Text for the introduction of the book ‘Starting a universe’.
I must have been six years old during the holidays to Hulsthorst and Oisterwijk. The whole family in a wooden cottage in the woods, making autumn pieces with card box boxes and walking along the fens. I have experienced serious concentration whilst observing nature in all its apparitions. However, I was bothered by insects in the bedroom and especially spiders on the ceiling were creepy, keeping me alert. From my strategic position in the top bunk bed, I studied the stains on movement and colour. When I continued to stare correctly I saw life and a personal world in every deviating stain on the wall.
Those are the memories which emerge when I think back to where and when the fascination for stains started. One of the most concrete images I still have of this, is the one of ceilings with trails of melted snow. Carefully studying the new surrounding was necessary to create a feeling of safety before being able to close my eyes.
In 2002, I moved from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. A garden shed is my new property and after a short time, moisture stains appear on the ceiling and mildew in the shed is a fact.
I keep track of the form changes in the stains with renewed interest, the process adds an extra dimension to the phenomenon of leaks. And hence, the stain is back in the focus of my attention. As artist/researcher I want to get to know the town where I live now better.
The area Kralingen-Crooswijk is alleged to be both posh and common, rich and poor live there. Where are the most leaks? Where does the water come from and what do the stains look like?
This question is dispersed in the neighbourhood on 4000 postcards. My appeal about leaks is responded to by 1%. The 40 households which invite me in so generously, allow me to peep over kitchen cabinets, behind the curtains and underneath the guestroom bed. It results in hilarious situations, with me balancing with the camera on a kitchen ladder between cobwebs, focusing the image whilst listening to the story about the washing machine of the upstairs’ neighbours.
Renovation plans, temporarily on hold after stripping a beautiful house reveal a pallet of stains of previous owners. Young people inhabit a former hemp nursery, an ideal climate and they own the most beautiful range of moulds and stains.
The daily life in student homes, demolition and squatted houses, in stately residences with rooms filled with memories, growths of homely intimacy develop before my eyes.
Water makes no distinction and comes everywhere. The moisture stains I have started to collect since, embody numerous stories for me, about buildings, relations and the effect of time.
I photograph the places, restoring and optimising the stains digitally. As clean wallpaper, I print the forms on large dimensions to adhere them in corners, on rims and edges of the ‘white cube’, as an art venue is also called.
A constructed leak gives an exhibition venue both an ornament and a hole at the same time, an exit towards the outside. Our Utopia has but a thin skin, the feeling of being safe shifts to light uneasiness. Recognising this illusion gives room and questions experience and reality.
In 2006, the stains of Kralingen-Crooswijk form a monumental leak in the entrance hall of the Oostelijk Zwembad (municipal swimming pool). On that moment, the swimming pool was threatened with closure due to budget cuts. The project ‘Een zee op het plafond’ (a sea at the ceiling) receives a lot of publicity and provokes mixed feelings in older visitors, illusion and reality draw closer. Children see animals and celestial bodies.
The stains of Kralingen-Crooswijk have been dispersed all over the land, by means of numerous projects. The archive of stains has been extended with amongst others coffee stains, moss and lichen, mould and mildew.
For the exhibition ‘Starting a Universe’ (at the Art Society Diepenheim 2009) a selection from the archive has been comprised. The treasure of shapes and significances within the stain, is a source of inspiration for me. My experiences with this phenomenon have opened worlds, resulting in insights with a constant fascination for the drawing which nature leaves behind as such.
Rotterdam November 2008 Lizan Freijsen.