Gilly van Zanten at Gastatelier LEOXIII
Gilly van Zanten, studio photos at LEO XIII, Tilburg, 2020
Dates: May 2020
Gilly van Zanten
Artist in residence
November 2019 – February 2020
at Gastatelier LEOXIII
Text by Lieselotte Egtberts
Gilly van Zanten at Gastatelier LEOXIII
In January, before the world had come to a standstill, I visited Gastatelier LEOXIII in Tilburg to speak with artist Gilly van Zanten in his residency studio. In 2019, van Zanten won the LEO price as he convinced the jury “with his multi-layered and experimental practice in which he demonstrates a great sensitivity for the relation between language, sound and objects.” The price granted him a residency in the large and open-spaced atelier at LEOXIII. There, he worked for 4 months on a site-specific performance with a corresponding soundscape, which was presented February 29 2020.
Art takes time
There are times when you experience an artwork, the ‘understanding’ comes immediately when observing it. It is a direct feeling of being hit with insight as an intuitive thought. But sometimes, art takes time and patience, as it comes more slowly and fragmented. This patience was also needed for me to ‘grab’ the work of Gilly van Zanten. When I visited him, and during our mail contact afterwards, it appeared to me that his style of speaking is very fragmented. This also applies to the way how van Zanten conducts his research, which almost alludes to cherry-picking: “Most of the time I read shreds of paper or open up this book just on the right page and continue to read that until I have the utter reaction to write myself about how I can use this or that theory, reflecting on my own life and practice, as they might go together.”
Taking charge of reality
In a way, how we perceive reality is thought for us through classification or (political) institutionalisation. This affects even the simplest of objects or ideas that we use in our daily lives. Everything plays at least their own symbolical role in this world, and this role you can discuss, or even appropriate. Artists, like Catherine Czudej for example, have found their way in constructing another approach to reality. By destabilizing and displacing common objects and conventions with a humorous approach, Czudej inverts and manipulates the familiar, and at the same time reveals a critical analysis of the conventional and the dominant.
The world that Van Zanten’s constructs also moves forward to a certain reality. It is a moving reality, between controlled and uncontrolled. It takes its place more or less between a floating and unnamed cosmos (which reminds of the Abrahamic personage of ‘Adam’, who named the world around him), and our fully constructed world, where all connections are social, political, linguistic constructions with consequences. He shapes a world where things can happen through both individual and collective intervention. Things are in constant movement and are allowed the time, space and freedom to develop as they come. “My reaction on the institutionalisation of feeling and symbols, became visually as a kind of ‘prepared- objet trouvé ‘in an arranged space. Something between controlled and uncontrolled- before and after the version of reality; a between space.”
Arranging the accidental
Even though the term ‘objet trouvé’ (found object) suggest that the accidental status of the object determines how it is to be understood, it is often so that the objet trouvé, presented in an art space, works more like a mould. It is as sticky as flypaper, as it attracts and draws all relations it can participate in, near. The ‘objet trouvé’ is not as arbitrary and inconsequential as it seems to be. By combining these concepts of the arbitrary with something that is prepared, arranged and thought out, van Zanten’s work results in a dynamic that moves between the static and the fluid.
This idea materialises most clearly in his work around soundscapes. During his residency, van Zanten worked together with friends and musicians, organising jam sessions. When I visited him in his studio at LEOXIII, the place looked like an experimental recording set, with instruments scattered around. “Today I’m focusing on the way improvisation and sound can contribute or interact; performing together to create a free space for understanding and thoughts.” The sessions resulted in In a Moment or Two We Tune In, a site-specific performance, from which a summary can be found online. With In a Moment or Two We Tune In, van Zanten embarks different types of interaction that sprout from improvisation. Improvisation, both during the jam sessions and his performances, allows for play within or even without a framework of set rules. In a Moment or Two We Tune In is the attitude of the experiment, as van Zanten creates a mental space for the things to happen, and the public to interact. It is in this freedom that a fluid reality is created, between the lines of the accidental and the staged.