Essays & interviews


Maaike Engelen – Nov 1999

Rather than analysing the work of Jeanne van Heeswijk, we want to do justice to it by writing about it.

But what does this mean? To do justice to, means feeling the need to say words that express what this work gives. And this gift feels groundless, without reference to something else, unique for its own sake. And that is why the word analysing, seems not enough. But this feeling is rather out of the ordinary way of dealing with pieces of art. Even though a lot is written about the experience of beauty, this seems not really what we have in mind here.

What we have in mind here is much more that art has also the potential to bring into sight the worth of reality itself while it is happening. Meaning that it has value while it is happening and that the happening itself, while it exists, is generous and without ground.

Value in this sense means: that which shows itself, has the need in it to be seen as it is, for that reason everything is a challenge for each other.

In work, which has the wish to point out this feeling of reality, the relationship with others is the primarily visible thing. The artist develops together with others concepts and out of these concepts happenings in which a part is unpredictable and a part organised into the details. Because of the relationship with others, as much artists as non-artists, the works and the concepts of Jeanne herself and the persons she deals with are developing. She, and that is her way, finds it a part of art, to give room to others, artists and non-artists. But why should one want this?

Has it anything to do with the thought we formulated before? Has it to do with the need to express the being-worthwhile of reality in the moment of the happening and because of the happening?

Perhaps it has. Perhaps one could say that this is the critical position art can have at this moment in time, pointing out that thinking about reality as a product that has worth because of its use, carries its end in it. Not that it is not an important part of reality and art, not that it should be overruled but perhaps it needs some completion, because otherwise it could lead to the state of being in which one can finally only see causes and effects, and no being for its own sake anymore. This work is critical because it expresses this need by wanting not to produce but to generate, not alone but with others. Doing this out of the intuitive understanding of life as having to do and to deal with everything in it. Not able to exclude anything; struggling with the impossibility of doing justice to this insight of being connected with everything in reality, and the necessity to organise and develop mostly on the costs of others. And for that reason always in conflict with oneself, which is an expression of what a critical state of being is.

The expression of this tension is an important issue in the work of Jeanne van Heeswijk, and because of it, her being generous to herself and others means in its right sense also her being critical towards herself and others, investigating the relation between society and art and the borders that are there or not. Trying to generate out of a point of view that is beyond every known ideology. Stuck in the impossibility to do this (because the artist herself has an intuitive point of view at the same time) is the fact this kind of work still exists in the way it is presented afterwards, and in the next happening which can be seen as the following up from the previous one, bearing all kinds of features of the previous one in it. Art that exists in producing objects often shows an obvious evolution, which one can follow in time. But in this kind of work, it is all there in one happening, and there is the risk that the development will be forgotten, or even not noticed, especially after some time. The registration problem is a real problem, because it makes something out of the happening it in deepest is not. It is like a diary about one's life, always lying.

Being generous means to generate at first, so not to produce: trying to let things grow instead of manipulating until the end, it bears in it the wish and the need to respond to the appeal of others, and at the same time the wish and need to feel oneself useful and worthwhile in the sense we explained here. But we pointed out what the tension is caused by this wish. For that reason this kind of art can only be critical; generosity is a critical state of being, as much towards one's own works and thoughts as towards the society this work is situated in. The moment it feels itself comfortable in the situation it is in, whatever that situation will be, we think it will start to be dangerous, because then it has a fair chance to grow into the dogmatic.

If this kind of art ever thinks the world is as it should be, it will not exist anymore, but finally that perhaps is the matter with all kinds of art. At least it is a question one should think about.

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