Interview by Laura Tetrault
Interview with Rudolf Boogerman about his artwork project, by Laura Tetrault.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I’m an entertainer. Although my art project Wooden Dimensions is serious, people see it as a form of entertainment, which is fine with me, because basically, that is the function of art, apart from being educational. But the educational aspect is sometimes lost because people tend to see artwork from their own frame of reference. Therefore, I often see myself as someone who holds a mirror in front of visitors.
How would you describe your art?
The Wooden Dimensions project is based on the idea that ages ago, the Chinese put art away in cabinets and only showed it on special occasions to their guests to preserve the fresh feeling of seeing something for the first time. I do not know if this story is true or not but somehow, this story triggered something in my head and that is how Wooden Dimensions was born. But I went just one step further: I put artwork behind closed doors and made those doors part of the artwork.
By changing the position of the doors every day the visitor or spectator becomes a participant in the creation process, thus creating a new artwork every day.
I also want to eliminate the well known taboo that art can’t be touched. Especially for three dimensional art, it’s an important part of the experience to feel an artwork. In fact, I have to hang little notices on exhibition to tell visitors to play with the artwork. If I forget that, nobody ever opens an artwork. The habit of the taboo is just too strong.
How does your art shape or reflect your world view?
In an anecdotal way. I walk around with some idea in my head about work politics or personal stuff and that just grows out into an artwork. But the initial thoughts do not really matter as I discovered over the years because art is like a mirror, it reflects the personality of the spectator and whatever I might intend in an artwork, the visitor will form his/her own idea. And that is how it should be.
Ideally, artworks should have no title because it may interfere with the thought process.
But it’s kind of difficult to catalog Untitled, Untitled, Untitled, etc…(laughs).
How did you first get into art?
I was always drawing since I was five. Didn’t think about art then, just drawing. When I was 8 years old, we went on an organized school trip to a museum in Antwerp where they had an exhibition on Surrealism in the Hessenhuis. They had gathered an impressive collection from all over the globe. All the big names where there, although I didn’t knew any of them and I remember I was looking puzzled at men without heads, a pipe with French text etc, … it was actually shocking to me because I was used to pictures from Delacroix, Durer, Carvargio, Rembrandt, etc…
We had to write a something about that exhibition afterwards and mine was rewarded, although for the wrong reasons. It was a very opinionated piece and I was writing nonsense like what will come of art if flying heads, etc,… Quite shameful actually. But it showed that I had an emotional connection with art, even so young. However, it took years and years before I really produced any art at all. Drawing was my main occupation and primarily commercial artwork for ad agencies and publishers.
What drew you to it then and what is your favorite thing about your medium now?
Wood always had a huge attraction, wood and charcoal. I’m doing a lot of charcoals on canvas these days. Totally unsuccessful from a commercial standpoint, but I love working with it nevertheless. And video, I love to experiment with video. I’m making new artwork with my old artwork, so to speak. And that is how I discovered new things in my own art. Very narcissistic, I know, but interesting.
Video acts like an unknown bystander. I review a video afterwards and discover things I didn’t notice before. And that is how I found out how important shadow is. We tend to forget about shadow, yet there is no light without shadow. But our mind is trained to ignore or reason it away.
What kind of responses do you get from people about your art?
Wooden dimensions generally gives quite strong reactions. Most people find it original. They are entertained by it and find it often funny, although I do not necessarily make funny artwork, but the artwork seems to trigger that reaction. I remember one exhibition where 3 grown up ladies were giggling like young schoolgirls, standing around and artwork I wisely had called “Untitled” as it had sexual connotations in an abstract way.
You may find that being perceived as original is an advantage, but it isn’t. If art critics cannot fit it into an existing style, and you do not have a whole bunch of followers, you cannot count on their goodwill. So, it doesn’t help me one bit (laughs).
What is your mission as an artist?
Primarily, I want to give people the chance to look at things from another angle and make them think. We tend to get stuck in all sorts of habits that obstruct change. Art can trigger change. I also hope it entertains the public.
What is the best thing about being an artist and what is the hardest?
The best thing is when you create a new milestone. Every once in a while, I make something that sticks clearly above the rest of what I’m doing.
The hardest part is to keep up with those milestones. You don’t want to make something weaker then the previous artwork, yet, it is an impossibility.
What’s your no-fail creativity booster?
Music can get me into a state of creativity. It is a tool I use consciously to set a mood. But in my inspirational periods, I jot down a lot of rough ideas. Therefore, if I have no idea what to do next, I open one of my sketch books and pick the one that appeals to me at that moment.
Do you have a favorite course or teacher that really made a difference to you?
No, I never followed courses. Apart from Graphic design school, I’m an autodidact and I do not look for inspiration by other artists. Perhaps I should, but I don’t. That said, I shared an atelier for a year with Eduard Leibovitz, who is an excellent glass sculptor, he taught me some techniques to check artwork upon it’s spacial balance which was invaluable to me.
What is on your iPod lately? What gets you going creatively?
I find the sound quality of iPod below standards. I wonder what happened to the ears of people lately. They do not seem to hear that mp3 is inferior quality. I listen only to music on a good stereo installation. I also refuse to look at movies from a tiny screen. You have to respect the artists and view their work as intended. I know I sound like grumpy teacher but respect for the work of the artists is important because most of them work very hard and earn very little.
If you had a class full of brilliant emerging artists what one thing would you teach them?
I wouldn’t need to teach them anything, since they are brilliant. No, seriously, young artists live in other times then older artists and there is nothing I can tell them that will be of any use to them, except one thing:
It is amazing how errors are revealed by viewing an artwork in the mirror or upside down. As it puts you off balance, since you are used to view your work in the normal way, it frees you from prejudice. In short, when it looks awkward in the mirror or upside down, you have some corrections to make.
Do you have themes, visual influences or recurring ideas in your work?
I do have themes, but they change over time. I’m obsessed since a couple of years with derelict industrial areas. I love the Power station of Battersea in London, at least in its old form. They have changed into a shopping mall, I heard.
What was your most challenging project to date? Would you attempt it again?
My first Wooden Dimensions artwork, “Some Stages of Mind” took me 3 weeks to create. I only had the most primitive material to work with. It was the first time I made an artwork in wood. I made it in the attic and worked on it from 9am until 3 to 4am at night. It was a very heavy work and rather large. I barely could get it through the door and the varnish was still wet when I carried it into the gallery. It was finished just in time. Everything after that was somehow easier because I gradually bought better equipment.
Who do you watch on youtube?
YouTube is not my favorite video network, but I love the channel of Tate Modern http://www.youtube.com/user/tate. It often gives excellent interviews with- or presentations from artists. There are also a few music channels I follow from time to time.
Apart from that, my favorite video network is actually Vimeo, which evolved as a more art friendly network, probably because it started out as a non-commercial project.
28 September 2010