time that calls for change. Due to the recent restraints imposed on culture and international mobility, we found ourselves in need of reshaping our site-specific, siteresponsive practices while maintaining collaboration and critical thinking alive and active. Thus, we created a virtual space to connect and discuss with an inspiring setting of collaborators, reaching out to our audience in new and engaging ways. The program included the participation of several artists, of which, five have been included in this publication. • Karin van der Molen • Sue Pedley • Lily Balasanova • Agnes Deli • Elena Redaelli The residency has been a three months process of patterning and re-patterning ideas in a fluid manner. We opened to contamination in a space where to discuss our works, exploring the context of our practices, read dedicated literature and challenge our ideas.
WATERLOOPBOS - A TEST LOCATION As a communal virtual ground for our projects, we chose a specific site in The Netherlands: The former hydraulic laboratory in the Noordoostpolder (a man-made land). Hard to imagine these days; but, how do you calculate the complex forces that exert their influence on a major water management project without the aid of a computer? In the analogue days, engineers did this by simulating reality. In the nineteen fifties and sixties water currents were tested here in scale models of the ports of Rotterdam, Lagos, IJmuiden, Istanbul and Bangkok. Since the testing activities moved to a computer lab, and the scale models were reclaimed by nature, the area has been turned into a public forest called Waterloopbos. The old water ducts and sluices are now full of plants and shrubs. Wildlife such as kingfishers and dragonflies have made their home here next to flowing waters. A unique place where the forest interacts with the dated technology. For our residency program, the artists virtually engaged with this site, investigating different aspects: its history and symbolic meaning. We were inspired by the imperative presence of the water element and its profound relation with human beings and the body.
HYDRO FEMINISM The artist’s creation has been permeated by the concept of Hydro feminism in Astrida Neimanis: “Hydrofeminismò: on becoming a body of water.” (in Undutiful Daughters: Mobilizing Future Concepts, Bodies and Subjectivities in Feminist Thought and Practice, eds. Henriette Gunkel, Chrysanthi Nigianni and Fanny Söderbäck. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) The article describes how our bodies and minds become permeable to an extended environment, perceiving ourselves as part of a whole, enlarged system and less as isolated entities. Water, inside and outside of our bodies, between ourselves and the world: that what makes us equal and fluid. Water as the environment, the generator, the mother. Our skins are porous to the environment, containers and membranes towards the rest of the world. The whole being an entangled reality of beings exchanging, deeply involved in each other’s existence. Incessantly giving and receiving: a spontaneous, irrational and unaware act. Each of the five artists in this publication has been reflecting on the logic of water: dynamic, unstable, fluid, pervasive. Contamination is present: ingestion, penetration and release. Water is an archive of meaning and matter, a body that holds the invisible presence of time, human actions.
We discussed the idea of “water commons” and us being connected between ourselves, with the world, with history and layered times. We are a fluid body of women. Water is both singular and plural - it is shared. We researched from the immaterial space of an online platform, relating to a physical site with fluid concepts. We used a wide variety of art mediums and engaged in dynamic collaborations.
ÁGNES DELI The majority of Deli’s works are site-specific installations, always composed for the given space, taking into account the proportions and aura of the particular place. The choice of material she uses is mainly governed by simplicity and is relatively easy to shape. She uses the new mediums of sculpture naturally, often combining two kinds of materials with opposing characteristics. This double nature (rigid–pliable) can function in her works as an ordering principle. The strikingly sensual minimalist shapes contrast with the standoffish distance of classical minimalism in that they are saturated with vitality. The reduced shapes are the result of an intense process of compacting and intensifying, dictated by artistic ergonomy. Agnes Deli was born in Mohács (Hun) in 1963. She started with her studies in Mohacs followed by attending Teacher’s Training School, Janus Pannonius University Pécs, Faculty of Drawing and Geography. Between 1988 and 1991 she was a sculpture student at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, completing her sculptural studies in Budapest at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts (1991-95). She also studied her Master course (1991-95), and later her DLA studies (2000-2003). From 1994 to 1998 she was deputy chair of the Studio of Young Artists Association, and since 2007 has been a senior member of the Hungarian Sculpture Society. She teaches at several universities and is a professor at the Faculty of Art of Kaposvár University since 2014, having habilitated? at the University of Pécs in 2013. Her works have been regularly exhibited since 1991, with numerous solo exhibitions in Hungary and abroad.
