Labor, Focus, Balance
Working on the frame of Symbiote, atelier Schieblock November 2021. Photo by Caio Vita. Courtesy of Artist.
Jue YangYou work with scientific glassblowing. Can you tell me what it is and why you use it?
Jeanine VerloopIt is called scientific glassblowing because it has been used for making laboratory glasses. Universities use it to create instruments for their labs. In the past, almost every university had their own in-house instrument maker. I started practicing scientific glassblowing in 2020. I use a burner with propane gas and oxygen. My idea is to make an installation strong enough to exist, but at the same time, also fragile.
Because of its fragile components, transporting the pieces is a challenge. How are you solving the logistics?
I am currently working on an installation for the Prospects exhibition at Art Rotterdam. I've contacted the curators for permission to use my hand torch on-site, in case something breaks during transportation and I need to fix it. Learning how to transport my installations is a big part of my practice. I designed my work so that I can take things apart and slide them back together. I also secure them with 3D-printed parts. I have designed a deconstructive element into the installation, which means things will break as the installation runs. It is a performance in itself. When the parts break, they will release ink, and the ink becomes the momentum for the performance.
JYAnother thing you have learned through your work is that it needs a lot of maintenance on-site as well as after the exhibition. Tell me more about the maintenance. Do you get a budget for it?
JVWhen I exhibit my installation, it will have some damage. Some of them are by design, but some are not. I use plumbing as an analogy to the notion of maintenance in my practice. In plumbing, you are paying to ensure that something works. You are paying for the plumber’s time. For me, the labor of maintaining my work has similarities. The budget for maintenance is not always there. But I always tell people what the actual cost will be. Otherwise, I will always be putting in two weeks of free labor after every exhibition.
For my previous work, I needed to turn on the installations manually. So I let the organizations know that my hours would go toward me being present during the running time of the installation. If an organization didn’t have a lot of budget, it would mean that I wouldn’t be there as much and the installation wouldn’t run as much. Most organizations understand me when I am clear about where the money goes: I'm not asking for money just because I can, but because I actually have to do the work to keep the installation up.
What is the tension between exhibiting your work and developing your work?
JVExhibiting my work helps me to develop new work. My current work is a direct consequence from my experiences of being present at the exhibitions. I have realized there is a performative potential when the machine breaks and when I have to repair it. I have thought more about what makes a performance and what it requires. Now I know I'm an assistant to the machine and the machine is the performer.
But exhibiting puts a lot of strain on my time. I did exhibitions that paid little as a young artist. I don't totally agree when people say, “we have little budget, but we are doing something for your exposure.” Now I know I have to maintain my boundaries and say to these exhibitions, “I understand if you have a small budget, but I need to pay my rent, so I really can't help you.” Sometimes, I still do things for which I think I should get paid more. In these cases, I consider the long-term effect. If it is an investment that might lead to other things in the future, I will do it. I hope I am better at distinguishing these opportunities now.
Development gears for Symbiote, atelier Schieblock November 2021.
Courtesy of artist.
Courtesy of artist.
JYIs the model where you make an object for sale relevant to you?
JVIt's not my intention to create something as an object to be put on a shelf. For me it's more interesting to exhibit my work at different spaces rather than making it into something to be sold. Static objects are not very interesting to me. However, I would be interested in creating site-specific work for a bigger organization or brand. In that case, the work would be kinetic, even though it might be fixed to a location. With the glass prototypes from my current work, people have asked me if I am selling them. It makes me think about creating a range of smaller kinetic experiments. Perhaps I would sell those, but I would need to think about how to frame them.
JYYou say you work hard, but you don’t want to overwork. Isn’t the line hard to draw?
JVSometimes I get this feverish focus. For example, in the past, I have worked 50, 60 hours a week in preparation for a show. But I won’t say it’s overworking because after that intense month I will take some time to balance it out. I know if I don’t keep the balance, I will be a mess in a few years.
I have these Excel sheets where I make categories for my hours, like autonomous work, communication, all that kind of stuff. I fill in my hours every day and use them to visualize what I have worked on. I've been doing that for three years. My autonomous work is maybe 30, 40% of my practice. A lot of hours go into preparing for exhibitions, getting new work, responding to open calls and so on.
Symbiote. Borosilicaat glas, Stepper motor, koper polymelkzuur, papier, ink.
90x90x190cm. Courtesy of Artist.
90x90x190cm. Courtesy of Artist.