While at Art Amsterdam, I met Melle Hendrikse (again), who is running a gallery in Bejing (→ link), as well as a space in the Netherlands.
Visiting him at his booth, I saw this work:
Insignificance, Carine Weve (→ link), 2010
It consists of 1547 index cards in seven index card cases on a table and a DVD.
I liked the look of it and I also liked the simple statement printed on each card:
Now what really got me was the story behind it. I will use Carine’s own words:
‘Insignificance’ is based on the true ‘story’ behind the sheets of photopaper I used for it. Buying value packs HP Printer ink, I always get 150 sheets of this paper for free. USELESS to me. UNASKED. And it’s true… I TRIED TO SELL IT (internet), GIVE IT AWAY (family, friends, colleagues) , and NOBODY WANTS IT.
Finally I decided to use these insignificant sheets of paper, their insignificant history to develope a new work. Seen from this context the text had to be similar for each sheet of paper, but by stamping it character by character they all become unique. So I gave them their own unique number starting with 0001 until 1547 today.
That’s right: Each letter on each of the 1547 cards is hand stamped by the artist (hence the DVD where you can see the process). Here is a coincidence turned idea turned reality with the help of Sisyphos. And I dig that sort of stuff.
Did I buy it? Nope. But …
Now, I stood there looking at the DVD for some minutes, which shows the table from the top. You can see the table (part of the work), covered with a piece of paper to protect it from the ink. You see the ink pad. You see, on the paper, the stamps for the individual letters. You the artists hands reaching for an index card, placing it in always the same spot. Then, taking one stamp after each other, stamping the same sentence on each card.
I immediately wondered: What happened to that piece of paper?
In the video you can see Weve stamping number 0601 – 0610 of the cards. And I noticed how the stamps leave little traces of ink on the paper, I saw how Carine used the paper to clean the stamps, how a space remained cleaner, because that’s where she placed the cards. I had the sense that she placed the stamps in a peculiar way …
As I found out later, she organized “… the stamps, to work as economic as possible. That’s how the working paper arose with it’s own logic related to my body and the text with her own economy. For example: the stamps with character ‘K’ and ‘M’ are completely left in the paper because they both occur only once in the text.”
I had the feeling that this piece of paper with its own alphabetical logic contained so much more of the artists work on the piece “Insignificance” than the finished piece itself. It is marked by the hours of tedious work and concentration (lamost like one of Karin Sander’s “Patina Paintings”).
So I thought, hell, let’s be a bit naive and blunt and ask the gallery owner a simple question: “What happened to that piece of paper?”
He looked at me, smiled and said: “I don’t know but I can find out.”
He called the artist there and then who said that she had indeed kept the paper, thinking about making it a seperate piece, because she, too, liked what happened to it. Sadly, I had to leave that day, but Carine took a picture of the finished paper (after stamping 1547 cards) and sent it to Melle who sent it to me:
It’s 32 x 48 cm large and titled “Insignificance; working paper”.
I think it’s absolutely beautiful! Luckily, my wife agrees.
Carine Weve wrote to me after we agreed on the deal, telling me the complete background of the work in her own words. Here is another quote: “At the bottom are little signs of my wrist or hand resting from time to time on the paper. For that matter you couldn’t have bought a more private work. The whole process, the total amount of characters I stamped, the time it took, my concentration (a certain level of concentration was needed), is hidden in this paper. I don’t know what you saw watching the DVD, but you’ve recognized ‘it’.”
Now that’s what a collector likes to hear, right?
So, gut feeling and a simple question led to this extremely awesome addition to my young collection. What do we learn from this?
Trust your gut and ask questions.
PS: What does HP learn from this? Nobody wants your paper. So you should really thank the artist for finally putting it to use.