Martijn Hendriks is a Dutch artist who lives and works in
Amsterdam. His work explores a wide variety of media and has been exhibited in various galleries worldwide. In this interview, Keiu Krikmann (freelance writer, translator and one of the coordinators of the art space Konstanet), speaks with him about material & immaterial, online circulation and of course, about his process of making art objects within the so-called
post-internet age.

Cover Image: Not Yet Titled, 2014
Studio image from artist’s instagram account
Plexiglass, aluminum, artichoke flowers

Keiu Krikmann: First of all, I’d love to hear about the way you work, the process you go through when making art. In a previous interview you’ve said that even though you’ve increasingly started focusing on material objects, you still might begin with something immaterial, like a text or an image you’ve come across online. How do you manage shifting between the material and immaterial in your work?

Martijn Hendriks: This desire to go back and forth continuously from immaterial content to material sculpture is something that comes back a lot in my work process. I don’t know exactly how this shifting occurs or how I manage it, but what is interesting is that these immaterial sources can act as a ground for an insistently material and physical practice. At the start of my process is often a kind of script comprised of texts and images taken from the internet and I translate that into works. Much of my daily information about what happens in the world comes from social networks, aggregator news sites or short texts I read on my phone. So my whole sense of what the world is like often feels deeply marked to me by the way that online media reformat the world to a version that is optimized for immaterial circulation. And this extends into our personal lives of friendships, affects and emotions, the vocabulary we have to speak of our environment. I try to register these conditions in my work and consider what they mean. And like you said, I’ve been doing this in increasingly material ways, making sculptures, objects that perhaps can be seen as attempts to materialize the dynamics of the immaterial world that our social and personal lives have largely migrated to. I’m interested in how I can make these conditions tangible and materialize these things in my work in new ways. And it’s great to work in sculpture at this moment. It feels as if a continuously renewing form of materiality can be used in sculpture today, a form of materiality which is fundamentally hybrid and fluid in its relation to immaterial things like language, networks, images, or things like followers, likes, internet trends.

35-Martijn-Hendriks-Not-Yet-Titled-studio-image-from-artist's-instagram-account-(4)Not Yet Titled, 2014
Studio image from artist’s instagram account
Powder coated steel, cotton-coated electric cords, ceramic lightbulb fitting, energy saving lamp, pvc tubing, sealed air bags, artichoke flowers, tie-wrap, plexiglass, water, waterpump

KK: Do you think shifting from material to immaterial and vice versa could be seen as an act of translation and if so, how ‘accurate’ do you think these translations between the two realms can even be?

MH: Not accurate at all, probably. But that’s what I like about it. It is a form of translation, but a weird form. Often I feel that material is not like language at all. Sometimes it’s dumb and can’t be read or reinterpreted. So maybe it’s the end point of a message or a press release. Maybe a pop up ad can lead to a sculpture but it won’t send out the same message. But the attempt to use it as a language is what counts. You change the form of something and try to push the idea that this material truly speaks about what it started with. And it does. But it’s a form of translation that continually transforms and contaminates what it translates. As such it is a dysfunctional translation at most, a translation that is closer to the breakdown of functional systems into new and leaky forms than to the idea of a transparent or official use of language.

KK: It seems that contemporary art objects rarely exist just as material objects, as artefacts in their own right, they rather function as representations of an array of immaterial networks. And they eventually seem to exist in a universe of satellites and spin-offs – I mean, depending on the artist, in the process of making art objects, they often produce images that start circulating online, independent from what they were initially related to. Not to mention the same process becomes maybe even more pronounced after the object has been exhibited in a gallery. Do you consider these images that are created in the process of making art objects separate or just alternate versions of the same thing?

