On hands and feet

Back in 1991, I was working a lot with various paints wearing rubber gloves for protection. Somehow I couldn’t get myself to discard of the used gloves and I hung them in the mock orange on my balcony instead. The shrub was in bloom and the colourful gloves contrasted beautifully with the white flowers. For five years the gloves were just hanging there, summer and winter, and when I finally took them down, they were all weathered and brittle. Still, they were so strong as objects that I kept them in my studio. Marieke Fehmer showed me how to preserve them using synthetic raisin and from 1999 to 2001 I elaborated on the theme, creating ‘hands’. Finally the work ended up in an artist book as documentation of the process.

Over a decade later, during a residency at sundaymorning@ekwc in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the hands reappeared. Initially, I had thought of making a mould of my entire body but with all the work involved I settled for hands and feet. Having worked mainly with video and projected images for years, it was a great joy to be using my hands again in the creative process. Casting my hands and feet in casting clay from the elbow and the knee down made me feel reconnected with matter and its unruly nature. The need to create tangible objects hasn’t left me since. The Dutch expression ‘iets handen en voeten geven’ literally translates to ‘to give something hands and feet’. It means to put flesh on something: to move from an idea or theory or policy to a practical approach and to actually make it work. I believe this is exactly what I do. These are my hands and feet: this is who I am.