Black Mirror (2011), Richtje Reinsma, graphite, watercolor pencil, pastel crayon, ink, asphalt paint, 21 x 29.7 cm
When asked to be a guest editor by Stretcher co-publisher Maw Shein Win for this special Amsterdam edition of See|Saw, I soon decided I wanted Basje Boer and Richtje Reinsma to be the featured artists. They are two multitalented women with many similarities. Both are versatile artists who do not restrict themselves to one medium or even one art form. Both are deeply interested in contemporary art, film, literature and music, and so both are steeped in Amsterdam’s cultural life in its broadest sense, and think and write about it in the broadest possible way.
The texts they have produced between them range from art and film journalism to poetry and short stories and anything in between. Their work seemed so thematically and visually compatible that collaborating seemed inevitable. Yet, though they have known each other for years, having both attended the internationally renowned Rietveld Art Academy, they had never done a project together. Luckily, they jumped at the chance.
On a cold September evening we met at a sidewalk café by the river Amstel that gave our city its name, and discussed what our plan would be. We all felt that it would be interesting to take the concept of See|Saw one step further. Rather than having one artist create an artwork and the other responding to it only once, we wanted to see what would happen if they kept going back and forth. Would this perpetual motion truly have the effect of a seesaw, taking them higher and higher?
The technicalities were soon decided upon: Richtje would start out with a drawing, Basje would respond with a text, and then Richtje would respond to that with another drawing. They would keep this up throughout the fall until we had three drawings by Richtje and three texts by Basje.
We then discussed possible themes for the project. Should it have something to do with Amsterdam and/or San Francisco or would that be trite or stifling to the artistic process? In the end, we decided that it was really up to Richtje to decide. Still, we had a fun time discussing the similarities between our two cities, both hotbeds of protest movements more than half a century ago that still have a mythical aura of freedom these days – which in the case of Amsterdam isn’t all that justified anymore. But I digress.
Richtje did gather some very diverse data on San Francisco before doing her first drawing, reading about it, looking at pictures that Basje sent her of a San Francisco destroyed by the 1906 earthquake, watching a documentary on the city’s state-of-the-art game development and checking out its OCCUPY website. She feels that the viewer might detect some elements in her drawings that have come out of this medley of SF-related subject matter, a certain instability and fragmentation. That is probably most apparent in the first drawing, a mysterious image of a room filled with dancing polka dots and pencil stripes.
Basje’s response to this first drawing is influenced by a mythical San Francisco from the movies – specifically one movie, Bullitt, which features a bare room that Richtje’s image reminded her of. In her words, Basje evokes the world of the movies, a world where everything is possible, and explores the way it clashes with reality.
In the ensuing series Richtje hones in on her polka dots more and more, showing us a smaller and smaller space than continues to be lit from within by the coloured circles, while Basje continues to explore her theme of movies influencing real life. She traverses an inner world in all directions, ending her journey with a slow walk through the past of her own city, Amsterdam, where just this fall, two women could be seen going back and forth on a seesaw.