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Interview: Exchange across borders with Evelien Cammaert

4 November 2020

By Lies Mensink

For our October 10×10 program on International Exchange we invited international artists and professionals to share their work in a new context and to exchange with us and each other. With COVID-19 cases rising, exchanging across borders no longer seemed feasible. As an Internationally oriented production house we continue to search for alternative ways. That’s why we asked each artist who was supposed to perform during the 10×10 October program to share their thoughts on international exchange in these trying times.

We invited wpZimmer and Workspacebrussels to each bring two distinctive artists to our 10×10 October program. Evelien Cammaert was curated by Workspacebrussels. She is a transdisciplinary artist, who makes performances and installations. Photography is usually the starting point of her research. She investigates the relation between images, landscape, nature and the experiencing body. Cammaert: ‘My work is often an attempt to bring the outside inside. Which is often not possible, but in this impossibility, I think there is a potential for a new kind of space. A space where you start questioning the relationship between outside and in.’

What were you supposed to show in Veem House? 

‘I was going to show Glowachrome Garden an installation with slide projectors, screens, and projected images in space. For this installation I worked with analogue photographs. The audience walks in and out and can witness a compositional process. Images, sounds and spatial elements are placed next to each other, they do or don’t relate, the audience walks through it.’

What to you is a fruitful exchange?

‘I think there are many aspects and levels of exchange. In the first place I think about the exchange between the audience and a work. Not even the artist involved, just the work and the people who see it. Then of course there are production houses and venues that facilitate that exchange. How artists get paid can be of influence to the fruitfulness of an exchange, I think good communication is key. This is very difficult and where it often goes wrong, and exchanges are cut short.’ 

‘There can also be an interesting exchange between artists. That has a lot to do with zeitgeist: what is happening now in the world to all of us? Artists work collectively, or individually, but at the same time. We’re not alone in how we are moving through life in this time. Everyone is reacting in their own way and is managing crises differently – more or less consciously. We should exchange with each other about that. Also in this corona crisis, I think the more consciously we react on this, the more there is potential for a fruitful exchange.’


How did you react to the corona crisis?

‘I found it super interesting to learn in a ‘slap-in-the-face’ kind of way that nothing is fixed and everything can change overnight. There’s a lot of pressure on me as an artist, to plan my creation process: finding spaces to work in, people to collaborate with, and financial support. With the lockdown all the plans I had been working on were suddenly cancelled. It was difficult and I know it is going to be difficult after this… but in a way I loved all the time that was freed up.’ 

‘The underlying current in my work is always time. I’m trying to create space to look at life in a slower way. For me that is also a mechanism to cope with acceleration. If I make a work about slowing down I give myself and the audience the chance to actually slow down- at least when I present it. This lockdown slowed us down on the level of daily life, which is something special and different.’

‘When everything started up again, I found that difficult. I understand this tendency to go as fast as possible, I also have that in me. But I would love to stop for a longer period of time and really take this moment to reconsider the system and what is wrong with it. Who is excluded; how is the money divided; how are we working and communicating with each other? This would be such a good moment to re-orientate and take the new reality of the pandemic into account, since it will probably continue for a while.’

How can we enable exchange across borders, now that travel is restricted? 

‘It’s very difficult, seeing each other live is so much more holistic than this 2D situation. For instance, I find writing emails in the way we do extremely tiring, it doesn’t open up exchange, it closes it. If we need to communicate via email I would love to write letters. It’s a slower, deeper way of thinking and another way of reading. It has the potential to open up a fruitful conversation.’ 

‘Honestly, I think exchange is about creating time for each other – time that does not have to have a specific purpose. Time is limited, and everyone wants a lot, all the time. Houses want to show a lot of artists -the more the better. It comes from a standpoint of enthusiasm, but this muchness of wanting everything to happen is creating too much pressure, I think, and it makes contacts shallower. I kind of believe in exchange for the exchange, and not for anything else. Throwing away all the organization and agendas sometimes can be extremely fruitful. It allows for things to emerge that you could not possibly have thought of in advance.’

Is there something you would like to share? 

‘A book that has inspired me is Juhani Pallasmaa’s The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Pallasmaa is a Finnish architect and architectural theoretician who has written inspiringly on the rich sensory impact of architecture on our experience. He questions how vision is centred as the dominant sense in all that we do. We have other senses, touch, smell, hearing, that are at least as important, all are connected. For me as a photographer it is interesting to think about this. For me photography is not only two dimensional, but something you can experience in your entire body. That’s what I search for and try to create in my work.’