Bas Kaufmann - Miss Universe. @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

Waste – Wasteland at The Grey Space in the Middle ­– Art and ecology #2

Issue no4
Aug / Sep 2022
roleplay & eindexamens 2022

In this online series, Joris van den Einden researches how art and ecology are increasingly growing closer in the Dutch art world. In this episode, he talks to curators Yannik Güldner and Leon Lapa Pereira about Wasteland, a twelve-day festival consisting of an exhibition (Fungus Socialis), a symposium (Wast3d Care), and a series of workshops surrounding the topic of waste ecologies. A conversation on materiality, community, and growth ensues.

—Joris van den Einden How did you arrive at waste as a theme to explore?

—Yannik Güldner ‘For both of us, it is important in our work that we talk about something that connects not only with the art, but also with the political and the social, in many different layers. We wanted to create something more open than an exhibition, that can be approachable and understandable to anyone. First, we were interested by processes of decay and consumption and were thinking of how they may be playfully changeable. And then suddenly, it became evident that waste is a topic where all of these things come together; it inherently concerns us all, we all know what waste is. And maybe we could find out what else waste can lead to.’

—Joris van den Einden That is what sort of typifies the whole festival, it seems. This idea of dropping a rock in a pool of water, seeing where the drops land, and then examining how the drops may connect and grow outwards from there.

—Yannik Güldner ‘What fascinates me in working with Leon, is this idea of “learning together”. This festival is the record of a moment in time within our shared artistic research. And we keep learning: we didn’t know what waste could be when we started this, but waste is so many things, it works on so many layers.’

'We didn’t know what waste could be when we started this, but waste is so many things, it works on so many layers’

Karin Kytökangas - The graveyards are full; we're running out of earth. @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

Daniel Dmyszewicz - Zyc, Byl, Czy, and Zyg \ Valentino Russo - World of Mills \ Wessel Verrijt - ‘A Dialogue between Trees’ \ Carolien Adriaansche - Wolk \ Bas Kaufmann - Miss Universe. @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

Left: leftover of the work by Manon Malon in a trash bin (part of the exhibition design, not a separate work), Right: Refunc - untitled @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

—Joris van den Einden You are working with waste in various ways. On the one hand, we see representations of more conventional waste, like discarded single-use plastic items. But there is also digital waste, emotional waste, etcetera. How are you, as curators, employing waste more practically speaking?

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘It is a resource, rather than just a material. While “material” encapsulates a very objectified thing with a function, resources contain more fertile ground. To me, though I am still not there completely, this project has been about changing my perception and encounters with waste as a new resource, a new soil.’

—Joris van den Einden Like a plane for growth.

—Yannik Güldner ‘The artists treat the material as a space for potential, too. They see the material in a new way, queering the object of its original usage. And the term bends: we only just tipped the iceberg on what waste is, on digital trash, on light pollution – there is so much more to still explore in the future.’

—Joris van den Einden Was it a challenge to unite the various artists in this exhibition, or did their work come together quite naturally?

—Yannik Güldner ‘Everybody had very different interpretations of the festival’s theme. There were even some artists that were slightly worried that the work wouldn’t make sense together. But a large part of the festival was developed out of conversations we would have with the artists, so layer by layer the exhibition and its participating artists came together.’

—Joris van den Einden There is a lot of sculptural work, which is simultaneously incredibly diverse but still also makes sense in its unity. Where do you think the apparent attraction to this sculptural approach comes from?

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘Waste, how most people understand it, is simply objective. Not in a philosophical sense, but in a material sense: waste consists of objects and is thus automatically sculptural. I think that this invites the artists to build upon what is already there.’

—Yannik Güldner ‘All the artists have this insane fascination and deeply embedded love for material. The process is shaped by the material that is there already and which comes from so many different places. While Wessel Verrijt, for example, scavenges the streets for material, we see Daniel Dmyszewicz using a lot of residual waste from his own studio. And Manon Malan, then, takes a much more conceptual approach and recontextualises the object by giving them a new purpose outside of her work, too. In the end, it is the material of waste and all its familiar, banal connotations that ties the whole exhibition together.’

'While Wessel Verrijt, for example, scavenges the streets for material, we see Daniel Dmyszewicz using a lot of residual waste from his own studio'

Tommy Smits - 'Map of the Snotmine as drawn by Nystagmus the Wild Miner.' @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

Manon Malan - Iceberg Adoption Project \ Tommy Smits - 'Map of the Snotmine as drawn by Nystagmus the Wild Miner.' @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

Wessel Verrijt - ‘A Dialogue between Trees’ \ Daniel Dmyszewicz - Zyc, Byl, Czy, and Zyg @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

—Joris van den Einden Could you tell me more about the symposium of the festival, and how it relates to the whole programme?

