Hans Overvliet | Artist in Residence
Distant Suffering, Installation & Photography, Photo Courtesey Anne Breel, Hans Overvliet, 2017
from The Netherlands
During his residency at SEA Foundation, Hans Overvliet continues to work on his ongoing project Distant Suffering (2013-). In this project, Hans Overvliet approaches a variety of topics with a critical attitude: art, war and destruction as presented in mass media productions, mass consumption, the disappearance of historical context, the act of claiming an event versus its objective documentation and finally the safety of the exhibition space. By reconstructing and deconstructing existing media images, Overvliet enables us to re-evaluate these images in a completely different way. The work does not provide us with an end point, but rather it creates a breathing space instead; a moment to get out of the narcotic, fast flow of the frightening media spectacle.
The current iteration of this project, Distant Suffering XIV | i.d. of a shared cloud #2, the ‘book’, will be accompanied by a performance during his exhibition at SEA. The performance consists of putting together one’s own ‘book’ with each individual visitor: pasting 1000 photos of clouds/explosions into a grid. The visitors participate in the performance by compiling their own unique ‘book’ on the spot in collaboration with Hans Overvliet. Performance and book are therefore essentially linked in this exhibition.
Hans Overvliet has been investigating the role of the mass media with regard to reporting on (military) violence and the fading memories of war violence since 2013. As a reporter, Overvliet was an eyewitness to the events in the Middle East during the 1980s, and his experiences resonate in Distant Suffering. The title distant suffering is taken from Luc Boltanski’s book Distant Suffering, Morality, Media and Politics. Overvliet employs an apparently controversial strategy: that of poetic images, inspired by the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822): Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
Among other things, Hans Overvliet investigates the ‘ownership’ of the incident, as well as the stories passed down versus their documentation. The themes have a strong connection to visual culture in general, particularly the information overload and its thoughtless consumption. In the project Distant Suffering, Overvliet questions the role of the viewer and his own role as an artist, as well as the neutrality and security of the art space.
Art critic Nico Out recently wrote about Hans Overvliet’s work: “[…] Behind the formal aspect of Hans Overvliet’s work lies a strong engagement with the troubled places in the world. [….] In his work, transience gains an extra layer of meaning. In “Anatomy of a cloud” and “Syrian skies” he refers to the destruction of human life during wartime in a subdued and haunting way …”