The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

ASSASSINATION: Bob Waardenburg, Artist and Co-Publisher of WITZWART

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Self-portrait of Bob Waardenburg in midair. Courtesy of Bob Waardenburg.
Bob Waardenburg: human red 2, 2009, c-print, 75 by 50 centimeters. Courtesy of myartspace.

I had the chance to peep Bob Waardenburg‘s challenging conceptual photography on his myartspace website when he was a featured artist there. After pondering his own series entitled “action figures” where the artist executes self-portraits of himself suspended in midair juxtaposed with a kite-like object that imitates that same pose. Hearkening back to the serial number of figure studies, Waardenburg, who is an emerging Dutch artist, is able to play around with the concept of body versus concept as well as movement versus stillness.

Conceptual photography has become a rather difficult media to work with due to the potentially high level of pretensions and cliches. This artist has managed to avoid both by presenting a fresh look at our idea of portraiture and redacting it to fit a certain playfulness that mirrors his imagination that defies ordinary physics.

If you have any questions about Waardenburg’s artwork or the magazine WITZWART which he co-publishes, feel free to contact him at

RIght now on to the show and so here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this “assassination”:

qi peng: To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your artistic eye and tastes?

Bob Waardenburg: Favorite artists are: Pollock, Bacon, Constant and less classical artists like Esther Stocker and  Joep van Lieshout. But I am still exploring and discovering.

Favorit books include: works of Jack Kerouac, Michel Houllebecq and Hemmingway.

I don’t have a television.

I like jiu-jitsu, running and I enjoy watching rugby

art magazine that I read include Frame, Blend, Damn and Donald Duck.

Toys I have? My guitar and my macbook.

Movies i like? I watch to many of them, i lost count and track, guess its the experience of watching that count more than the quality of the movie, though i don’t watch many art house movies lately. They are just to much.

I am not much of a collector so i don’t have many artifacts. I have a small collection of religious pictures though, i like the drama of faith. The Catholic church is very good in portraying drama.

I actually don’t see a lot of exhibitions. And when i do i either get jealous or sick. Neither is very good for me so most of the time the exhibitions i visit are friends’ (who’s work i already know) or more classic exhibitions in museums. I saw a retrospective of Constant once in The Hague, i can still visualize it as it was, especially the ‘new babylon’ project.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism? Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world? Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis? Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Santa Fe or Amsterdam will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City? What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the Netherlands where you are located? Is it difficult to sell conceptual photography to the public, particularly during this slow economy?

Bob Waardenburg: With art journalism it, i think, the same as with any journalism: it is an to subjective view, with a very temporary value only. One day you are in, next you are out. So i dont worry to much about that. By the way, today i learned that van Gogh didn’t cut his own ear, but it was Gaugin and he did it with a SWORD! Now thats good journalism. But when i comes to the art world, i try not to worry, i read it, but after that, i don’t know. I look every day on it is a dutch art blog with diffrent topics every day, and a lot of images.

I don’t know Sante Fe, but when it comes to Amsterdam I don’t think so. The city is just to small and there are no possibilities to grow. I think that to have a good art scene a city has to have a good underground scene. When a city is to smaal there is no space for the undergound scene, which automaticly means it lacks the growing grounds for a good contemporary art scene. I myself live in Arnhem which is a good place to live but the contemporary scene is as good as death. Right now there are some signs of live, but not much. The dutch are not very open minded towards the art, there are a lot of possibilities, but they all move within their own little scenes. It is always fighting for the possibilities, the money, the people.

Right now i think photography is one of the easiest arts to sell. But since i am not a photographer pur sang, i still have difficulties selling work. As for the action figure series, that one is to recent to say something about the sales

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger national economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in Europe? Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption? Any thoughts on the Obama administration or European politics in relation to your viewpoint on identity, thoughtful fantasy, and the arts scene?

Bob Waardenburg: I think that the recession is very positive for the art world. Especially for the artists. They are forced to focus again on their own work and not on the commercial succes. Which will i think become a new standard in the future. But of course it are not the artists who decide about the commercial succes of their work. When it comes to non-profits and galleries i think that the recession is a bad thing. They will become more eager for the little money that is available, this will probebly result in producing and selling work that is easier to sell and probebly less experimental. But the times will shift, as they allways do. I do not worry much about this. I just work. I have not much interest in stocks and international politics. They don’t affect me or my work in any way.

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Holland or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Bob Waardenburg: In Amsterdam there is the Atheneum bookstore on Spui which sells every magazine there is. Including WITZWART magazine, that i publish together with a friend. In Eindhoven there is Motta a store that sells every artbook available in the world. About these stores i enjoy it very much that they don’t have no theme or restriction. They just have everything.

qi peng: As a graduate of the Hogeschool voor de kunsten ArtEZ and Erasmus College, what were those school years like? How was life in the studio like back then? Did you have any influential professors or students during that time and what was their impact on you and your work? How did you develop your current style of conceptual photography and charcoal drawings and other work based on the concept of LEGO-like structures, body/architectural forms, and levitation?