MH: I’m interested in how sculptures are a kind of bodies that enter into and move through different networks – personal, social, technological, financial, material. I like to think of how art works incorporate these networks and how they infect them, dissolve their boundaries, or maybe create their own smaller temporary networks. I think the images that art works generate and which inevitably start circulating faster than the work itself are part of these capabilities. They are a way for a work to enter into other relations than the ones directly available. And the way I see it, it leads to this situation in which one work, like a material sculpture, can lead multiple different but simultaneous lives. Sometimes I approach a sculpture by first doing a photoshop image, but of course they are completely different from physical materials in how messy and unpredictable your process can get. I was working on these strange pieces called Derivatives, a group of wall sculptures that have pieces of clothing drifting in pools of epoxy before hardening into solid shapes, and none of the photoshop sketches I did for them would have told me what happens when you mess up your molds and they start leaking and dripping epoxy resin all over the place, on your shoes, and on the other works. I’ve become interested in feeding this messy, often dysfunctional material process back into a much more immaterial and public daily process, like taking pictures of things I’m working on with my phone, posting them on instagram or tumblr or sometimes on facebook. And somehow the simple act of doing that changes something in how I understand the work I’m doing, as if there is this side to it that makes me feel that generating a form of immaterial circulation through different networks and sharing images of a work with a largely anonymous audience are part of the material process of making a sculpture. I don’t know if this makes sense. It helps me understand my material decisions in a different way, which makes me feel somehow that sculpture is a different thing today than it was before, even in material terms and the forms it takes, because it materializes immaterial processes and their information in different ways. It wants and needs new things.

36-Martijn-Hendriks-Not-Yet-Titled-studio-image-from-artist's-instagram-account-(3)Not Yet Titled, 2014
Studio image from artist’s instagram account
Aluminum, polyurethane foam, ear buds, tie wraps, perforated adhesive foil

KK: But in broader terms, the constant shifting between the physical and digital existence has become quite commonplace in our everyday lives. Often without much consideration, we convert our actions into data; our thoughts, feelings and sometimes whole aspects of ourselves are turned into likes and follows. How do you manage that outside your practice, in your daily life – do you embrace it or see this as an inevitability? Is it even possible to log off anymore, and is there a point to it anyway?

MH: I’m just figuring this out as we go. What’s clear is that it’s hardly possible anymore to separate personal and professional life, or what’s private and public. And definitely it has become more complicated to log off, and being unreachable is easily understood as a statement or a socially charged gesture. I don’t know exactly how many times my phone has needed my attention even during this interview but it’s often and it doesn’t stop. It’s not going to become less so it’s better to find a good way of dealing with it. Paradoxically, often it feels like the only viable way to critically and personally deal with it is to over-identify with the accelerating demand to share, to be online, to comment, to self-brand, to like and to follow by embracing it even more than is needed. To over-embrace this situation as a critical strategy. But it definitely makes more sense to me to do this through my work than by putting myself in front of my work. Maybe sculptures and selfies are not so different when it comes to online circulation.

37-Martijn-Hendriks-Profile-2014-studio-image-from-artist's-tumblr-accountProfile, 2014
Studio image from artist’s facebook account
Glass, plastic, cotton, cotton-coated electric cord, ceramic lightbulb fitting, energy saving lamp, epoxy resin, noodle residues

KK: Alongside these transformations, the meaning of the word ‘labour’ has also changed, it has been extended to new spheres – we now talk about immaterial labour, affective labour, digital labour etc. What do you think ‘labour’ means to artists working within the so-called post-internet condition?

MH: I don’t know about this. I try not to think of the question of labour too much when I’m working. I enjoyed reading people like Maurizio Lazzarato, Franco “Bifo” Berardi or John Kelsey, though. Berardi’s The Soul at Work and Kelsey’s text for Artforum called Next-Level Spleen were important in how we could think about the relationship between work and art at some point. It’s interesting that at this moment discussions of networked life often bring up issues of panic, crisis, network-fatigue, network-disgust, exhaustion, and so on. Part of that mix is the feeling that many artists I know go through, this sense that their online social life is as important to their practice and productivity as having a studio. Maybe it is. It’s interesting to see, also, how the term post-internet seems to have completely deflated in a very short time span. For a short moment it seemed to have an edge, it seemed to bring together a group of artists that was internationally dispersed but brought together by shared interests. Right now it feels as if the spread and use of the internet has become such a banal and everyday fact of life that it doesn’t need to be pointed out so much anymore in these very large historical terms. I think that’s a good thing, because it creates a need to articulate your work in more individual and particular terms. Now that the novelty of making work that shows its awareness of networked life has worn off, we can get to the good stuff. For me this brings up the notion that networks are not just there to be used or celebrated but can also be charted as they mutate into different forms, dissolve into other networks, disintegrate, or introduce disruptive moments into previously balanced situations.

KK: And even though everything appears to become increasingly dematerialised, you still work with actual, real life materials. So, what does it mean to work with material, to make sculptures – why do you think there’s still a keen interest in materiality?

