'Roots on Wheels' with Benedikte Bjerre, Buck Ellison, Chris Evans, Olga Pedan, Julika Rudelius, Angharad Williams and Betty Sachs 

Micro Art Initiatives #21: Root Canal

Issue no5
Oct-Nov 2021

In the canteen of De Ateliers at the Stadhouderskade in Amsterdam Lotte van Geijn meets up with four current residents: Anders Dickson, Frieder Haller, Henna Hyvärinen and Thomas Swinkels. We talk about their artist-run-space Root Canal: an initiative which operates beyond the institute.

—Lotte van Geijn How did Root Canal came about?

—Anders Dickson Last year we all moved to Amsterdam and began at De Ateliers. Randomly, we were placed together in a flat out in the east. Around the dinner table pretty quickly the idea already began to take form.

—Thomas Swinkels The first idea was to start a Korn cover band. Did you see the video clip of Korn’s “Freak On a Leash” in the upper right corner of our website? Somehow we haven’t made the band happen yet, but we did manage to begin making exhibitions.

—Lotte van GeijnWhere did you organize the first event?

—Henna Hyvärinen The first three exhibitions all took place in the two attic spaces allotted to our apartment. There were two similar rooms, about three or four square meters each, positioned opposite one another. Though the spaces were drastically smaller because of the slanted ceiling.

'Robert Janitz? Lennart Constant?' with Robert Janitz and Lennart Constant (works of both on the picture)

'Flowers' with Kim David Bots, Bradley Davies, Anders Dickson, Frieder Haller, Uwe Henneken, Henna Hyvärinen, Susan Kooi, Phung Tien Phan, Marina Pinsky, Thomas Swinkels, Jasmin Werner (on the picture Marina Pinsky, Bradley Davies, Henna Hyvärinen) 

—Lotte van GeijnWhy did you feel the need to start an artist-run space?

—Anders Dickson The opportunity to do shows through the Root Canal initiative was really - if anything, a fun way for us to bring our friends from out of town to Amsterdam. Each of us comes from a different context and city. It was also cool to show people who otherwise wouldn’t likely have their works shown together somewhere else.

—Frieder Haller I already had some experience with organizing shows. Back in Essen, I co-ran the artist space Belle Air/ New Bretagne with some friends. Owing to this I kind of knew right away upon arriving here that I was keen on trying to arrange some exhibitions in Amsterdam. This was also in part because being new to the city we didn’t really know where shows were taking place either. And because of the attic space being the size it is and located in our flat we were able to have a lot of freedom considering who we would invite. We even had the chance to host the artists if they were coming from out of town. The budget for Root Canal was quite low, but it works for us.

—Henna Hyvärinen I’m also part of an art collective and art space called Sorbus back in Finland. We’ve organized exhibitions and various other events in Helsinki. So it was a possibility for me as well that I would like to do something here.

—Thomas Swinkels We did consider at first whether we could manage to do shows in De Ateliers, but then we realized it would be much nicer to do something outside of De Ateliers. It feels good to do also something beyond the institution. I mean they’ve already arranged our flats, studios and to put on top of that stipends for us to use the studio as a location felt a bit much.

'Roots on Wheels' with Benedikte Bjerre, Buck Ellison, Chris Evans, Olga Pedan, Julika Rudelius, Angharad Williams and Betty Sachs 

—Lotte van Geijn The last event was during Amsterdam Art weekend. You organized an exhibition in a mobile camper!

—Thomas Swinkels Exactly, this happened on account of two things: first off, we don’t live in the east anymore so we already knew we had to find a new location. Secondly, we know that the Amsterdam Art Weekend generates a lot of people moving around the city. It felt fun to play with the idea of the visitors and travels by making the exhibition mobile.

—Henna Hyvärinen During Amsterdam Art Weekend Roots on Wheels was parked in four different locations. We started here in front of the Ateliers for the opening because there was also the opening of the exhibition by Karimah Ashadu. The next day we parked at the Rijksakademie during the RijksOPEN. We even pulled it over to the Flevopark! It was pretty cold but some people walked by at least. In the end we landed at the artist-run-space Marwan to combine forces for the finissage of the art weekend. It was really nice to end the weekend together with them! Marwan is great.

—Anders Dickson It is cool how each location had its own vibe. Like Henna said, at the Flevopark hardly anyone actually showed up because of the odd location and the cold. But it was fun and we still managed to have people drive by slowly and look at the puppet we made. It was interesting to experience the different kind of audiences.

—Lotte van GeijnWhat is the advantage of the four of you working together?

—Thomas Swinkels We all have pretty different practices and skills. This is cool though, because everyone brings something different to the project and pulls their weight in their own ways.

—Anders Dickson Exactly, I mean I often tend to do more of the writing. If you see the website you can read the press releases which chronicle an evening of the tooth fairy in instalments. Each exhibition presents the continuation of the past. Henna made an awesome trailer for the last exhibition too.

—Henna Hyvärinen Yes, for our third exhibition Rock the city we made a trailer also embracing the tooth fairy theme. That can be found along with the documentation from our previous projects on the website that Frieder created for Root Canal. It kind of looks a bit more like a blog than an art website. I like that because it feels more like an organic archive of our exhibitions. It allows for us to insert different sound bites, texts and films in a much more personal manner.

—Anders Dickson I also think it’s helpful that both Henna and Frieder have experience with running art spaces. When it came to curating and tending to the collaborative group mentality it’s been a major bonus.

—Henna Hyvärinen But now that we are reflecting on our initiative I would like to ask a question to the others too: Did organizing and curating events affect your personal practices?

—Anders Dickson For me it’s been helpful to see how exhibiting different artists together causes each work to be activated in a new way. I think this is something I’ve tried a bit to keep in mind in my own studio now.

—Frieder Haller I really enjoy working together with other people in organizing projects. Sometimes it can be quite lonely in your studio and you can feel the urge to meet with your friends and do something.

—Lotte van GeijnAre you planning a new event soon?

—Thomas Swinkels Yes, actually we’ve just started to get the gears in motion again. We’ve been meeting to discuss the next exhibitions. For now, we hope to have this project opening sometime in the beginning of March. This has required a bit of additional effort because we don’t really have a home base space for shows. However, it also fits with our project as we like to organise our shows in different locations anyways. Actually we’ve gotten an offer from Ornis A. and Jeanine at the Althuis Hofland fine arts gallery to do something in their project space The Gemma.

—Frieder Haller Right now we have been thinking of perhaps doing a solo show. To this point we’ve only done group exhibitions. These have been a lot of fun but it’s been a lot of work too. Considering that we have our final presentations opening in May at De Ateliers, this may be an opportune chance to step back a bit from arranging so many people and allow one or two artists the chance to have a bigger presentation.

'Rock the City' with Anne Fellner, Dieke Venema, Rezi van Lankveld,Win McCarthy, Paul Geelen and Clémence de La Tour du Pin (on the picture Win McCarthy and Anne Fellner) 

—Lotte van Geijn Do you think you will continue Root Canal in some way after you finish at De Ateliers?

—Henna Hyvärinen I don’t know! I hope so.

—Thomas Swinkels We have to wait and see where we will end up. It would be nice to do something together though, maybe even somewhere abroad?

—Anders Dickson We definitely will stay in contact. But until then we have still a lot of plans and work to do here.

—Frieder Haller Yes! I hope and think that we will continue somehow!

Root Canal: Anders Dickson, Frieder Haller, Henna Hyvärinen en Thomas Swinkels, new event is coming up soon. For updates check : http://www.rootcanal.eu/ 

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 5 — 2021