Create what you want to see in the world

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Together with New Master and image-maker Abel Kleinblatt we galloped our way through the horse stables at Be-Part, Kortrijk. Despite some horsing around, we sat down on a sun-drenched bench to reflect on the exhibition Ruben Bellinkx: BLACK SUN. With the wind whirling around our heads, we talked about Youtube, weird trees, and skateboarding and bonded over shared struggles with migraines.

Which part of the exhibition stood out to you most?

The way the space was organised; the artist really made the space his own. The exhibition is built up in a way where it becomes a carrier for the message that the creator wants to put forward. Also, the work feels very staged, even though it isn’t. Structured is the word I would use to describe what the exhibition felt like.

The ‘making of’ plays a major role in Bellinkx’s film Double Bind. Does process also play such a role in your videos?

Absolutely. Whenever I look at something, my head immediately thinks: how does this work? That search is as much a part of the work as the final product is. If you just show the end product, you won’t know how you got there. I started putting videos on Youtube because I like sharing and having a recollection of what I’ve been doing. My videos are like a contact print: when you’ve shot a full roll of film, you place your images on a light-sensitive piece of paper in a dark room and expose it to see what you’re working with. 

If you just show the end product, you won’t know how you got there

This reminds me of your one roll with videos, which show the process of taking photos of your friends and other people you admire.

I love showing people as human beings. I like clean images, but I also know that I’m a stupid little kid and that my friends and the people I look up to are like that as well. Still, they’re often not portrayed that way. My most recent video features an up-and-coming skater from Finland. Since we got to know each other better after the shoot, it felt like the photos were missing something. So we FaceTimed and I asked him to beatbox for the skate clips. Even though he couldn’t beatbox, he went with it. I like that openness and playfulness. How can I represent people in a fun and unexpected way without using them, but really showing a connection? 

Do your work and your skateboarding influence each other a lot? 

The way that I look at my surroundings is heavily based on the fact that I’m a skateboarder. Yet I don’t necessarily have a skateboarder's mindset. Skateboarders are known to be pretty chilled and nonchalant. That doesn’t work for me. [Laughs] 

Still, skateboarding does require a lot of perseverance…

I learned a lot from that. You have to hit your head a thousand times before you’re going to land something. 

Bellinkx’s work questions the relationship between nature and technology. What’s your stance on this in relation to your camera work?

What draws me to nature is the fact that there are less impulses. I get overwhelmed easily by migraines, noises, smells and sounds. Photography, nature and getting away from social media thus really help me. My camera allows me to understand what is going on, without linking me to the social network. I use the frame that I make as a frame of mind of how I want to digest what I have in front of me. Also, weird trees really inspire me because they show that anything can happen. That something can withstand the forces of nature and keep on growing really intrigues me. 

I use the frame that I make as a frame of mind of how I want to digest what I have in front of me

What I like about Youtube, though, is that there’s an opportunity for exchange. It’s nice to have a way to connect to like-minded people without having to stick to geography. Use the tools at your disposal, create what you want to see in the world, and just have fun.

How did you experience the exhibition, considering your struggles with migraines and vision loss?

On the way here, I was fighting off a migraine, so all the projections quite literally stung my eyes out. I liked the projections, but, because of the pain, I couldn’t watch the whole loop of the film. 

Can you then enjoy going to an exhibition to look at other people’s work?

If I’m having a good day, definitely! I love looking at photo books, though. The fact that I can’t look at screens all the time makes me push towards the printed matter. I do feel that a lot of people make very boring books. With my own publications, I like to think about how they could translate something in a different way. Looking at a book can be a real experience if it’s done right. Some people look at the book as this thing, without thinking about what that thing could be.




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