We meet up with Bert Jacobs in his new atelier in Brussels; an old abandoned warehouse, soon to be demolished, date unknown. Party remnants from last week linger here and there, but mostly it’s naked and ready to be consumed. Over a beer we had a chat about art installations and how thinking less can give you more.
Interview by Valerie Steenhaut
Photos shot by Tiny Geeroms in the artist’s atelier in Brussels
Wow. I can see why you like this place.
Yeah, it’s so new – there are endless possibilities. There’s no one to take into account, no one to justify to. It’s a place for collectiveness; a place where we can invite people to, where we can organise events, exchange ideas. I feel like improvising and building here, even though there’s no electricity yet, nor my things I still need to move. There’s also a lot here already since we can use everything about this building. The company left loads of objects, there’s wood, space, mirrors… It feels like a huge playground.
Do you collect a lot?
I used to. In the beginning my work could come into existence just by collecting and sorting materials or objects. When I lived in Ghent, my friends and I organised events and exhibitions in my house. It was like a cabinet of curiosities. Every time we did something new, we changed the scenography. Through that organic process of experimenting with space and art we ended up with installations.
I like the dialogue between coincidence and meaning
— the ambivalence between control and letting go, chaos and order
And now this new atelier. How do you work nowadays?
Well, I was thinking about my creative process earlier, and how to explain it, so I wrote down some stuff [laughs]. You see, in general I work pretty intuitively, very in the moment. That’s why my work differs greatly depending on the moment or the location. Every piece of work is like a story or a memory. These can be of something tangible or of a situation – it doesn’t matter – but my art is mostly about creating images.
Like you said, usually you end up with installations. Is that about creating an image as well?
Yes, but also creating an experience. I was living in Norway for a while, and there I saw lots of landslides in the forest. In nature, when something is unstable, it breaks down. But in its fall it always finds stability again. So I recreated what I saw there in a temporary installation. I collected wood, dried it, piled them up and it ended up looking like a big waterfall of wood. It sculptured itself in its way to finding stability. So basically in the installation, different aspects of my experience are reflected in order to relive that experience, or trying to understand it.
I like that kind of dialogue between coincidence —how things just come together– and how that creates meaning. Not in a ‘meant to be’ kind of way, but more like playing with the ambivalence between control and letting go, chaos and order.
Would you say your art is experimental?
I think so, yes. Even though I’m not quite sure what that means. I let my art become what it wants to be –like the wooden waterfall– so in that way it’s an experiment because I don’t know what will come of it. It’s unpredictable. I try not to think about the why and how too much; to be as little conscious about the creative process as possible. It’s thoughts that catch me or things I encounter that initiate creativity, and the less I think about it the better the result pleases me.