“Behold, I am that which must always overcome itself.”
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra
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The desire to delve beneath the surface is a desire for knowledge and control. It backfires, and we end up besieged: as soon as we reach the inside, we are again confronted with another surface. Inside the grave there is no living soul; what lies buried is only the reminder of its absence.
Obsession is a will to power that always ends up besieged, haunted by its object. It zooms in on a target that, in principle, will escape its lens. If “the dream of reason produces monsters,” as Goya wrote, this lies in the fact the suspect has always already fled the crime scene, even if the culprit is caught red-handed, in flagrante delicto.
It takes some bravery to bring the criminal face to face with the victim—that is, to look into the mirror. At the end of obsession, we embrace the vanity of the world. If there is a world-to-come, surely it must be hell and not only heaven. Maybe perfection itself is the culprit, forever taunting us with ideas about the flaws, defects and decay of this world.
There is nothing as shallow as a surface. It repeats itself incessantly, eternally, and in this repetition all familiar forms become foreign to us. The only escape is the embrace in which I become a foreigner to myself: “Whatever I may create and however I may love it – soon I must oppose it and my love. Thus my will wills it.”
Baby, I can see your halo.
Mari van Stokkum and Errol Boon in conversation with Gabriel Rolt
Hola! Hallo! Halo!
As an artist, you must vow to yourself that freedom is more important than all else. Free of stigmas and dogmas you promise to your audience that you will be all that you can be.
As an artist, there is no yellow road to follow. Instead you might find yourself passing through shallow swamps, muddy waters, misty airways, salty oceans, lightless constellations or dense jungles. As an artist you must carve your own way to excellence. And sometimes all these different ways merge in Amsterdam to reach for the heavens.
These artists all carved their own way towards excellence. They came here through dense jungle, humid fog, muddy waters, shallow swamp, underground tunnels, mental mountains but they are here. And they are now.
The artist’s road to excellence may be littered with bears, zombies or lego pieces. And whilst being shoeless, penniless or shameless, you may encounter a swamp, glacier, jungle, concrete wall, glass ceiling or black hole. In fact, the roads these artists took to get here were fearlessly carved out by themselves because there was no road.
Hail to these artists. And to each of their haloes.
Niels Shoe Meulman in conversation with Gabriel Rolt
Mari van Stokkum (1993) is a philosopher who studied in Amsterdam and now lives in Münster, writing a dissertation on phenomenology and psychoanalysis. Although based on the soul, he is currently in the process of decaying.
Errol Boon (1992) is a philosopher who writes and teaches about various fundamental issues regarding art and society. Currently, he is affiliated with the University of Arts Utrecht, and working on the notion of ‘artistic truth.’
Niels Shoe Meulman (1967) is an Amsterdam based visual artist, known for his gestural paintings which reveal vivid traces of graffiti and calligraphy. He revolutionised the art of writing when he initiated the Calligraffiti movement, claiming “a word is an image and writing is painting”.
Gabriel Rolt (1977, Barcelona, Spain) is a curator. Rolt’s special interest in the emerging art scene led him to found Galerie Gabriel Rolt, an Amsterdam based art gallery that fostered the careers of an impressive stable of local and international artists. He subsequently was creative director of HERO gallery. In 2021, Rolt initiated the curatorial platform The Curators Room.