Job Koelewijn

Loco Motion

8 March - 22 June 2008
work in collection

‘Actually I’ve never done anything other than seek the right form for my ideas.’ Ever since his debut in 1992, Job Koelewijn (Spakenburg, 1962) has been putting this statement by Man Ray into practice. Despite the diversity of his photographic works, sculptures and installations in terms of form and the use of material, they bear his own highly recognizable signature due to their distinct atmosphere and logic. At De Pont, Koelewijn has combined a number of existing photographic works and sculptures with works produced for this exhibition. Together they form one large installation in which the experience of the here and now constitutes a basic theme.

Job Koelewijn’s exhibition begins even before one arrives in the museum. Standing outside at the museum’s entrance is his Cinema on Wheels. The visitor is invited to take a seat; music sets the tone; the black wall frames the image and allows the eye to focus. In the space where we normally see the movie screen, there is an opening to the outside; rather than a film, reality itself is shown in a ‘continuous performance’. Nothing prevents the viewer from looking at Tilburg’s Goirkestraat with the same intensity as he would when confronted, for instance, with Vermeer’s Little Street in the Rijksmuseum.

Cinema on Wheels (1999) characterizes the way in which Koelewijn approaches life and art. Refusing to remain within its own boundaries, his art faces reality and, above all, the way in which we experience it. To Koelewijn, reality and the imagination coincide with each other. Pavilion, also from 1999, is a construction as large as a telephone booth; electric roll-down shutters can enclose it on four sides. At set times, the shutters roll down and enclose the visitor in darkness. The idea for this work relates to a serious car accident that Koelewijn experienced in 1983. Not only physically did this event give rise to a crucial turning point in his life. The intense awareness of life and death throughout a long period of convalescence has continued to be a major motivation in his life as an artist.

Koelewijn’s frequently unconventional methods wake the senses. In his photographic works, it is the mixture of poetry and incongruity that intensifies the observation.  A Balancing Act (1998) shows the artist on a sidewalk in midtown Manhattan; skyscrapers loom in the distance. With the utmost concentration, he manages to balance an unsteady tower of stacked glasses and trays. In Untitled (1995) he lies on the floor with a shaft of uncooked spaghetti in his mouth, and in Untitled (1999) we see him with dog ears over his eyes. Koelewijn’s photo works become etched in our memory with the poignancy of aphorisms.

Language has been the mainspring for Koelewijn from the very start. Over the past few years, books have moreover been given a place in his work. In maquettes and in several sculptures that have been carried out, they function as building blocks. One final piece, Horizon, will be added to these works at De Pont. The main exhibition area will be closed off by a long wall made of thousands of books, bolted tightly together. The colorful collection of covers is no more than an indication of what lies behind them. Across the entire length of the wall, water streams down incessantly. Koelewijn’s symbolic act can be interpreted on many levels. Does the cascade of water bring all those stories, insights and experiences to life? Or is it, in fact, a ritual of purification meant to wash them away? In another space, the placement of books on pedestals yields a sober contrast. Coming from a jukebox, the voice of the artist can be heard reading aloud. Among the texts is Marx’s Communist Manifesto, one of the titles placed on a list of ‘most dangerous philosophical and literary works’ compiled by Dutch and Flemish authors in 2004. In daily sessions, Koelewijn is working his way through this list by recording as he reads aloud. As a form of concentration, this ongoing project Ground (started in 2006) seems to resemble the ‘visual fasting’ evident in the photo work Bonnet (1992), where a man frees himself of excessive visual stimuli by placing a mirrored cube over his head.

At De Pont the book wall Horizon will be shown for the first time. The Clockshop, from 2003, has already appeared in previous exhibitions. This work is a reconstruction of a store filled with clocks, each of which has stopped at a different time. Only the store itself seems to be running; like a pendulum, it sways back and forth. In the exhibition Continuing Performance, held at Galerie Fons Welters in Amsterdam two years ago, the work was hung near the passageway next to the gallery owner’s office. Because of the oscillating movement, it substantially blocked access to the rest of the exhibition. At De Pont, too, the work provides access to the exhibition, which thereby can be entered only with a sense of timing. Our awareness of place and time undergoes yet another trial, however, since the work is not a repetition of anything done previously. On the basis of the same idea, a new situation has been created. The office of the Amsterdam gallery owner, which partly determined the width of the passageway, has been brought to De Pont in its entirety: kitchenette, inventory and all.

Koelewijn’s exhibition not only begins with such a ‘rite of passage’. Red, yellow and blue, produced specially for the exhibition space at De Pont, consists of three twenty-meter-long corridors of plexiglass. Each one – a red, a yellow and a blue – leads to a different part of the space and forces the visitor to ‘show his true colors’ by choosing one. 

Until the last minute, just prior to the opening of the exhibition, Koelewijn kept on thinking about the title and invitation. Would he, because this is his fifth large solo exhibition, opt for a black-and-white photograph from the early sixties that shows a boy blowing out the five candles on his birthday cake? Or use the magazine cover in which a well-mannered gentleman is presenting a picture of a caterpillar to a butterfly? And the title? Would Een frikandel heeft twee uiteinden (There are two ends to a hot dog) provide a proper balance, or would this be too sober? Should the title be a command? Stand and Deliver...? Dressed as eighteenth-century highwaymen in their 1981 videoclip, Adam & the Ants jumped out in front of bewildered passersby and sang ‘Stand and deliver, your money or your life! Try and use a mirror, not a bullet or a knife!’

website of the artist's gallery