Distant Suffering XIV | i.d. of a shared cloud #2
Hans Overvliet, Distant Suffering XIV | i.d. of a shared cloud #2, 2018, digital prints, work in progress.
Distant Suffering XIV | i.d. of a shared cloud #2
This exhibition is the result of Hans Overvliet’s continuous project Distant Suffering. Overvliet re-uses the photo’s of 1.000 explosion clouds from the project in order to create the new iteration of the project, Distant Suffering XIV | i.d. of a shared cloud #2. During a performance, Hans Overvliet co-creates several unique artist books in collaboration with four other participants.
By doing this, Hans Overvliet makes each individual participants the co-author of a book. Viewed from the perspective of authenticity, this can be seen as a rather odd or even controversial choice: not only does Hans Overvliet partially distance himself from the artistic production of his work, but arguably he also relinquishes the claim to artistic authenticity by letting other participants freely create the entire content of the books as well. And yet quite contrarily, this specific form of production will create a sense of uniqueness for each book according to Overvliet. A uniqueness created through the procedural rhetorics of co-creating the books.
The procedural rhetorics of repetition
Co-creation through repetition plays a central role in this performance, as this process creates a specific rhetoric. In his artistic practice, Hans Overvliet always seeks to establish an unique relationship between him, his audience, and the resulting artwork; one that is based on learning from each other. In Distant Suffering XIV, the act of repetition is crucial to establish this relationship. By framing the photo’s of explosions within the repetitive acts of manually selecting, cutting and pasting, Hans Overvliet seeks to put the emphasis on these photos by connecting them to the muscle memory of the participants, and by doing so, providing the participants with the necessary peace and quiet to let the images sink into one’s consciousness as well. This process leads to an active interaction with these photos as opposed to a passive consumption; achieved by nudging the participants into questioning what they do and see during the process. By doing this, Hans Overvliet tries to evoke the participants’ aversion against the mindless consumption of these images, by physically mimicking the same repetitive process in which photo’s like these are presented to the onlooker in mass media and the internet at even larger quantities and faster paces.
Paradigm of speed
The choice for this repetitive process and the materiality of the selected images are grounded in Overvliet’s critical attitude towards contemporary mass media. The internet and its paradigm of speed as discussed by Dr. Dani Ploeger, is the starting point of Hans Overvliet’s work. The overload of information, including the depiction of military violence in contemporary media is staggering, both in terms of the vast quantity of images as well as the pace in which these is made available to us. The philosopher Paul Virilio discusses the paradoxical consequences of this. Instead of facilitating a more detailed assessment of events and thus trigger empathetic action on the side of the recipient, the fast sequence of detailed mediatizations of catastrophes and threats promotes a permanent state of fear. Whereas, in previous media eras, fear used to be ‘related to localized, identifiable events that were limited to a certain timeframe’, it has now increasingly become an environment that determines everyday life.
Hans Overvliet’s choice to incorporate repetition into the performance is a reaction to this paradigm of speed in the contemporary mass media, using temporally disruptive qualities of this repetitive and manual process as a rhetoric to evoke thoughts and a means to establish an active, haptic relation with the images. By providing the space and time to develop additional connotations, ideas, and opinions around these images, Hans seeks to create personal, unique relations between the participants and the artist’s books: books that are both created by their own hand, as well as enriched with their own personal ideas and perspectives.
This additional layer of meaning, created and projected onto the works by the individual participants, is the crucial aspect which elevates Overvliet’s work above the act of merely scrutinizing mass media and the depiction of military violence. While critically reflecting on the depiction of military violence in contemporary mass media is undoubtedly a major theme within the oeuvre of Hans Overvliet, it is not the only goal which he wants to achieve with his work. While the destruction and devastation depicted in the photos of Different Suffering are indeed disturbing if given the time to actively review them, there is nevertheless an aesthetic element to them as well. In trying to describe this aspect, Hans Overvliet often refers to the words of the artist Armando, who describes this seemingly contradictory experience as the “Schönheit des Böses”, the beauty of that which is evil.
This simultaneous experience of something bad whilst also considering it to be aesthetically pleasing in some way, is the poetic experience which Hans Overvliet strives for in the entirety of Distant Suffering. This ambiguous affective experience is what defines the poetic expression in the work of Overvliet. Through the use of repetition as a procedural rhetoric, Hans Overvliet creates a connection between the artist’s books and the participants, allowing them to reflect on the nature of images which can be both shocking in terms of the events which they depict, but can simultaneously be considered beautiful because of their poetic expression. This process makes the participants of the workshop the co-authors of the books by allowing them to add their own layers of meaning to the pictures. Hans Overvliet does this with the final goal of leaving a lasting impression on anyone who sees his artworks; this experience is what makes his art practice worth it to him.
The artist wishes to thank s.b.k.m. Middelburg and Mondriaan Fund for their support