MH: For me this choice is motivated exactly by this doubleness, by the strange status and possibilities of material sculpture in times of immaterial labor. The ways that we relate to the material world are changing rapidly and working with materiality allows me to register and respond to that. What interests me is a kind of insistent physicality of experience: no matter how entangled we become with the immaterial world of digital networks, finance and technology, these transformations express themselves ultimately through physical, material reality. The messier and more hybrid this reality gets, the more it interests me as a sculptor. There are many great artists working in sculpture at the moment and I think the issue of materiality in the contemporary context is an issue that underlies some very diverse sculptural practices that I am excited about.

7-Martijn-Hendriks-Just-Think-of-What-You-Could-Do-2014-(1)Just Think of What You Could Do, 2014
Aluminum, t-shirts, UV cured print, cotton coated electrical cord, ceramic bulb fitting, energy saving daylight lamp, vanilla stick

KK: Also, what does it mean to present these material objects in a gallery – I asked you about the universe created in the process of making art objects – do you see the sculptures as a kind of a crystallisation that just happens at some point or are they more like the pinnacle, like the ultimate expression of that process?

MH: That’s a good question. I really have to force myself to stop working on certain sculptures. Often I typically still consider adding elements or changing things very far in the process of installing a show. And then the process doesn’t stop. Whenever I have to leave a work alone and tell myself that it works in that form, I often continue with the process that led to that form. In a way I think of material sculptures as part of the script I’m working with, just translated into material forms, and both are somehow pretty much fluid, with forms I work with always mutating into other forms.

6-Martijn-Hendriks-Within-Seven-Days-2014-(2)Within Seven Days, 2014
Aluminum, t-shirts, UV cured print, cotton coated electrical cord, ceramic bulb fitting, energy saving daylight lamp

KK: I also know that you’ve got a show coming up – you’re participating in a large group exhibition next year and you’ve began working on some new things. Would you mind talking about these works a little; how do they relate to your practice and if you’ve maybe started exploring any new themes?

MH: It’s always tricky to talk about new work that’s still developing but I can try and say a few things. If you take the two main topics we talked about, materiality and immateriality, and how they continuously infect each other, I think that the new work comes from a desire to radicalize the hybrid relation between them. One theme that’s developing in my work at the moment is the changing idea of anthropomorphism, the human subject and body seemingly falling apart and at the same time being held together by their entanglement with socio-technological networks, motivational language, commercialized care of the self, finance and debt structures. I’m collecting texts on the internet that talk about these issues and I’m turning them into a new script. The kind of materiality I’m looking into for these new works is more outspoken in its embrace of the possibility of contamination. For example, fluids that turn solid, liquids, UV and inkjet prints on adhesive materials, but also bringing in the possibility of working with elements that generate warmth, light and movement, as ways of shaking up the presumed stability of material objects. I’m really excited about these new works.

12-Martijn-Hendriks-Credit-Like-Drain-Follow-Martin-van-Zomeren-Amsterdam-2014-Installation-view-(1)Installation view Credit Like Drain Follow, 2014
Martin van Zomeren Gallery, Amsterdam

15-Martijn-Hendriks-Much-Deep-Fear-of-Everything-2014-(2)Much Deep Fear of Everything, 2014
Banner displays, altered ergonomic body supports

28-Martijn-Hendriks-Inbox-2014Inbox, 2014
PVC tube, Financial Times pages, International New York Times pages

29-Martijn-Hendriks-Inbox-2014-detailInbox, 2014
PVC tube, Financial Times pages, International New York Times pages
(detail)

31-Martijn-Hendriks-Not-Yet-Titled-studio-image-from-artist's-instagram-account-(5)Not Yet Titled, 2014
Studio image from artist’s instagram account
Canvas on aluminum stretchers, polyurethane, acrylic, uv print, altered photoshop image

33-Martijn-Hendriks-Not-Yet-Titled-studio-image-(1)

34-Martijn-Hendriks-Not-Yet-Titled-studio-image-(2)Not Yet Titled, 2014
Studio image from artist’s tumblr account
Epoxy resin, sweater, PVC sheet, cotton-coated electric cord, ceramic lightbulb fitting, energy saving lamp, unprocessed vanilla

32-Martijn-Hendriks-Experimental-Finance-(Wikipedia)-2014Experimental Finance (Wikipedia), 2014
Energy saver lamp, ceramic fitting, cord, t-shirts, hot glue sticks, epoxy-coated sports shoe lace, powder coated steel, uv printed vinyl sheet

Martijn Hendriks

interview by Keiu Krikmann, a freelance writer, translator and one of the coordinators of Konstanet
O Fluxo, October 2014