We are at the end of his tour of the exhibition One to seven, gray to red, three to four, step to wire at Buitenplaats Doornburgh in Maarssen. Bart Lunenburg spoke infectiously for more than an hour about his fascination with architecture, the memory of buildings, how his work is created and the research that precedes it.
Then he says, half jokingly, half seriously, about the place he has created for himself in the visual arts: ‘If you have a legacy and want to reactivate it, you can always call me. For me, the role of visual art lies in awakening a building.’
Lunenburg is only 27, and his career is going strong: Graduated cum laude as a photographer from HKU in Utrecht in 2017, (group) exhibitions at home and abroad, grants from the Mondriaan Fund, a robust and beautifully designed book at the prestigious Fw Bøger. He no longer only does photography. He builds wooden models and installations, weaves, bakes bricks, sketches and makes videos.
Monk and architect
In the autumn he appeared in four places at the same time. The work from his project can be seen at the Caroline O’Breen gallery in Amsterdam The healer, about the relationship between buildings and (infectious) diseases. Works from that series also hung in the courtyard of Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. Kunsthal Kade in Amersfoort (group exhibition Brick) and Buitenplaats Doornburgh shows the result of the three months he lived and worked on the estate. He researched the Priory Emmaus, the monastery built here in 1964 and where the Sisters of the Canons of the Holy Sepulcher lived until 2016. Architect: Jan de Jong, pupil of Dom Hans van der Laan, Benedictine monk and founder of the Bossche School – with its absolute dimensions, down to every little detail, the strictest and most convincing among the architectural movements.
‘I am interested in the tension between the idea of a design and how a building is used and experienced by the residents. I am adding my work on that interface.’ That’s what Lunenburg means by reactivating: he adds a new chapter to a building’s history. At first he had the idea that his work should consist of bricks. ‘Because my stay was granted because of a proposal for the exhibition Brick in Kade. But I soon realized that the design for the Priory was such an absolute total work that I couldn’t get a needle in between. What was missing was something soft amidst all the stone, cement and concrete.’
That’s how he got the idea to set up his loom here. “Weaving is the oldest form of building: Tents were made from sticks with pieces of fabric woven from organic materials in between. There is nothing left of it, dust of course decays. I read an interesting book by Elizabeth Wayland Barber about the problem of the decay of textiles and thus the disappearance of the presence of its creators, usually women. When mainly bronze, iron, concrete and stone remain, how do we look at history?’
He was assigned the double corridor as an exhibition space. In the cells adjacent to the long corridor, he has built a research room with the elements he used to arrive at the final result. In fact, as much a systems thinker as Van der Laan, that Lunenburg: everything fits and is correct and is logical, or made logical. In the columns of the double corridor he saw the pins of a shaving window, on which the length of the loom thread is measured. He baked the clay from the banks of the Vecht in such a way that colors were created that matched the color scheme of the monastery. He used the rough shapes of the clay as weights in an installation reminiscent of the first standing models of looms. And the dimensions of his oak frames with pieces of wood from the sisters’ wardrobes are of course those that correspond to the ‘plastic number’ of the Bossche school: all in the ratio 1:7.
Lunenburg takes large steps through the exhibition room where the largest work hangs. “That’s how we went,” he says, holding an imaginary bobbin. With an assistant, he strung kilometers of wire between the columns in the 55 meter long corridor. Twenty steps to him, pass reel, twenty to the assistant, pass reel, twenty to him, and so on and on: as he walked, a weave was created, a soft addition to the hard building. “As the sisters here walked their steps, so did I.”
Van der Laan and architect Jan de Jong would have found his intervention appalling, says Lunenburg. ‘The order’s only living sister was present at the opening. She told me that initially it was not allowed to put cushions on their seats.’ Yet, he says, she also recognized the essence of building in his work, in the repeatability and meditativeness of weaving. Walking past the metre-long work: ‘When the exhibition is over, the hedge trimmer goes in.’
Exhibited: Buitenplaats Doornburgh, Maarssen and Kunsthal Kade, Amersfoort until 8/1, Caroline O’Breen gallery in Amsterdam until 11/12.
The ‘most brick’ works resulting from Bart Lunenburg’s stay at Buitenplaats Doornburgh can be seen in Kunsthal Kade in Amersfoort: the result of Lunenburg’s research into the relationship between the weaving technique and bricks. Additional shows Brick work by more than fifty artists, designers and architects from the Netherlands and abroad. Seven of them were given the task of making a brick skill. They are part of a special route in the city.