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Interview With Artist Christiaan Bastiaans About Beautiful Distress

Bastiaans participated in the artist-in-residence project for Beautiful Distress

A couple of months ago Christiaan Bastiaans ended his artist-in-residence stay in the Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. He was one of the six artists, four Dutch and two American, who each spent three months inside the hospital to get inspired by the patients, staff and surroundings and eventually reflect this in their artwork. Last November/December, he exhibited some of his findings in the solo exhibition Pharmacy Deux Milles’ at the contemporary artspace Looiersgracht 60 in Amsterdam.It’s time to take a closer look at the man behind the artwork.  

When reading about the projects Christiaan Bastiaans has established over the years, you would find the term ‘Hurt Models’ quite often in relation to his work. He focuses on people who are forced against their will to find ways to survive, the alienated and displaced people of our society. In his exploration of the human condition, he has named these people Hurt Models. Christiaan Bastiaans’s work deals with existential issues, he tries to create awareness by giving the displaced, the Hurt Models, a voice. It is one of the reasons he contributed to the Beautiful Distress project. Although Christiaan Bastiaans sheds light on this group, their problems are constricted in a larger social problem. One with notions of power and control. Bastiaans asks himself the question: ‘How can art and poetic imagination facilitates those who are most vulnerable in a changing world that is dictated by power notions and market mechanisms?’ This stirs up new ideas for him as an artist, about communication and participation, in which the artist-in-residence constructed projects are a well-fitted-form. ‘Artist-in-residence projects broaden the knowledge about subject matter and groups we don’t know about yet. Inspiring collaborations, I think, is the most important aspect of it. It’s so important to inspire others and get inspired, to create more understanding. These experiences will always stick with you and is the most important reason why I became an artist.’

During his time in the Kings County Hospital, Christiaan Bastiaans didn’t work closely with the clients. Instead, he wanted to explore the environment and talk to the KCH employees to gain insights. He attended staff evaluations and noted everything he found of value for the project’s development. He produced notebooks with ideas and moodboards shaped as a film/live performance plan in progress. This will result in a radioplay- and a filmscript, that in its further processing, such as working with professional actors, will be integrated in an interdisciplinary presentation. ‘This material will become part of a project titled ‘Valuable Cargo’. I’ve worked on this project for the last two years and will present it sometime in 2017. The script is about a psychiatric hospital that has changed into an utopian community created by patients and staff. It has all the aspects of a science fiction thriller; when the outside world tries to take over this self-made paradise created by displaced people.’

Although Bastiaans is very passionate about his work, he doesn’t try to impose an opinion. ‘I don’t want to tell people what to do. I think that every good artwork, which is based upon well-founded ideas and thoughts, always shows a reflection of the artist’s opinion. I do want my art to move people and inspire them to think about social issues, but I have no intention in forcing something. Encourage to think freely, that’s the main reason why I create.’

On April 12 there is an artist talk with Christiaan Bastiaans at the Residency Unlimited (RU) in Brooklyn. This event is free and open to the public. Find more information, here.


DutchCulture USA