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When Maarten Vanden Eynde’s wife (and fellow artist) Marjolijn Dijkman opens the door, the first thing we see is creative activity. Vanden Eynde is welding, and his mother is finalising The Gadget, a laced bomb named after the first nuclear iteration thereof. (Hanged in a Plexiglas cylinder, the result can now be seen in BOZAR). We climb to his studio, all the way to the eaves.
Interview by Laura Bonne
Photos by Tiny Geeroms
You seem to investigate man’s impact on nature in your work, pointing out several problems.
Showing problems is not my main purpose. To get to a certain point, I trace the materials. Ils ont partagé le monde, for instance, is a series of paintings I made with the Congolese painter Musasa. It shows the most important materials that influence human beings. When you examine how they’re made, harvested and sold, you automatically bump into the problems that whole process entails – think: slavery, mining, [agrochemical company] Monsanto and genetic alteration, pesticides… By foregrounding these links, I show things instead of making finger-pointing statements.
I’m more interested in long-term than in short-term, in how future generations will look back on their past. There lies my freedom, the subjectivity of my work
But your message is political?
That’s one message, among others. I don’t see my work as univocal. For me, it’s more interesting to indicate several perspectives. In such a layered piece, politics are not the central message. For example, Around the World is a five-metre-high rocket, wound with 40,015km of cotton yarn: that concerns the global impact of cotton, of course. But I don’t name it as negative. It’s more about the poetic image of this art piece, precisely because it’s so hard to figure out what is bad and what’s good. I’m more interested in long-term than in short-term – for instance, in how future generations will look back on their past. There lies my freedom, the subjectivity of my work. And the imaginary is not necessarily negative. In the short term, however, I’m not that optimistic at all.
Plastic Reef not only has a strong message, it’s also an autonomous art piece, equally beautiful and ugly
What’s your relationship with time, then?
Time is a very interesting topic. The only thing we know today is a chronological, linear time. But for other cultures – and in the past also for us – time passes according to a more natural, circular design. The way you look at time determines how you live – and personally, I think the circular way is better. Recently, I read about linear time being masculine and circular time being feminine. By thinking circularly, women have much more of a long-term vision. That’s because in circular thinking, past, present and future are a lot more connected to each other. In linear thinking, the past is unconditionally dead. I think because of that more women should hold powerful positions.
What makes good art?
Layers. Plastic Reef was a very fruitful work for me, because it had an important topic: plastic pollution and the disappearance of coral reefs. Soon after, scientists discovered a new reason why coral reefs are disappearing: coral absorbs micro plastic particles. That’s when those two initially different subjects of my sculpture appeared to match in reality as well. But <i>Plastic Reef<$> not only has a strong message, it’s also an autonomous art piece, equally beautiful and ugly. The plastic is gross, but it’s also full of anemones and other marvellous details. That stratification and the possibility to look at a work in different ways is the key to an interesting piece.