The French author Georges Perec wrote about the objects on his working table in an attempt to get closer to his own work and its history, not at the level of distant echoes and abstract reflections, but at the heart of its origin. What objects, tools or materials are not necessarily functional, but nevertheless a vital part of your working environment? Can you describe or draw your workspace?Question Two
The studio of Francis Bacon not only contained his own works and his tools, but also books, magazines, papers, reproductions of artworks etc. By contrast, Mark Rothko’s studio was nearly empty. Do you prefer to keep the things that inspire or fascinate you nearby? Do you collect and classify these sources? If you prefer an empty space, where do you store the ‘objects of your affection’?
When different people gather around the same idea or form, the outcome is more than the sum of their minds. A so-called third mind comes into play. According to William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, this third mind does things that none of the single brains would have come up with. How important are collaboration and (audience) participation to you? How do other people and other worlds become part of your work? How do you create a third mind?Question Four
According to Gilles Deleuze, the encounter between two disciplines doesn’t take place when one begins to reflect on one another, but when one discipline realizes that it has to resolve, for itself and by its own means, a problem similar to one confronted by the other. What art forms and disciplines other than your own do you feel close to? Do you incorporate strategies or practices from other disciplines, sciences or domains of society?Question Five
Do you have certain rituals or methods to help crystalize and materialize your ideas and intuitions into artworks, texts or designs? In preparation for your work, do you take photographs, do you make drawings or schemas, take notes, build models and so on?Question Six
In 1911, Henri Matisse painted his studio as a visual manifesto of his art practice. The clock in the background and the circular composition testify to the continuous making and remaking of his art. Do you learn through making? Imagine falling into an amnesiac state. Would this state be a blessing or a curse for your future work?Question Seven
How do you know that a work is finished? Are you in need for (self-imposed) deadlines? Do you experience your time at work as a continuous process or are there frequent ups and downs, moments of despair and enlightenment? Do you recall certain moments or specific works that became models of thought afterwards?
“All animals, from the simplest to the most complex, are fitted into their unique worlds with equal completeness.” – Jacob von Uexküll
The UMWELTEN research project takes inspiration from Jakob Von Uexküll’s ‘A stroll through the Umwelten of animals and humans’. In this book from 1934, the Umwelt stands for the sensory world, in which an organism exists and acts as a subject.
Biologist Von Uexküll was not pondering over art and architecture when he wrote about the dealings and depths of the Umwelt. Nonetheless, his imaginative ideas about the mysterious ways of creation, action and reaction have inspired artists, architects and theorists alike. What sparks creation? How do sensations, intuitions and fascinations lead to creation and invention? Do painters, writers, designers or architects prefer a different environment? What strategies do they use to get their work going? And do they need each other or can one create from isolation?
A closer look at the Umwelten of artists and architects can give us a better understanding of the creative act, its surroundings and the interdisciplinary exchanges that are part of it. Therefore, we have challenged artists and architects to answer one or more of ‘Seven Questions’ that deal with their personal Umwelt. Some have answered by means words, others have sent us an image. As an alternative approach, some received a mysterious package that challenged them to reflect or act upon their Umwelt.
Annelies, Esther, Ine, Isolde and Lucas