in the Category: art
A trip to an absurd universe
Ghent-based artist duo and DIY-lovers Robbert&Frank Frank&Robbert merge theatre and visual arts. Their newest outlet BREADCRUMBS takes you to an absurd universe with its own logic and code language. At the heart of this lays transformation, power and rituals. Robbert Goyvaerts and Frank Merkx express themselves through multiple media giving you a look inside their heads, linking their own daily reality to philosophical and social issues.
Interview by Céline van de Rostyne
Photos shot by Valerie de Backer in Waregem
Screwdriver with R-bit and screws (c) F&R R&F
When did it become clear that you two were going to form a twosome?
Frank: It was never clear that we were going to work together, it just came about naturally.
Robbert: You could say that we had our first R&F F&R studio back in high school when we both studied art. We were the dirtiest ones so we were put in a separate room to work on our thesis. At that time we didn't work on joint projects yet, but this changed when we attended KASK. We worked together for two years there and delivered our master thesis as a duo. We've hardly make any individual work ever since.
F: Thank god. You don't want to know what we produce separately. (Laughs)
Do you consciously use different media?
R: From the very beginning we've used different media. As an adult you are expected to focus on one medium, but we don’t feel like it. We just have ideas that end up in one form or another. It’s usually an interaction between different media, which means that we're making visual art of work we initially performed in a theatre. That's why we often depict ourselves. We want to make people feel as if we are there even when we’re not.
What does the title BREADCRUMBS refer to?
F: It stands for the small actions we've taken over the last few years. We want to leave traces behind like Hansel and Gretel. Moreover, bread often is sacrificed. We sacrifice to feed, just as we feed on the things we love to do. At this exhibition we work around rituals, sacrifices and mythical things.
R: People can write concerns on yellow cards. Those concerns are then shredded and dipped in Robbert or Frank's blood. Later on we burn the cards.
BREADCRUMBS is a collection of work from the past six years. Is there an evolution to be seen?
F: Yes. As an artist your focus shifts and you always follow a different path. But we're not showing our successful project Guns for which we built a strong armoury of harmless weapons made of wood. If we hadn't decided at the right time to put this project on pause, we might have been the gun artists for the rest of our lives.
R: On the other hand we also chose to flourish older work. In this way our art takes on a new dimension. Once we made a wooden case saying 'Go away sorrow of the world'; now we travel around the world with that case. It becomes a requisite in our public performances. Each case represents a potential performance or installation.
R: Like many of our art projects, the slogan has a playful origin. Back in the days we’d made an installation chanting 'The machine that improves the world'. By seeing this message, your brain makes a certain connection. These vibrations are sent into the universe. The more people see the message, the more vibrations will arise.
F: It's a holistic idea. If you think something is going to happen, it will change your perception and environment. We’re incorporating that message in a lot of our current work and future work.
Selfportrait Ritual Fire (c) Dirk Pauwels - Minor destruction of suffering (c) Phelim Hoey
What issues are dealt with in the exhibition?
R: There seems to be no room for reflection and rituals these days. However, they both have healing power.
F: Some people experience our performances as a confession. I recently received an email from a woman who has been keeping one of the objects from a ritual we did 6 years ago. She lost her father and found healing in our performance.
R: Pollution is a theme that's also returning. We always transport our work ourselves - the wooden case, for instance. We just take it with us as hand luggage on the plane or train. We can unfold that same wooden case in different places bringing a fusion of theatre and visual arts. We also curse market dynamics and power.
Looks like you guys have traveled places. Do you spend a lot of time abroad?
F: It's a misconception that we're always traveling. Most of our time is spend in our studio. We do try new things abroad, these experiments form the foundation of our work. During our residency in Berlin last summer, Robbert drove 45 minutes to get clay. The tablets had to dry in the sun for three weeks. We’d invested a lot of work into it. When we put the first tablet on the open fire, it exploded. Apparently, the tablets first have to get used to the fire by laying next to it. Those shards led to new creations in our studio.
What travel experience has stuck with you?
F: I've installed figurines on the Chinese wall. It was such a hassle to get there. We were dropped in the jungle, being told that the wall wasn't far away. All I had was a few more M&M's in my pocket. Eventually it became a late night trip which was pretty cool.
Frank&Robbert Robbert&Frank : BREADCRUMBS
23 Feb - 29 November Be-Part, Waregem
Free for all