Continuity, Circulation and Togetherness. It’s always a challenge to reflect and use the actual situation; each place has a different physical, emotional or historical, geographical property. The first impression of a site can be a starting point of a discussion between the space, the background and the artist. The final work for our Site Lab project is a short film made with the help of my family. My husband helped shoot the film, my daughter edited the film, my younger son sings while my older son edited the music. The process was to collect materials and shape the hand with plaster. I made a negative form of ice from dough around the positive plaster form. I filled this form with water and then froze it. Water is life, water freezes, becomes liquid, again then under the influence of fire, heat, it regains its original form. The performance is about Continuity, Circulation and Togetherness. The music originally belonged to a folk children’s play. “Hide and seek here I go I’m carrying a fiery shovel, I say one, I say two, I’ll find you on the third.”
KARIN VAN DER MOLEN Karin van der Molen’s visual work is based on free sculpture, stemming from a deep relationship with the environment and society. An important part of her professional art consists of making site-specific works. She uses the materials (ranging from waste to natural materials) that can be found in the surroundings. She is inspired by the relationship between man and nature, but also the culture-historical elements play an important role. Her works often invite you to take a moment to be isolated from the rest of the world and to reflect on being there. Some of her sculptures invite the passer-by to enter physically. Karin is fascinated by tissues, connections and growth processes. She uses visual material and information about those processes as a starting point and inspiration for her visual work. Hidden underneath are the questions about how and why something grows. In her recent work, the artist examines growth that gets out of control, and growth that changes or prevents other developments. Karin’s sculptures and site-specific interventions have been exhibited internationally, including in Australia, Japan, Germany, Poland and the USA.
Cocoons The text On becoming a body of water, inspired me to look in a different way to the former Hydraulic laboratory and what can be researched there. Beyond the scientific aspects of water currents and water characteristics, water is the main substance that all life on earth is made of. How does that relate to us, humans? How can that idea serve to reveal the true nature of things? And how can I translate that into work? As the article states, we consist of a big part of water, just as all other species, animals, plants, the oceans and the earth. We are separated from all others merely by our skin. Our skin is spun like a cocoon to hold our spirit, reason and feelings within the boundaries of what we call ‘me’. This being without boundaries is a call for opening up, like the call for the artist residency or the call of my studio. In the flow of making intuitive work during this residency, I started to make cocoons out of fishing nets. Empty shapes that could have held a human body, like the casket of a mummy. When I finished my fifth rough cocoon they were a complete family. Once they were there they started to reveal their meaning. The cocoons looked like they were shed like the skin of a snake, or the cocoon of a caterpillar after the butterfly has freed itself and flew away. They are transparent, flexible and permeable. Like skin, they feel solid and sturdy. Now they are an empty casing, floating through the air. The rough figures asked for refinement, for a multi-layered story. I added capricious water reflections on their surface. The loose and endlessly changing shapes of these water reflections refer to the free spirit that was held inside the cocoon. All that was inside has gone with the tide.
SUE PEDLEY Sue Pedley is an artist who researches place, community, culture and history in relationship to materiality through site-specific installation, drawing and interdisciplinary practice. A recent collaborative work - Tracing Water - with Iwaki Kazuya, a Japanese architect, explored water usage in a rice-growing community in Japan, commissioned by the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial 2018. In 2020 Sue created a drawing installation for the Manly Dam Project at the Manly Art Gallery in collaboration with the University of New South Wales Hydraulic Research Centre. Sue has received Australia Council residencies in Vietnam (2008), London (1993) France and Germany (1985); and an Asia Link residency in Sri Lanka (2001). Other residencies include Tokyo Wonder Site (2012), Redgate Studio Residency, Beijing (2011), Banff Art Centre, Canada (2007) and Bundanon Trust (2016). Exhibitions include Patches of Light – Sue & Peggy Pedley – Queen Victoria Art Museum and Gallery, Tasmania (2019); Tracing Water - Echigo TsumariArt Triennial 2018, Japan; Orange- NetWork, Ningbo Art Museum, China (2019), Mosman Art Gallery (2017), Spare Room, Elizabeth Bay House, Historic Houses Trust, Sydney, (2007); Blue Jay Way, Heide Museum of Contemporary Art and Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest (2007). Sue has also participated in the Setouchi Triennial (2010) and Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial (2006) in Japan.
In 2020 I was invited to participate in the “LAB – a virtual online artist residency” with five other artists, from Russia, Finland, Spain, Hungary and the Netherlands. The idea of an online residency took shape as an alternative to travelling all over the world, as all of us had done before, to make work on site. The challenge for this residency was to make site-specific work for a place where we could not be physically present. Layers of imagery Waterloopbos #1 and #01. Via the internet, I received a link to two hundred photographs of the hydraulic models at Waterloopbos. Through a process of tracing those images onto sheets of drafting film, I built up the layers and layers of linear marks in blues and greens that form the finished drawing. Waterloopbos #01 is the carbon copy of all the layers of imagery. Waterloopbos #2 and #02 Over four hundred species of mushrooms grow in the forest of Waterloopbos, some of which grow in no other regions of Europe. Using Google translation I translated the list of mushrooms from Dutch into Russian, Hungarian and Italian. On drafting film, I traced the lists of the mushrooms layer upon layer. Waterloopbos #02 is a carbon copy of all the lists of mushrooms in multiple languages. Finished, but hopefully not final. Diagrammatic in form, the drawings could be a preparatory work for a future physical intervention onto the site.
