Meeting © Birgitt Derks / Catharien Romijn 2005
Birgitt Derks, the artist, is looking for situations, scenes where man and industry are the heroes. Fascinated by the beauty of the industrial landscape along the A2 motorway, she came in early 2004 with the request to make DSM subject of her art project ‘Meeting’. Especially the site in Geleen fascinates her greatly. The open factories in the middle of the landscape, the construction of infinitely long tubes connected to the furnace give her an unreal surreal feeling. The static forms, the strange light and almost overly dark and light areas remind her of the landscapes of the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. She is curious about the infrastructure of the DSM site. Curious about the spaces in which employees work, the measurement chambers, laboratories, coffee areas, especially the relationship between man and machine. This endless supply of situations and scenes is the subject of her drawings made specifically for DSM. A series of 22 works, drawings showing the activity in the plants of DSM, the environment, production process, machines and workers sent the drawing process. In ‘Meeting’ DSM is not only the supporter but also becomes part of the art project. With the drawings an eponymous catalogue appears so the project remains in the form of a book.
In the drawing, 27 01 04 Birgitt Derks shows us a man. He opens a valve. A valve to earth. Under the flap are all sorts of images. Images that Birgitt Derks gained during her visits to buildings, laboratories, workshops and archives of DSM. Images of her work which she mixes with other images and put in another room. A new reality is created. A reality which raises questions for the viewer.15 12 04 shows four men in suits seen against a black background. The men are away from their own environment. No desk, but a hospital is depicted. Who are these men and what is their role within the company itself seems to question Birgitt Derks. Other DSM’ers she gives in their portraits a concrete face. The work Kretzer and Twsett Derks gets a piece of history from the archives DSM. Also the drawing Raintainer arose from historical material. In a DSM magazine from the 70s a feminine model praises a new product. The product is on the drawing disappeared. The human being is central to Derks. Is it an indictment of impersonal society in which everyone is interchangeable? The drawings of Birgitt Derks are restfully. A peace that is at odds with the fast image of DSM which must anticipate with new developments in a constantly changing society.
Sjerfkes ©Thijs Lenssen 2003
Birgitt Derks (Reuver, 1975) attended at the Academy of fine arts in ‘s-Hertogenbosch ( drawing, painting and graphics) and at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht (Fine Arts). She lives in Reuver where she has a studio in the Art Center Willem Limburg. She exhibits in galleries and museums and brought so far two publications: the catalogue ‘ somewhere in eight hours ‘ (1999) and the video compilation ‘ The 7 cylinders ‘ (1999). She is also connected with the collective established in 2002, ‘ 4Vibes ‘ (www.4vibes.nl).
‘During eight hours ‘ is the title of a catalog that Birgitt Derks released in 1999. That title is almost exemplary for the motivation of the artist: the reality in all its manifestations. Photographs and drawings are merged into six chapters from a wide variety of topics: celebrities (among others Frans Kafka, Pierre Bonnard, Clint Eastwood), birds, the sea world, a dog, a Lamborghini, engine parts of the Ford Taunus, people behind their machines, and other fragments from everyday life. In the seventh chapter (title) only allow drawings, which move between abstract and figurative. Past and present walk in the story together. The catalog represents the simultaneity of the asynchronous in optima forma, further enhanced in that everything in the same black and white color is carried out.
‘ Somewhere in eight hours ‘ – that title also seems to allude to the human work, which in the industrial age, after all, takes shape in the eight-hour day. Birgitt Derks focuses its attention particularly on the mechanical act of man. One aspect of which is the unmistakable influence of the technique on the working rhythm: “it’s still the reality that machines at assembly line work their own unflappable regularity impose on the workers. The image of the man as an extension of the machine looms than soon. ” How different is the ideal position of the artist, who can reflect on there as exempt. In the project ‘ The 7 cylinders ‘, also in 1999, Birgitt Derks made the relationship man-machine actually visible. This time not on the two-dimensional plane. She spent her heart rate to the computer, which then put in seven cylinders pneumatic movement. Thus was born a ‘ living ‘ device of moving rods, with hoses as ‘ blood vessels ‘.
The excavations in the framework of ‘ Sjerfkes ‘ the artist fascinated in equal measure. Not only because of the topic: the Potter’s past, which can lead to mechanical actions (formerly ‘ somewhere in eight hours were done). “I was also curious about the acts that archaeologists now should do to that past to expose, by shards from the ground.” She assisted during one of the excavations. “That seemed like the best way to try a relationship between the emotions, the continuous acts of workers then and now as an observer myself.” To enrich further she deepened her inspiration in stories of these workers. Many of those stories she knew from her own family. Her grandfather was stoker of a ring oven, another family member was Potter.
The drawings the artist for ‘ Sjerfkes ‘ produced are the result of her research. The artworks created arose not separately from each other. “Drawing is for me a natural and continuous action. One drawing comes from the other. I have a preference for small intimate work, and for black and white shades, with a single time a slight colour. ” As material she used charcoal and gouache on simili japon and hardboard. The footage of the drawings was based on: technical manuals of machinery and black and white photos. She found in a history book a photo of Strating, the former Director of a brick factory in Nieuwe Pekela. She decided to use his head and facial expression for one of her drawings.
The exhibited works show again the man in his mechanical act. Human figures and heads are interwoven with, or even distorted by technical devices and components that are used during the production process. People and technology are inextricably linked, that is a possible idea that the drawings calls.
But especially the alienating look in the eye, as some portraits, can lead to this – more disturbing – thought: that there is a constant risk that technological development control over man.