Interview with Jolanda Jansen
The Hague, The Netherlands, August 20th 2017
Q: Why / when / how did you start to work with performance, what is your background, how did you arrive at doing performance?
First I started to work with performative videos. I call them 'Two Soli'. For the production of each video I use two single items in a studio situation. One is me - the artist making bodily movements in relationship to space, and the second is the camera - the eye. In the end, the viewer sees the private intimate process of creating these artworks on video.
I did my first live performances during my master’s degree at the DAI (Dutch Art Institute). I felt that live performance would reflect my work better than talking about it through a power point presentation. So I brought the 'Two Soli' work from my studio into a live situation. I connected my camera with a projector and interacted with the camera and the audience. In this way, I let loose the control of what I was creating.
Now I am really interested in working with that what you could call reality; to be genuine as an artist, to react directly in the moment, and the state of mind of the audience.
Q: What is your process like when you make a performance, from idea to actual work?
For me performing is being in a constant process of evolution. After doing a performance workshop at PAS (Performance Art Studies), I stopped using my camera in live performance. The workshop was an eye-opener in how material can create opportunities by restricting or giving directions in your movements and actions. After this experience, I did more workshops that constantly feed me in my process.
For me performance is an investigation in human relations, the body as a tool, and in being human. There are always new things to explore.
In my process there is always first an image in my head that could develop in several ways. Like a 2.5 metre paper column attached on my head could represent a female statue that supports a column in a Greek temple. In relation to space this could be an interesting image. Then I start to try out things with materials, which can mess up my first idea entirely, because it does not work. From testing ideas, new ideas arise or I have to start over again. I always work out my performances several times in my mind and see the images grow in different directions. A beautiful image doesn’t only satisfy. For me there has to be something disturbing in the sense that something is unexpected, or there has been some effort, or a new experience has been created. This doesn’t need to be dramatic, but I like to make unexpected turns because it is possible in performance art.
Q: With what kind of form / material do you express yourself and use in your work and how did you arrive at using this material?
When I did the workshop, The Marathon in Berlin with Zierle & Carter and Dagmar I. Glausnitzer-Smith, I first started to work with paper. Paper doesn’t interest me because of what it is, but more of what it is not. Some say paper is a blank sheet, something that could become something new, or even a new beginning. For me, blank paper is the opposite of the body. You can't erase your features, or your background. A body is harder to transform than paper, that’s why I like to use paper. It can be strong and fragile like a feather. It has the promise of meaning; it can be political or informative. I prefer to bring it back to its basic nature, to use it as a natural material, something that was alive, like coming from the wood of a majestic tree. It’s the same in how I like to go back to what it is to be human- our cravings, shame, fear, anger etc, but we usually don't reveal so much.
Q: Can you tell about your latest project?
My latest project was at Solyanka Gallery in Moscow. I had the opportunity to make an exhibition from a selection of the works I have produced until now, together with curator Margarita Osepyan. Alongside the exhibition, I had the opportunity to do three days of 4-5 hours performances. Each performance became a cycle of durational actions developed through time. The first cycle was an investigation into the relation of the performer and space. Here I used a 2.75 metre paper roll as a column on my head to fill the space from floor till ceiling. I also blocked the entrance of the space by putting the roll of paper vertically between me and the other side of the entrance as well as using it to create the sound that filled the space. The second one was more introspective and investigated the devastation in keeping things together and letting go. I used paper snippets that I collected each time after having blown them through the space with a leaf blower. The last one was an investigation in perseverance and concentration. Here I created a big drawing on the floor by crushing charcoal and by walking with glasses on my head filled with ink inside. What really struck me was that on the second day while I was going more inside myself, the audience in Moscow reacted with a lot of sympathy. It made the performance intimate and also joyful. I hadn’t planned it, but the performance became very interactive with the audience. Embracing with paper in between and jumping in the paper with whirling paper snippets. The last day became one of sharing instead of a lonely exhausting experience. The audience walked with me with a glass on their heads and stamped on the charcoal. The possibility of direct sharing is only possible in performance art.
Q: What role does performance art have in your life / artistic praxis? Do you also work within other fields, like installation, sculpture, drawing, and other expressions? How do they influence / inform each other?
Performance art is a creative and direct medium that fulfils my needs to challenge myself as an artist and it became seductive to me. I have developed my own organisation in my hometown, The Hague to explore, discuss, and create with others. It’s called P.S. Performance Site The Hague.
I work with performative videos, video installations, live performance and registrations of live performances.