in the Category: art

I mean, singing, cooking and eating together, that’s what it’s all comes down to, no?

When watching Marijke De Roover perform you cannot help but smile. She’s up on stage, singing in a pink gown. You feel like you recognize this song. She talks about rom-coms, about the portrayal of women in film, about heteronormativity and about having your heart broken. It all goes fast, and you’re there, trying to keep up. You start drifting off. Is the definition of love as we know it any good? Am I in love? Is that the song from Titanic? You want to watch it again, thank god there is a video.

Note: Our conversation with HISK alumna Marijke seems like an eternity ago. It was Mid-march, the day before European countries went into lockdown and right before museums and galleries closed for a long, long time. Her exhibition at De Pont was supposed to end in May but was extended to August 30th.

Interview by Elise Dupré
Photos shot by Kayla Van Durme

You just had an exhibition in De Pont called A realistic portrayal of someone using love as an escapist drug where you showed video and two-dimensional work. You also performed. What was the main idea behind this exhibition?

The title of the performance explains it well: Live, Laugh, Limerence—referring to an unanswered love I was experiencing back then. I often call it an opera piece but really it’s more a musical piece. I wanted to research the idea of love, in order to understand my own heartache better. I ended up looking at the romantic friendships from the 19th century. It’s interesting to link that bond between women to contemporary concepts like 'the lesbian continuum' by Adrienne Rich.

Now ‘love’ is understood as binary. On the one hand, you have romantic, erotic love and on the other hand friendships and family relationships. I am interested in that space in-between. The Greeks, for example, had so much more different forms of love. With different words like Eros and Philia, they approached the concept of love with a much wider understanding of what it actually is.

I plan on working on the topic of 'pleasure' next.

When looking at your previous work, you mostly did video work. When did you start performing in front of an audience?

I was at HISK and was experiencing some difficulty making work. Completely stuck. During a workshop with Nedko Solakov we got the assignment to pretend to be one of the other artists for a day. I 'was' Anaïs (Chabeur) and she was working with her father’s archives. I had worked around my own family in high school but my teachers there had told me that working autobiographically wouldn’t carry me very far. I believed them for 10 years, but luckily the people at HISK encouraged me to explore it further. It felt like a huge weight that was lifted of my shoulders, and very shortly after that, I had written the first song of my work The Eggcelent Adventures.

You perform these pieces more than once, often in different settings. Do you like the repetition?

I like it a lot, it is different every time and the more I do it, the more comfortable I get. Sometimes jokes fall through because of the language barrier but I have become more comfortable handling that. Some people see the performance more than once and come up to me afterwards to tell me that they experienced it in a whole new way. And the same goes for me. It feels different every time and I always notice different things, which is important in the overall process. Like sometimes I say a certain line and it strikes me because it suits the way I am feeling at that moment.

The performance is so abundant, complex and also, in a way, very funny. How important is humour to you?

It is the most important thing. Especially during performances. It’s nice to see the public react, I feel like I need that reaction in order to perform real. Like when they don’t laugh it can be very frustrating. I think all of my work usually comes off as funny, but it’s actually political. I am trying to open up certain set constructs. There’s a whole range of ideas beneath that humorous surface.

I think all of my work usually comes off as funny, but it’s actually political

The humorous approach also reflects in your memes, a couple of which were also shown in Tilburg. When did you start making these?

I started making them about a year ago. I think it’s a really effective medium to criticize things, the way text and image are handled is so direct. I’m definitely inspired by famous meme templates like the distracted boyfriend but use different images that I select myself.

You said you were working on the topic of pleasure next. What gives you pleasure in life?

Karaoke! All the deepest connections with people originated in music and singing. I even launched a karaoke tradition at HISK! I mean, singing, cooking and eating together, that’s what it’s all comes down to, no? 

Marijke De Roover graduated at HISK in 2018.
The Higher Institute for Fine Arts is organizing Open Studio days from 18 until 21 September.
To guarantee everyone a safe and pleasant visit, HISK asks you to book your timeslot here.