At the Fashion&FOAM exhibition in the Vijzelstraat, the work of Emmeline de Mooij was a real eye catcher. Not because of its colors, not because of its size, not because of its position, but because it was ‘different’. In an exhibition on fashion design, she chose not to show clothing or fashion photography, but to present a canvas with a picture of a jumping naked woman and collected sand, called ‘Gravity and Domestic Dust’. A very (strange?) personal approach to what fashion design is? How does she describe herself, and what –as an ex-Rietveld student- is her connection to the Rietveld after 10 years of graduation? As a reaction on her visual work, I chose a personal formal approach by sending her a letter full of loose questions, written on pictures of the Rietveld building and on photographs of her own work. What I got back was not a complete story, not a letter either, but a bunch of answers giving a slight insight in the relation between this versatile artist and ‘our’ Rietveld.
How do you describe what you do?
Emmeline de Mooij (born in Delft, The Netherlands, 1978) investigates in her installations, photo’s and performances, the human being looking for something to hold on, confronted with the sight of a dizzying big universe. Comfort and a therapeutic effect is often found in surrounding oneself with as much objects as possible.
In her work she creates artifacts and remnants of fictional societies and scenes from apocalyptic scenario’s, removing the contradictions between the everyday and the improbable. Materials such as clothing, utensils, plastic, clay and Styrofoam, she molds together into images referring to science-fiction, archeological finds and pseudo-scientific theories.
The complex, with objects surrounded modern life and the nostalgic desire for simplicity, she captures in an ironic way. Where concepts of freedom and panic are inextricably linked to each other.
You+Rietveld: Happy marriage?
Yeah, quite a happy marriage! Although I wouldn’t describe the Rietveld at that time as a top level institute. I thrived well in the general focus at the Rietveld at giving the students a lot of freedom and responsibility, but I also think that there were a lot of not really good teachers. Teaching on a bad level, not up to date with developments within the international art world, or just not dedicated enough (absent all the time, sick, burn-out etc). I had the feeling some of those teachers where teaching there since ages, having this contract, so they were save for the next 10 years, they were friendly to the director and that seemed enough to keep their job.
In what way did you(r work) change during your Rietveld studies?
I guess, due to the fact the Rietveld being quite an international community, the same counts for Amsterdam where I moved to for my studies, my horizon was broadened. And I felt I could finally fully express myself, surrounded by like minded people, quite different from the provincial town I grew up.
What is your relationship to other (ex-)Rietveld students?
I have some friends that went to the Rietveld as well, maybe 30% of my friends? But I’m not one of those that keep hanging out with only Rietveld people, there’s quite a big community in Amsterdam that is like that.
Does it matter that they are from the Rietveld as well?
See answer above.
Do you think that someone can say that your work is “typically Rietveld -based”?
To be honest, I hope not. I hope my work is not too strongly part of just one particular tradition.
Although sometimes I have the feeling, especially compared to artists with a background in American art education, people who studied at the Rietveld have quite an elaborate/intuitive way of working, which feels to me more natural. So I wouldn’t mind if people would connect me to the Rietveld in that sense.
I can’t ignore though that my work can be typical Dutch sometimes.
Especially in photography I think there is a certain approach that a lot of Dutch artists unites, “improvised” looking still lives for example, or snap shot like photo’s with strong flash light, the use of humor in the work. And many times I think Dutch art isn’t very political, again especially compared to artists with a background in American art education (for me this is a strong reference just because I recently lived/studied in the States for 1,5 years), artists here are not extremely engaged or making political statements.
Why did you go to NYC after your studies?
Because I got offered a scholarship for the Photo Global Residency Program
When did you start making these (canvas)works? Do you consider them as fashion design?
I started making them in New York in 2010. I wouldn’t consider them as fashion design.
Do you manage to draw the school-floorplan by memory?
What did you learn most in school?
Working from my intuition.
Did the school change in your eyes?
Would you change something?
If there are still these teachers that aren’t dedicated and not good at teaching, I would throw them out and really try to upscale the general level. There are enough great artists and theorists living in or close to Amsterdam who could teach at the Rietveld.
Did you ever think about quitting the Rietveld?
When where you there for the last time?
I think 2008, for the graduation show.
Do you feel linked to the school today?
Not so much, although coincidentally two weeks ago or so I ended up at a lecture from the Italian thinker Bifo and I heard he was going to speak at the Rietveld Studium Generale the next day. So I checked the Rietveld website and some lectures looked interesting, but I had to finish some works for a show so I couldn’t go. But maybe definitely next time.