To confront yourself is to understand more about yourself

Related event

Stef Van Looveren is revisiting their 2018 project, Radical Hope, ​​​​​​with Radical Hope: Eye to Eye at deSingel. An artist with a true passion for the multidisciplinary, not only in the mediums they work with but in content, identity, and discussion, Stef is bringing all of these elements and ideas to a performance space. In this space, through dialogue, installation, and emotion, Stef confronts the audience and allows them to confront themselves.

Tell me about your practice.

I work as an artist, meaning I use a lot of different mediums to translate a visual language of interests and issues. It becomes quite multidisciplinary because I use mediums such as sculpture, photo, video performance, collage and more, and it kind of fuses together into this practice that I have been doing for several years now. 

I use a lot of different mediums to translate a visual language of interests and issues

I first dived into a creative process when I was 13 years old, maybe even younger. I discovered tools, like my mom’s makeup, and became embedded into it. Then I was introduced to the medium of photography, and I started taking pictures of the work I was already doing with these tools. For me, it was kind of confrontational, raising questions about my identity and the limitations that are placed upon certain identities or genders or sex. All of those questions kind of popped up while I was just playing with these props, makeup and clothing, and I started to create roles to play within this space. Photography was the first medium that led me towards what I am doing right now, in its sense of performativity, and also dismantling the way that our human behaviour interacts in different spaces. From that, I started making props for these very controlled images.



While a snapshot is direct, my images are always carefully chosen. In that way, I like to play with movement, look and appearance; but always with people, always about human identity.

What does it mean to be a multimedia artist for you?

I often think about why I go from one medium to the other, why I have this desire to get to know more materials. I think I am interested in how all of these diverse things go in dialogue with one another and how they work together. This thing that they become is also what my work is really about. All of these people, this diverse group, this spectrum of sexes, this spectrum of bodies, this spectrum of sexualities, you know, all of these different things fuse together in this beautiful way. I guess that is something that I love doing and is kind of the reason why the practice has become quite multidisciplinary. I think it will continue to grow by including more elements, whatever that might mean.

What can we expect from Radical Hope- Eye to Eye?

Radical Hope- Eye to Eye is the first live performance I will ever do, completely from my autonomous work. This performance is a sequel to a video that I made in 2018, called Radical Hope

This video was based on the space of appearance. Hannah Arendt wrote about the space of appearance as a space where things become real when they are written about. But Judith Butler said that the problem with the idea that things become real when they are written about is that we forget about emotion. You can also walk towards someone and walk away from them, and in some ways that might already explain enough, and words may not be necessary. So she added that six different heavy emotions can drag you into a space where a lot of people can come together. These emotions are resentment, anger, terror, happiness, desire, and sadness.



Oftentimes the reason people come together in large groups is because of either fear of chaos, or a radical hope for the future. Those writings about the space of appearance are the base of my study of these emotions and how it pertains to an assembly of bodies.

How did you explore this space and assembly of bodies in the Radical Hope video?

An assembly of bodies is when a lot of people come together in this space of appearance. It doesn't necessarily need to be something like a protest, it could be a funeral or a party, but there is a movement and there is a reason that a lot of people have come there together. It becomes a collective thing, individually we feel connected because we feel or see something the same way. What I did in 2018 was create a visual language for every one of those six emotions. I created the looks and a space for it. Then, thirty performers, including myself, went through those emotions in this white cube that I built in my atelier.

It becomes a collective thing, individually we feel connected because we feel or see something the same way

Will Radical Hope- Eye to Eye continue this visual dialogue?

Radical Hope- Eye to Eye is the part where it gets more intimate, going deeper into this individual experience before you enter the group and the space of appearance. What Judith Butler also added to the writings of Hannah Arendt is that individual feelings are forgotten if things only become real when written about. The things that happen behind closed doors are no longer valid. So now, Radical Hope- Eye to Eye, goes into these six different emotions intimately. I have also added different thematics that are attached to identity or the way society wants to frame people, with sex, genitals, religion, gender, sexuality, disability and ethnicity. 

For every emotion that is attached to a thematic, there will be an installation. It is going to be a quite sculptural installation and one that questions several things related to that emotion and thematic. Then we will create an intimate space that one or two performers activate. The audience will also be part of the experience because there is not necessarily a script, only tools that you can confront yourself with. 


What has it been like to bring this video performance into a physical space with an audience?

Video is a medium that, for me, is a sacred place for performance, because it secures the safety of the people in it, and at the same time, can put them on display in a way that can be confronting to an audience. This is a nice atmosphere because it acts kind of like a filter on reality, but at the same time, it enhances reality. 

Video is a medium that, for me, is a sacred place for performance

But it also allows the audience to step away whenever they want to take their time to see things, re-watch it, not re-watch it. The impact of a live performance is very strong in the sense that it is here, and now you have to look. Also, the audience is directly in front of a human being physically, and that impact is something that you can't even compare.

The first time I thought 'Oh my god, this should have had an audience' was in the video Radical Hope in 2018. We went into this space that was completely enclosed, so nobody could look in, nobody could lookout. When we got to the last scene, which was the emotional terror, it was so intense and so magical that I knew I wanted to include an audience. So I started developing Eye to Eye, to intimately engage with an audience, bringing them into the six different elements and thematics.


How have you engaged with these ideas while developing the work, and how will the audience?

All of these ideas of identity raise questions; on none of them do I have an answer. I deal with these questions daily. I deal with them within the space of art, where I can deal with them. That doesn't mean that I always find the right answer. I don't know if there is a right answer to anything, but maybe you can find some understanding. Whenever you confront yourself, you understand just a little bit more about it, or about yourself. In that sense, it becomes more of a ritual to create tools for understanding, enabling a visual dialogue and raising discussions that you haven't seen before.

Whenever you confront yourself, you understand just a little bit more about it, or about yourself

This performance is also an opportunity to invite an audience into these questions and how they relate to this visual language, these frameworks that are attached to a bigger whole. I want us to discuss the way we, particularly in the Western world, deal with these elements, how we deal with religion, how we deal with sex, how we deal with ethnicity, how we deal with gender and how we deal with sexuality. And also open up the spectrum, by looking into nature. If we go back to queer ecology, then we can see that nature is indeed queer. And it is indeed disabled. There is no such thing as a binary in the natural world. And we are part of the natural world, so how did we end up here, let's go dig deeper into that.


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