Bob Waardenburg: First i have to mention that erasmus college was a high school (that is what college means in dutch) so there was no studio time there only the normal puberty problems. On ArtEZ i studied theater. So most of the live there was lived in the theater. And it was the theater that made me a visual artist. During my studies i developed such an disgust about theater conventions and the restricted views of my fellow students and teachers that i slowly started to do more performance art and drawings. During my study i decided to split my time between school and the (visual) art world. I abandoned the theater and started improvising with paper and charcoal and different materials. Within the improvisation i devolop concept that i start improvising with. As you can see with m latest project i started venturing within live improvisation again. The images that come forth from these improvisations i select and finish into a fixed artwork. Mostly projects itself indicate the direction for new projects. That is how right now i am stuck on body/architectural forms and levitation.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite hobbies which you enjoy in your spare time? How do these activities inform the studio work that you pursue? With your personal interests, is your conceptual artwork reflective of those hobbies you engage in?

Bob Waardenburg: I enjoy driving motorcycle, camping and visiting concerts. I try not to mix these activities up with my work. But they do provide a welcome distracting from the work and relax for once in a while. Same for running by the way.

qi peng: You have various series that you have completed including action figures, action figure stills, mega compounds, compound metro, tape, instant design, george, and charcoal drawings which are based on a particular driving concept. How do you engineer what you impose as the driving concept throughout one series? For example, what was the method from start to finish within the action figures series? What is the underlying philosophical construct? For the action figures series do you use wire work to suspend the body midair before taking the photograph?

Bob Waardenburg: Within the action figure series i started with the idea to built costumes that would restrict the wearer more that it would help him. It were supposed to be architectural shapes that fitted a man well enough to be a moving building. The idea that a man is trapped in his own building appealed to me, for i see a link with a man being trapped in his own world of thoughts and views.during the building of the costumes it quickly became clear that a man fited within, but a real live performance would never be possible. For dramatic reasons. It would simply be very, very boring. So the buidling and the search went on (building and searching is, by the way, a process that is present in all my work). When i finished the costumes i realised that it were not costumes anymore, but manlike structures. They were what i wanted them to be but not suitable for wearing this point i started to perform with the sculptures instead of in them. This resulting in the action figures movie stills. To picture the relation between the man and the figure more clear i made the photo serie action figures. And no, it what not wire work that suspended the body in mid air, but muscle power and gravity. The photo serie is still a documentation of a performance and therefore rehearsed but not constructed. The right timing depended on bruises and somebody who pushed the button on the right time.

qi peng: Are there any places which you would like to travel someday to? Which places would you find inspiring to see? Do you incorporate the idea of travel, particularly within the universal forms expressed in your sketches, within any of your pieces? In what ways does the concept of travel relate to your conceptual work?

Bob Waardenburg: I would very muchlike to go to Japan, it is supposed to be insane. Travelling is improvising. I am not a person who arranges his travels, so i just look where the motorcycle takes me. That is also the link with most of my work. I visualise an idea not an image before i start working. So its the improvising with the material that takes me to the final image. Improvising being traveling.

qi peng: What is your past and current involvement with the gallery system in the Netherlands? Do you have any future projects coming up soon? In your opinion, how does the American and European art world and market differ from one another? Do you feel that the galleries in Holland take larger risks in curating than those in the United States?

Bob Waardenburg: I find it difficult to answer this question for i have little experience with the gallery world. Since i’m relativilly new in he art world (now working as fulltime artist for two years) i am still looking for the ways to be incorporated in the gallery world. But i actually think there is little diffrence in gallerys (for wath i’ve seen on the art fares), they all curate on what they think is marketable. Nothing wrong with that though. For myself. I have a group show in tacheles art house in Berlin 29th of may till 19th of june, and a big project on the outside of a building in Arnhem during the ‘made in arnhem’ festival starting 19th of september.

qi peng: Your charcoal drawings express minimalist, stark networks of black lines against a white ground like a hybrid of Serra‘s weighty prints and Mondrian‘s cubist landscapes before his foray into De Stijl. How has your style evolved from your fascination with form and texture into your current photographic documentation of the body? What themes or preoccupations have remained the same throughout your whole body of work?

Bob Waardenburg: The charcoal drawings are at the start of my carreer, they are indeed very plane explorations of form, texture and improvising with the two of them. During the time that i was drawing a lot i felt the urge to include more figurative aspects in my work and so give the images i make an extra value. I wanted to make the textures i draw three dimensional to let them live and tell what they are. It was only later that i included myself (and my body) in that. Actually i already allways wanted to include myself and other in the process of image making. The drawings were made to let the mind (and therefor the person) wander within. The step to three diminsional shapes gives me an extra opportunity, an extra dimension, and therefor extra possibillities to explore the relations between the human mind/body and the shapes that surround us.

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with readers and fans of your conceptual projects, works on paper, and your exhibitions here?

Bob Waardenburg: At this moment nothing. I like to go overseas though, so i’m allways open to invitations.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

July 7, 2009 at 2:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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