You have people who make nothing out of something, and others who make something out of nothing
KASK & Conservatorium brings together talented and motivated students with outstanding educators, inspiring artists, designers, and theorists in art and design worldwide. In this mini-series, we’re featuring some of its graduates. Next in line, we’re introducing Nienke Baeckelandt, whose work derives from a persistent urge to take concrete actions. Proudly possessing a master’s degree in installation art, she now shares her story in a lovely chat about art and education during these peculiar times.
Hi Nienke, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I’m currently living in Antwerp, but my roots are nestled in Ostend. I have to admit that I’m not a regular art student, as my 32 years of age aren’t what most would expect from an alumni (Laughs). When I was younger everyone always noticed my strong social abilities, so it seemed obvious to study social-cultural work. After graduating I even had a job in the sector for three years, but later on, I decided to study arts. In the meantime, I already owned a studio, in which I worked a lot whilst I was studying.
When I was younger everyone always noticed my strong social abilities, so it seemed obvious to study social-cultural work
Has your maturity been an advantage?
Well, there are always two sides to a coin. Graduating at a young age never does any harm; it often grants the time needed to explore your work a little more and eventually lift it to a higher level. Yet the freedom they give you in art school can be a tricky part for some younger students. But you can’t tar everyone with the same brush: I know a lot of very young students with a huge amount of maturity and expertise.
I know a lot of very young students with a huge amount of maturity and expertise
According to you, what are the strengths of installation art?
First of all, I have a lot of respect for other artists. Take painters, for example, my sister is a painter, too, and they are limited to their canvas to work it all out. We as installation artists got the advantage of having a lot more space to display and develop our work and its message. That’s also a thing I have learned during my time at KASK: the ability to do a lot with very little. You have people who make nothing out of something, and you have people who make something out of nothing. That’s a thing being played out by installation artists like me.
Do you miss the times on campus?
Those were good times, really. The students motivate each other in a way I experienced nowhere else. Also, the amount of enriching freedom, which isn’t that present in other educational institutions, is a great thing. To me personally, there’s no big difference at the time as I’m working in a studio filled with three other artists as well. So that cross-pollination of advice and knowledge I most certainly require is still there.
The most important thing is to always follow your own path
Is there any advice you can give to fellow students?
In my opinion, the most important thing is to always follow your own path. It’s not that obvious as it may sound, because trends or critics can be tempting to adapt yourself and your work to. My advice is not to do so. Eventually, you will reap the fruits and it will guide you to new exciting ideas which fit your profile and bring you satisfaction in the best way possible. Furthermore, I’m convinced of the fact that it is important to still organize events or exhibitions on yourself, besides taking part in curated events.
Living inside and locking myself down have brought me new insights for future projects
Did this crisis have an influence on your work?
It hasn’t been that bad for me, actually. As I’m normally working day in and day out, my spare time to work on projects was concentrated during the weekends. Now that I’ve been technically unemployed for a little while, there was more time for me to lay focus on creating new art, following a year in which I was lucky to be able to still exhibit some of my older works. Living inside and locking myself down has now brought me new insights for future projects, so hold your horses I’d say. (Laughs)
Subbacultcha and KASK & Conservatorium are teaming up for a series of artist portraits,
featuring some of the interesting alumni and student profiles.