All flight data is safely stored in a so-called black box of an aircraft. The black box that Jasper de Beijer (1973) built in Museum Rijswijk also contains all the data of his work from the past twenty years in a compact way. Whoever enters the space illuminated by black light, is in fact walking into the head of the artist, who looks back on all his projects in black and white images.
The view of his brain full of memories is nothing short of spectacular. The visitor is amazed by the small space, which at first sight appears somewhat claustrophobic, but once the eyes are used to the dark, it suggets an enormous depth. Layer upon layer, as if he were an archaeologist digging up his own history, De beijer presents this installation, thanks to the Agnes ven den Brandeler Museum Prize at Rijswijk, to realize its artistic past.
Anyone familiar with his work will recognize many objects and figures in this all encompassing installation, which is made of painted paper and cardboard: from the African pick-up truck in the Udongo series, and the church tower in Wir sind das Gedachtnis, to the fallen horse in the series Le Sacre du Printemps, about the battlefields of the First World War.
Anyone who first becomes acquainted with his oeuvre in Rijswijk will be overwhelmed at first sight by the amount of information the artist has packed into his work and the question arises: What the hell am I looking at? With this, De Beijer immediately has the visitor at their wits' end. Because challenging, misleading and questioning the viewer is the basis of his work: Do we know what we see? Or do we mainly see what we want?
"It's hard to get a grip on my universe," admits the artist. "And this is the first time in my career that I show the making process of my photo works. Until now, I have never shown the paper models that I use for my photos, so as not to disturb the magic of my photo images. The original models often no longer exist, I have thrown them away. For this installation I had to recreate from memory or from the photos."
An unrelenting familiarity with the world around him drives De Beijer. Every project starts with a journey to an area unknown to him. That can be the battelfield in Flanders and northern France, from the colonial past of Indonesia and Curacao, the romance of Dark Africa, and the violent drug cartels in Mexico. Once there, he obsessivley dives into the subject.
An unrelenting curiosity about the world around him drives De Beijer.
"It's not my goal to teach history," he explains. Nor do I ever make moral judgements about situations or eras. My main aim is to questoin our perception: is there such a thing as one truth? Our knowledge is reality, and there are therefore various truths."
Power and Violence
The research into a subject that touches or fascinates him eventually leads to the making of paper models, figures formed from leather or textile, or objects from the 3D printer, which he then photographs and processes in the computer. Recurring themes in his choice of subjects are power, conflict, and violence.
"In almost all my work, different emotions exist side by side: even though some images are horrific or refer to a dramatic past full of struggle, there is also a certain beauty. As gripping as the subject can be, I always have a lot of fun in my work. I like to make costumes from simple materials, such as paper, wire, leather, and fabric, and create convincing characters. I hope the viewer experiences that too."
"Critical Mass" is on view through April 18 at Museum Rijswijk.