Commas and footnotes set the rhythm
Ahead of the opening of her new exhibition at De Warande in Turnhout, Antwerp-based artist Ode de Kort introduces us to the universe she created with A ST'OCK(ING) OF F'OOT N'OTES. Through a particular balance of language and movement, and by focusing on the footnote, the exhibition presents a poised expansion of Ode’s vocabulary of work.
Can you tell us more about your new exhibition at De Warande?
The exhibition is split up into two rooms. One room, which I refer to as the practice space, features rubber boots and also functions as a space for movement and practice. In the second room, I placed an installation with a large print, tripod mirrors, and rubber boots. The first space centers on performance, whereas the second space is about reflection.
The all-black atmosphere, combined with the expectation of performance, made me curious to approach the theatre room from my own art practice
What is special about the exhibition at De Warande is that one of the rooms is actually a theatre room. Even before De Warande approached me, I’d been wanting to work in this type of space for a while. I recently participated in a residency where I was able to work from a theatre room for a brief period; since that residency was quite short, I was left with an appetite to continue working in this type of space. The all-black atmosphere, combined with the expectation of performance, made me curious to approach the theatre room from my own art practice. To give you an example, I have been working with white paper to build sculptures, and the darkness of this space allows me to play with light in a different way.
How does this project build upon your previous work?
Each piece of work builds on my previous projects. By following the trail of my work, it’s possible to recognize familiar elements. After graduating as a photographer I explored the use of video, installations, and sculptures in my work, as well as performance and text. Over the years, I intuitively started building a vocabulary of known elements that would feature in my work: the letters O and U are two of these elements. Later on, I also added the comma to this vocabulary. A few years ago, I made a performance titled Walk with U, during which I moved a large rubber U around a space using sticks. When reviewing photographs of the performance, I found myself zooming into the boots I was wearing at the time. I quickly started feeling like I wanted to incorporate black rubber boots into the vocabulary of my work.
This exhibition connects all of the elements in my vocabulary while finding ways to play with language and movement
This new exhibition focuses mainly on the idea of footnotes, but the other elements of my vocabulary are present. If you look at the title of the exhibition, you will notice immediately that the O is very present throughout the space. Even when looking at a rubber boot from above, you will also find that they are shaped like an O. To me, this exhibition connects all of the elements in my vocabulary while finding ways to play with language and movement.
Did you choose to work with rubber as a result of your decision to work with the O and the U or did it happen the other way around?
The letters definitely did not come first. In my early work, I did not consciously engage with the language. Language crept into my work when I realized how easily photography can muddle your perception of size and scale, particularly of graphic elements.
If I had to guess, I would say that the idea of working with curved shapes came first. When I was studying photography, I took photographs of temporary sculptures I made with objects I found on the street or in nature. After a while, I noticed that a lot of these objects had rubber bands in them and I started seeing the curved shape across my photographs.
The new exhibition centers and plays with the shape of footnotes. Why did you decide to focus on footnotes?
In my work, the footnote is closely related to the comma. The comma is the translation of a type of pause and in that sense: both the comma and the footnote have the ability to set the rhythm. I approach both elements poetically rather than literally.
The comma is the translation of a type of pause and in that sense, both the comma and the footnote have the ability to set the rhythm
For this exhibition, I collaborated with Inne Eysermans on a project called F’OOT T’ONES. We are creating an interactive work that plays with language by taking away certain elements. When you take the word ‘footnotes’, for example, and take away the letter F, the word transforms and leaves us with 'oototes'. This, in turn, opens up the possibility to play with the 'O'. Ans Mertens, a visual artist, and filmmaker who is my collaborator for the visual component. This video project, called F’OOT N’OTES, is also part of the exhibition. During the construction of the exhibition, we filmed in the installation of the theatre room and made intuitive images where you see the rubber boots, legs with red socks, and commas in motion.
Your intuitive approach makes it easy to follow the progression of your ideas. Another element that surfaces throughout your work is; play.
Play drives everything I do. I find it important to keep things light and funny.