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘The symposium is called Wast3d Care and relates to the human arrogance of the Anthropocene. It refers to the speakers, who dedicate their lives to fight for care to make sure it does not go wasted. We, as curators, are not trying to be moral apostles that tell everyone how to live, but these speakers are in a position where they can be. We have people like Ada Reinthal, who has been working with digital and
immaterial waste through an approach that crosses between art, design and technology, but also Olaf Duin, a policy advisor and trained environmental technology engineer, and Clarissa Peny, an entrepreneur, licensed architect and civil engineer. So while the exhibition is about sensing waste, the symposium is about learning waste in a broad sense,While the exhibition is about sensing waste, the symposium is about learning waste, which is then further connected to a set of workshops where this learning is made experiential. The symposium and workshops take on this uncanniness of transforming trash into something new, getting your hands dirty. Everything from the symposium and workshops also returns to the exhibition. So, as a consequence, all of the entities and agents that partake in this wasteland, also change its landscape.’

—Yannik Güldner ‘The symposium aims to mediate, which is essentially also what our curatorial approach was in the exhibition. There is hope in hearing other people talk about the possibilities of waste.’

—Joris van den Einden I find the language you use interesting. The inclusion of the word ecology is especially striking; you tend to talk about “waste ecologies”. What drove you to frame waste within this framework of multiple, plural ecologies?

—Yannik Güldner ‘We live in a pluralistic world, so there are a lot of competing understandings of waste around the planet. And waste does not exist in isolation: it always lives in relation to all these other processes.’

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘The word “ecologies” also invites a shift of agency. It invites us to think about this resource, waste, as an entangled network in and of itself. It is not only the artist that is the catalyst that opens up these networks, but we are recognising the agency of waste itself. The artists resonate with their material, and the material resonates back. This notion of exchange, of transformation, is a reaction to the material, and becomes inevitably ecological.’

—Joris van den Einden You’re talking about making things accessible for people with different experiences and knowledge. Within the festival, it seems that this exchange also takes the shape of a certain community or communality.

—Yannik Güldner ‘The festival is really the outcome of this understanding of communality. We wanted to create a moment where a community can come together, and where it can grow or develop further. While we have more information than ever before, we seem to understand less and less. Events and exhibitions like this carry the potential to bring all those people together and actually engage with one another. Artists, scholars, and passersby all come together and learn together.’

'Everything from the symposium and workshops also returns to the exhibition. So, as a consequence, all of the entities and agents that partake in this wasteland, also change its landscape'

Bas Kaufmann - Miss Universe. @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

Left: Phillip Groubnov - NON-STILL LIFE, Right: Bas Kaufmann - Miss Universe. @ Exhibition fungus sociales, the Wasteland - festival for waste ecologies. Photo: Tommy Smits

—Joris van den Einden I think it is also interesting that you refer to the programme as a festival. If you had called it an art project, or a research centre, no one would dispute it. But a festival is obviously something else. Do you consider this an occasion of festivity?

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘I have some problems with the word festival. It popped up at some point, and it felt right at the time. But festivals also feel very bourgeois, or perhaps hedonistic. Still, it is also a very inviting word – people usually like going to festivals.’

—Yannik Güldner ‘For me, it definitely is a moment to celebrate. The festival gives space for people to engage with waste in a way that they otherwise might not know, so that can be something celebratory. We needed to find a way to refer to the whole programme without placing any of the three pillars above the other parts. So the festival arose out of a certain necessity, I think. And I think we should also have fun, sometimes.’

—Joris van den Einden There is that important connotation of hope, or growth, that maybe resides in this more joyous, festive outlook too.

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘Right.’

—Joris van den Einden And then looking forward, do you already have ideas on how you might want to move Wasteland into the future?

—Yannik Güldner ‘Well, we can’t tell you all of this, it would ruin the surprise.’

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘Let’s think of this as open source, Yannik. We learn together, remember? I think we want to go back to that metaphor of dropping the stone in the water and seeing where the drops land – where do they land, which drops dry up and which ones remain. Most likely we will zoom in more closely to a specific angle, like taking approaches to do with feminism, the Plastocene, or specific materials within that framework of waste. So rather than having a yearly festival, we might want to move towards a year-long, continual series of smaller events that can then be combined in the yearly festival.’

—Yannik Güldner ‘I couldn’t agree more. We already had so many ideas that couldn’t fit into this year’s programme. I think we will be thinking about how we define ourselves. Now we refer to the festival as transdisciplinary, but we should consider what that actually means. So thinking about the ways in which we collaborate, how we find the organisations and individuals that we are partnering with and how all their roles are conceived.’

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘Definitely.’

—Yannik Güldner ‘And we want to become fully circular ourselves, too. We tried this year, but it is still so complicated to actually figure out how to not create any waste in such a production. Which feels a little ironic, of course. It causes friction.’

—Leon Lapa Pereira ‘Friction is fertile.’

—Yannik Güldner ‘Yes, you need friction to make something interesting. But it needs to be employed actively and consciously.’

WASTELAND is on view at The Grey Space until Sunday the 17th of July. For more information on workshops and other parts of the programme, click here.

Joris van den Einden
is an intern at Metropolis M

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 4 — 2022