We Asked Dutch Art School Students How They Survived Their Thesis Shows
"My teacher was very quiet for a few moments, and then he said, 'I think it's best if you just throw this away.'"
This article originally appeared on Creators Netherlands, as part of a series exploring senior thesis shows at art schools. Brace yourself!
Studying and sitting around usually go hand in hand. Somehow, you always seem to find a great new TV series to obsessively binge watch the week before an exam, and by the time the series is finished, you only have enough time left to scroll through some of the PowerPoint slides the night before the test. Most of the time that's just enough effort to pass, and then you can go on with your life.
Fortunately, that period is over for these students from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, a renowned Dutch visual arts and design college based in Amsterdam. These guys and gals have just turned in their graduation work and their thesis shows, so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to look back at the tricks, tips, and clever ways they were able to circumvent the strict regime of Gerrit Rietveld Academy.
Daniel Farr (29), VAV - Moving Image
Graduated with Muscle Dollies in Holon
"It's based on a book by Terence McKenna and some conversations about out-of-body experiences, some stages of your subconscious, and different research methods."
Creators: Sounds interesting, but how do you feel when you look back at all your years at Rietveld?
Daniel Farr: They were definitely the hardest, most challenging, and tormenting years of my life.
So how did you survive them?
Through good old willpower, perseverance, and determination.
Sure, but when did you cut corners?
All the time, actually. I didn't always show up—not for academic things, anyway.
Did you have to flatter your teachers to get away with that?
No, but I told them I needed time to work on my own ideas outside of the academy. They often understood that.
Eva Verheul (30), designLAB
Graduated with 5.5 mm Yellow
"I make things that are related to visual communication. This is an installation of watching furniture— furniture you can't sit on, but can only look at. And I wanted to capture all the different layers of that process of watching in my work, so [there's meaning] in the shape, color, and texture of every layer."
I can see you put blood, sweat and tears into this. Were there also times when you didn't feel like doing anything?
Eva Verheul: Yes, of course. Especially during the work process when you think, where is this going?
Did you feel that way with this graduation project?
Well, I actually wanted to make a combination of three objects, but I didn't think the blue cube I made was tight enough.
Did you ever cut corners during your studies?
On the contrary, I had moments where I'd think about things that were way too difficult more often than not. I wanted to make a huge heating system in which you'd also wear a heating suit, but I only had three weeks left, so it just became a body warmer with hand-warmer hot packs inside—the ones you can break for warmth. But once they've cooled off, you need to reheat them—but obviously nobody [carries around] a pot you can use to cook a body warmer.
Were you punished for it?
Yeah, they're hard [on us] here. In my first year, I spent a lot of time making a maquette of the Rietveld building with little gems. Something just felt very homemade and not quite good about it, but I still showed it to my teacher. He was very quiet for a few moments, and then he said, "I think it's best if you just throw this away."
Wiebe Bouwsema (22), Fine Arts
Graduated with Multiple Untitled Works
"It's a series of installations that originated from previous works, which are also depicted on each part. I want to create full, [immersive] spaces, so I locked myself in a room with only A4 paper [to make] one of them."
Why A4 paper?
Wiebe Bouwsema: The material got my attention. It's a widely used and well-known format [in Europe].
Okay then. Did you ever cut corners during your studies?
No, I take everything I do very seriously. I put a lot of time into my projects.
But if you're really being honest, was there ever a time when you just didn't feel like working?
During presentations or critiques, there's moments in which you really think, why do I actually do this? And what am I actually doing? It's hard to hear what someone else thinks about your work when you already know what their feedback is going to be.
Nikola Lamburov (25), Photography
Graduated with Dodge and Burn
"My work is about the violence that surrounds photography, which can be very intimidating. Just look at photography terms like 'shooting', 'burning', and 'dodging'. I'm also obsessed with fashion magazines."
In all the years you studied at Rietveld, did you ever want to…
Nikola Lamburov: Kill myself?
It was difficult, of course. But then you also remember that it's such a privilege to study at this Academy.
Was there ever a time where you thought, "well, fuck it"—or a time where you walked into the studio with a major hangover?
I always played it pretty clean during the week. But on the weekends...
But what did you do when you were totally over taking photos?
I'd clean my entire house like a maniac. I'd put all my furniture out in the hallway so that I could really clean the whole room from top to bottom. It would make me active again, and help me get over my laziness.
Marie Larsen (26), VAV - Moving Image
Graduated with Curve Your Enthusiasm
"I like to work with things I find and [things with social recall]. For example, I found a curly cucumber in the supermarket, and I immediately found it to be perverse—like, sexually—but by creating more of them, they lose the perverse meaning attached to them."
When combined with lots of pink, there's definitely something sexual about those cucumbers.
Marie Larsen: Yeah, and you also see that people get a bit uncomfortable when they're looking at it.
Has your own work ever made you feel uncomfortable yourself?
Yeah, I've found myself in messy situations every now and then.
Have you ever put off doing everything until the absolute last minute?
You just have to force a lot out of yourself—this thesis show is the only deadline you have. I started in January and even until this very moment, there's been days when I woke up and really didn't feel like doing anything. Definitely.
Josefine Boel Johannessen (27), VAV - Moving Image
Graduated with The Sweetest Tongue Has Sharpest Tooth
"I'm fascinated by gardens and symbols of female figures. For me, a garden is a place to feed yourself and it's also a safe place."
Is this real grass?
Josefine Boel Johannessen: Yes, I planted the grass here myself and I water it every two days. There are flies, spiders, and other animals in it, but I like that.
Have you ever made something you weren't as proud of?
Yes—in my first year. You have to make a lot of stuff in your first year here, and sometimes you just don't think things through enough. You always get the impression that you could've done a better job, too.
I'm starting to suspect that you're a bit of an overachiever. There must've been something you put a little less effort into, right?
Nope. But I'm kind of sensitive and introverted, so I need time for myself. I'll take a short break from my work and that can sometimes be seen as lazy.
Click here to learn more about Gerrit Rietveld Academy.