9
May

DUTCH BUSHMEN

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We are the market          Onomatopee 142                                                 tekst: Josh Plough 2018

 

Exercises in cityhybridisation

 

There is another city, sat right on top of Eindhoven. It’s the exact same size, has exactly the same buildings, and has precisely the same amount of people living in it, except there is something not quite right with this one. It doesn’t quite fit the narrative we’re sold about modernity and what a future gazing smart city should be like. This ‘Eindhoven’ is where the City Buffalo Hunters reside, a tribe so far consisting of two members. But it is also a place where the city hybrids dwell, and the only way to experience this world is though the mushrooms.

If this all sounds bizarre and fantastical, then it means that you’ve entered the world of the performance artist Toine Klaassen. Inside his head, according to the artist, is somewhere you do not want to go. Yet his performance in Eindhoven this August allowed a glimpse into the the earthy spirt of the city, one that exists simultaneously with our own concrete one. Creating a visual story, Klaassen exposes us to the ‘mycelium’ layer that is ever present in our lives. It stretches under our feet and erupts in fungal infections that can puncture our everyday lives: only, if we want them to though. They stop us in our tracks like a fly agaric on the forest floor, and tease us in with the invite of mystery. But it is here that we must leave Toine Klaassen as an entity, as he no longer exists, and introduce the character Loves Stones, an urban hunter-gatherer, born of Eindhoven, who seeks out the carcasses of old leather sofas that have been left to graze the neglected back streets of the city.

Loves Stones is a personality who on first impressions could seem a little contrived. But when you take time to understand where he has come from and what his journey has been; you’ll realise he could be no one else, wear nothing else, and move in no other way. But his existence is no act of cultural appropriation, and no other civilisations have had their histories ransackedof ancestral knowledge. Loves Stones is Dutch: through and through. It was a photo of the artist’s father in his garden that prompted the birth of the Dutch Bushman, the overarching paternal force that nurtures individual incarnations of characters like Loves Stones. The artist uses only what’s at hand or abandonedmaterials that have been neglected, and explains that if you can find it your backyard, you don’t have to go off on long plane journeys or ayahuasca trips. All you need to do is practice with your imagination: it’s all about staying at home.

Using this kind of imagination means that we are all city hybrids whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Through globalisation, different cultures have crossed, mingled and settled within one another. As Klaassen explains ‘the Chinese are building Catholic churches and we, the Dutch, are doing this Zen Buddhist bullshit… over the past 300 years all the Christians are living in China and all the Taoists are moving to Brabant’. The alter ego that is Loves Stones exposes us to this mycelium layer that we’re all plugged into but don’t realise, it is our universal bond to the rocks and dirt that binds us together, not a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. He gives us a glimpse of an absurdist reality, one in which the illusion of consumer capitalism is snagged on a branchand through these tears, Dutch Bushmen appear. These characters make fun of our wasteful habits by hunting leather sofas and making clothing from them, and they ridicule our single mindedness and notions of property in the city by creating habitable oases next to streams and railway tracks, alike.

It is this transformative ability of the artist that is key, Klaassen describes himself as a farmer, ploughing the city and sowing seeds in the furrows he creates. He literally remodels the urban landscape with his idolatrous acts: worshipping anything other than the commercial gods is often denounced as heresy. But if his work makes us reflect, how then does it make him feel? Loves Stones is a buffer, a shield as he describes it, for him to get closer to us. But he is not the only alter ego the artist has, so many are there that he asks ‘Who the fuck is Toine Klaassen, anyway’? and admits that there is sometimes a sense of fear when he performs as he doesn’t know how the public will react to his often invasive acts. Exposing himself to the public and acting in unusual ways also makes him very vulnerable, a crucial assett to his performance. It is through the layers he applies and the objects he uses that a kind of scaffolding is put up around him, creating a chance for Toine Klaassen, or Loves Stones, to twist the normal behaviour of people.  Zie foto 11,12,13 en video2

 

Dutch Bushmen Tribe a performance materialized                               solo presentatie galerie Joey Ramone 2012

Toine Klaassen (in co-operation) with a number of designated individuals forms the Dutch Bushmen Tribe. To the vision of the artist these people refer to the original inhabitants of rough, forgotten and fallow lands or transitory places. The Dutch Bushmen (‘outlaw’) started with a photo of his father taken some years earlier. The photo depicts the father looking tired and in old clothes (beyond a shame) after having worked in the garden.

In the photo exhibition entitled “Dutch Bushmen Tribe a Performance Materialized” Toine Klaassen captures the still and intimate concentration of his working process during his complex and ephemeral performance practice. The circumstances are not always ideal. It’s all about staging versus accident, concentration versus fatigue and control versus freedom.

As Klaassen puts it: life is fulfilling a paradox. The photo series opposes to a less miraculous Western civilization and embraces pluralistic ‘cultural hybrids’ like we inevitably become in our everyday existence. Certainly in Rotterdam!

This project is realized with the help and advise of Lin Klaassen-Zwamborn and is made possible with support from CBK Rotterdam.