LILY BALASANOVA Lily Balasanova is a Moscow based artist. Lily holds an MFA degree from the prominent art school - the Moscow Academy of Textiles. In 1993 she was in residency at De Vrije Academie (The Hague, the Netherlands). Since the 90-s Lily works with well-known international art galleries and takes part in numerous shows, museum projects and international art fairs. Much of her work has been acquired by private and state museum collections. At the turn of two centuries, it has become clear that digital technologies persistently and violently intrude into everyday life and influence our mentality, creativity and even human nature itself. Our relationship with the environment is undergoing turbulent changes as we peer into the distance trying to grab the outlines of the vague future. Participation in the SITE LAB project is an opportunity to develop a new approach to these concepts. Since this virtual project is rather unusual for site-specific art, from the very beginning there was a decision to find a way to express ideas in a media, which is not typical of our previous artistic experience. Sound art has become a good challenge and great inspiration for this particular work of Lily Balasanova. She created several sound and video pieces as a mood board.
Between the Lab and the Landscape. Starting work, I found myself between the Lab and the Landscape, as well as a straight line and a circle. Finally, I found myself in a stream of Water, which has become the main subject matter of our joint travel. Water is a powerful element essential for all living beings and shared by every cell of our bodies – equal in this oneness. Water unites us as a starting point of any civilization and connects us as a common transportation system. Water also separates us, leaving each one of us alone on an ‘island’, philosophically and sometimes actually, during this dramatic time we live. 1. Lab #1. Here is a secret life of a hypothetical laboratory, where some experiments are carried out, but many things go their own way uncontrollably. Real sounds produced by water droplets and bubbles were recorded for this video. This mesmerizing, monotonous sound along with a restless chaotic motion implies a growing entropy. 2. Sand & Water. This video was created to evoke personal sensations about water as well as a short simple story about the life cycle. Call Across the Waters is created in collaboration with Pat van Boekel and Karin van der Molen. The video is our artistic tribute to this very special place, including a sound composition that is a spirited call across boundless Water.
ELENA REDAELLI She is a maker and researcher. Her practice is based on a deep relationship with place (site responsive, environmental art) and society (participatory projects). She explores matter, transformation, processes of generation and decay involving different levels of control and challenging the boundaries of authorship and active intervention. Sometimes the material takes the lead, other times the participants or the environment itself does; in a constant process of transformations, improvisation and exchange. The act of art-making is an interrogative process within a new environment and her personal way to get closer to new cultures and people. The material is considered as a carrier of meaning, able to narrate stories. She vaues, researches and utilises ancient practices: hand-weaving, knitting, crochet, felting, embroidery and paper making. In her projects, slow-paced production techniques are combined with new media. She cares about environmental sustainability, researching and promoting the use of natural, recycled and local materials. She believes in the necessity of exchanging ideas, processes and methods with other people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds to foster the creation and develop critical thinking. She holds an MFA from UCA, London and a degree in Sculpture from the Rome Fine Art Academy. Since 2009 she’s been working as a professional artist, exhibiting her work internationally and developing practice through several residency programs.
Present - Absent During the time of the LAB-SITE residency, I had to reposition my way of working in response to the site. I chose to consider two elements, crucial to ground the immaterial context we addressed. I reasoned about the deep inter-actions occurring among water and humans. Water became the imaginary fluid that surrounded and permeated our discussions and the developments of our thoughts and ideas. I felt deeply influenced by the other artists participating in the program, by their ideas and attempts to grasp or represent the essence of the site. I’ve thought about water concerning the feminine aspects of existence such as a place for the creation of an active force of life. In response, I’ve spent time drawing and writing, focusing on the shape of this element: its essence, transparency, its ability to fill space and to change form. I’ve also reflected on its absence. Thinking about how much memory is carried in liquid form I could visualize this once physical presence in the space left by it or in the marks that remain on the landscape. Cracks, holes, caves and valleys made me perceive the existence of water. My work is a visual investigation of the hollow space of a cave. A place with a proper atmosphere, void and full; where stories of the time, animals, plants and humans are invisibly archived. Written on the surface of the earth we can witness the result of deep contamination or a secret way of communicating among elements. We, humans, are a part of this system of interdependency, small drops of something bigger. The resultant piece is a mesmerizing visual and audio experience of a suspended space. Sound design by Gigi Giustinani.
Front cover by Sue Pedley April 2021