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For an art festival that doesn’t want to be an anti-fair, the air at the current Amsterdam Kunstvlaai is remarkably thick with ideas about social critique and attempts at formal ingenuity. Newcomers might be surprised, but this punky in-between of art fairs and biennials has some serious resonance in the art world at large, and there are indeed some very interesting things going on. Here’s an introduction to what I enjoyed most, in no particular order.
The Group XIII
The Group XIII is an artist collective made up of six different artists that occasionally get together to bounce ideas off of one another and engage in the odd exhibition or two. For the Kunstvlaai, they installed a small art factory where they continuously produce paintings on little wooden panels that are on sale for 30 euros a pop. What they produce at any given time is determined by what sells and/or generates positive feedback. Apparently the panels depicting scenes from youtube cat videos flew off the shelves.
The New Sculpture Department
A more traditional installation, but still worth the trip on its own, is a work by The New Sculpture Department. It consists of a small boarded-up room with an altar-like structure in the centre and ominous references to Armageddon all around. Ever wondered how god-fearing churchgoers feel when they think about the wrath of the Almighty? Go and experience it for yourself at this strangely tantalizing work.
One truly heartwarming project is HMK At Play by American artist Alexia Mellor. Concerned by the preoccupation with fear in our society, Mellor decided she wanted to help people come to terms with their fears. In an unexpectedly therapeutic manner, she will kindly ask you about your own personal fears when you enter her exhibition. She’ll then think up an object to symbolically take away your fears, and she’ll subsequently make the object for you using pink cloth and a sewing machine. One visiting child for instance, is now no longer afraid its donkey will die as Mellor fabricated a pink armor for the animal to protect it from harm.
The Kunstvlaai is a great place to meet both emerging and established artists in an out-of-the-ordinary environment brimming with creative energy. I guess the best advice to give to any first-timers to the festival is to take your time. Hell, take a passé-partout – you will probably find something new every day for the rest of the festival.
Kunstvlaai Art Festival
When: November 23rd until December 2nd.
Where: Sint Nicolaas Lyceum Amsterdam, Prinses Irenestraat 21.
Admission: €10 general, €8 for students and €17 for a passe-partout.
Photos by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk, courtesy of Kunstvlaai 2012.
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