Bernice Nauta / ROOMS Q&A

Our purpose in staging this exhibition was to give artists an opportunity to curate their own exhibitions, each in one room of the gallery. How did you approach this invitation?

This is an interesting concept, because there is a double layer of curating happening. The gallery curated the artists, so why were they brought together? Do they have something in common? All of them will create their own solo exhibitions within the structure of a group show; Maje and I are the only ones to be sharing a room. I also like the fact that the show is called Rooms, because this has a more domestic connotation for me than, for example, ‘space’ or ‘gallery’. I think the works that Maje and I have brought together are also related to domestic objects. They are objects that exist inside and outside of the home, so for me they also relate to the idea of inside-outside.

Both Maje and I run an off-space / residency (Billytown - the Kitchen Space in The Hague, and NIKI in Hanover), which makes us used to taking some kind of ‘curatorial’ role, although I always try to avoid that term for what I do at the off-space I co-run.

The initial intention of the exhibition, which was to address the problematic relationship between artist, curator and gallery, suddenly took on a new level of interest when the lockdown came into effect. Being isolated in one’s own room was now no longer simply a working situation in a gallery but also a compulsory existential situation. What kind of influence did quarantine have on you as a person and as an artist?

Lockdown had quite a big impact on me, to be honest. The pace of my life became more comfortable. I now live a slower life, which actually feels better to me. If I think back to the pace at which I lived before, it was so intense. So many projects, social obligations, journeys, meetings, exhibition openings, parties, jobs, besides working in the studio. Suddenly this turned into having so much time to just be at home, think, eat, drink, and work in the studio. It’s like Philip Guston’s painting Painting, Smoking, Eating (1972). It was an intense time for me, honestly, both personally and financially. But it also turned out to be a nice time with so much space to work in the studio, without deadlines, stress, obligations. This really gave me some kind of feeling of sanity.

Also, I started to treat these two rooms, studio and home, with a lot more care, and did drawings of a figure who becomes the room that they inhabit.

Recently I spoke with a friend, Robbie, who is currently staying in different rooms in Amsterdam because his own house is under construction. He told me how he really noticed that all these different rooms have an influence on his behaviour. It's a combination of the architecture, the facilities and the objects inside the room. I thought that was very interesting, how rooms exert a certain degree of agency over humans. How to a certain extent they dictate our behaviour. I think it's also interesting to think about how the white cube or art space was intended to be a ‘neutral’ room, which doesn’t dictate, but in the end people have adopted conditioned ways of behaving even in there.

 

Bernice Nauta (1991, Deventer, Netherlands) is a Dutch visual artist who studied at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. She attended the residency programmes at Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum, Orbital Residency, Cantabria and the European Ceramic Work Centre, Oisterwijk. With a number of both solo and group exhibitions, she focuses on showcasing a multitude of sides of the same character, besides thought experiments. In her works, she perceives the complexity of a persona and “how one can be self-contradictory and change over time”.