Sabine de Graaf | WARP
Studio encounter. SEA Foundation Tilburg 2020
05.06. – 05.07. 2020
Sabine de Graaf
Lieselotte Egtberts and
Sabine de Graaf discovered her niche. Want to know more? Keep on reading.
Sabine de Graaf is a Breda based artist operating in various mediums ranging from videos, sculptures, and installations. Her works are not tied to one subject, on the contrary, they reflect the artist’s observation of the real world and respond to it in a playful and absurdist way. The moment of surprise, nonsense, and humour are lifted by making use of the language of digital culture, video gaming, and marketing strategies.
From 05.06. to 05.07. 2020, as part of the curated program WARP, an adaptation of one of Sabine de Graaf’s latest works can be seen in the vitrine of the SEA Foundation. WARP aims to connect with regional artists who live and work within a reasonable travelling distance from Tilburg. Sabine de Graaf is the first artist to present a work in WARP followed by Lisette de Greeuw, Peng Zhang and Risja Steeghs.
Since her childhood, video games and internet platforms have played a big part in de Graaf’s life. While spending prolonged time gaming or “lurking” online is considered rather anti-social, the gaming brought new forms of interaction and opened Sabine’s eyes to an inspiring way of storytelling, triggering her imagination. We met with Sabine in her apartment where we got introduced to her extensive collection of toys, retro consoles, video games, and collectables like Pokémon cards. And we talked about the support and refuge that gamers and anonymous online content creators receive from virtual friends and enemies from all over the world.
For those uninitiated, the gaming community is a relatively mysterious group. It is often criticized for its sexism and misogyny. Members insult and troll each other while having fun and carrying out a common mission. Finally, it is only those who survive the wacky and rough environment, who can enter the space of the internet world as it was initially architectured – without surveillance and with freedom of speech. Here we can question who is free. Is it a person who respects the ethics or is it a person who takes the odd humour lightheartedly? By the end of the day, we might be all trolled in a completely different and more serious game called life. The parody and ridiculousness which is rooted in internet culture are reflected in Sabine de Graaf’s artwork. Her approach is provocative without an intention to offend but to remind us that we must stay critical towards the values which we embed to art and to life in general.
Consumer culture is shaping our society. Artists either choose to celebrate or criticize it. They explore advertising imagery, showcase consumerist objects or they choose to feature complete reconstructions of consumer sites in the art galleries. An example of such is the work of Belgian artist Guillaume Bijl who presented ready-made hyper-realistic replication of shopping scenes in settings of a museum. The idea of consumption is deconstructed and reveals its staged and almost fetishist atmosphere. Instead of shopping, we are invited to rethink how we formulate our status and value that we acquire through the ritual of consumption.
Visual attributes of gaming and the marketing tactics of the game scene are not usually expected in the museums and art galleries. Discussions often arise whether it is the art, or it is not. Weird gifs, oversaturated images and silly videos are hiding the second layer for those who are prepared to excavate it. One of Sabine de Graaf’s latest works called “I own all these sealed blind bags and unopened collectors boxes and you don’t” (2019) presents the artist as a superior person or model, proud of her collection of toys. Although the toys are not visible the fact that they are kept in their original intact boxes, raises their value. From the absurdist point of view, the search for value is meaningless. Sabine de Graaf likes to point out how absurd marketing communication in the millennial culture is and how much consumers can be fooled. At the same time, she stays a part of this very same community and spends money on all kinds of strange toys. Since nothing really matters, the absurdism becomes liberating.
As an artist and a collector, Sabine de Graaf sees the value in archiving. The internet and digital culture have changed over the years and the increasing uniformity raises nostalgia and longing for the rebirth of the 90s of the last century – a decade where the virtual space used to be more underground, open, exploratory and accidental. The collectables and the hordes of toys suddenly become witness to a certain period of history. However, rather than being melancholic, Sabine de Graaf chooses to fight back by embedding the likes of “Zit Kit stress-relieving pimple popping” toys in her art.