Where I'm @
(de)Fine Art

The Art of Living

Jessica van Deursen
Sun 6 Jan
Function Performance Artist
Year 2012
Major (de)Fine Art
Practice Autonomous Practices

After graduating from WdKA (Fine Art, 2012), Jessica continued her studies at Codarts (Community Arts Master degree, 2012-2014), in order to acquire skills and knowledge as a performer; taking vocal, acting and singing classes. At Codarts she wrote and published her book A Map to a World Called Performance Art as her graduation thesis.

What does it mean and entail to be alive - a human being?

During her performances, Jessica investigates the contemporary and timeless parameters that one develops as a human being. As an artist, she becomes her own guinea pig, by not only testing her own mental and physical boundaries during her solitary and interactive performances, but also by presenting the course of her life and the accumulation of all her personal actions as a statement of her lifelong artistic project. Jessica's artworks can be seen as pages from her personal diary, an overall attempt to turn life into the work of art itself (in Dutch this it is called: LevensKunst).

Image: Angst (Fear), canvas, gesso and pen, 335cm x  146cm.

What is your occupation now?

Four years after receiving my Master degree at Codarts, and six years after graduating from Fine Art department at the WdKA, and after a sh*tload of hard work, I am glad to finally wave goodbye to all those weird day jobs, and now being able to focus on making (performance) art 80% of my time. The other 20% I spend as an independent blogger, focusing on green- lifestyle and innovation on my blog. These two occupations often fuse, as the topic of my art is 'The Art of Living' and my blog is – so to speak – a more pragmatical research and a journal of how I try to implement certain ideas into my daily life.

Pooogen (Striving) was a continuous performance piece, in which I have challenged myself to attempt to draw perfect circles for 48 hours on a 13 meters long sheet of paper. The performances could be watched during opening hours of the showroom and also throughout the whole performance, live through real-time webcam streaming. This performance was executed at Performance Art Event (PAE), Rotterdam in 2014.

What expertise did you gain at WdKA?

Looking back at my time at the WdKA, I see this school as a pressure cooker: aside from all the immensely important practice and theory I was offered there, the following was most important to me: the time we have spent reflecting on and discussing works of art with teachers and fellow students. I feel this school has helped me to discover who I am, how I think, what I want and how I can realise my ideas; by allowing me immense freedom and trust to experiment, as well as by giving me tough love and critique.

I sometimes wonder how long it would have taken me to gain certain insights about myself and my profession, if it was not for this school. I am immensely grateful to have been able to study there.

What is the future of your profession in your opinion?

Well, one thing is for sure: we live in exciting and rapidly changing times. This demands flexibility, curiosity and entrepreneurship to create opportunities to show and create works of art. I believe that, in the future, the role of the (fine) artist will become even more hybrid: we will become concept designers more and more and will continue collaborating with craftsmen and professionals from other disciplines. I am not afraid of the future: those who can create from scratch will never be without a job. Call me naive, but no computer or robot can ever replace human curiosity, empathy and creativity.

You never leave the house without...?

A pen and something to write on. Ideas are like butterflies: they are flying around in the air, and you have to catch them to see what they are about, before they are gone again… Oh yes, and a fully charged laptop… never waste a moment and keep on working. In the train, in the bus... Time is precious. Every moment counts.

Never waste a moment and keep on working...every moment counts.

Any words of advice for future students?

Dare to dream big and bold. We as artists have a weird profession. Indeed: no one on the planet is waiting for you or your work. But that does not mean that we are condemned to live in a cardboard box or to work on a (stupid) day job for the rest of our lives. If you feel like you've got something to say that is yet not said enough in this world, go for it! Enchant your audience. Let the magic work for you.. trust your talent. It will bring you all you need, and even more...

Der Stille Mensch (The Silent Human). At the end of the 19th century, science replaced religion as a mean to understand and approach the world. Mankind shifted from having a mystical worldview to understanding; man not only became a scientist, but also the subject matter of own examination. Or, as Nietzsche put it: a man has put himself on God's throne. But what has come from this anthropocentric worldview? How much success does man have in constructing his own world, and therefore, also in constructing himself?

Name your favorite recent project

Recently, I did the performance All for Art, at Art Rotterdam, for which I had to lay in a hospital bed for five days, with an infusion stuck in my vein, so I would not to get tempted to leave to pee or when I got weary of performing. It was an reenactment of a medical exam I did in 2015 (just after finishing my Masters degree). I lost my day job at that time (read: I got replaced by a younger and less expensive girl), and in a panic I decided to take part in this exam to earn some money.

With this performance, I wanted to reflect on the situation many people were in during the recent economical crisis, but also on how nowadays we all tend to keep up a pretty appearance on social media instead of really talking to others. And to find out how far I should go in the pursuit of being an artist, and whether I am bold enough to really do what is necessary.

After meeting more than 500 people, it felt like my I had dissolved. Like I became a source of energy and attention for them. Charged by the watching audience. And I was able to just give, and give and give… I have heard many personal stories and questions from complete strangers. We have shared tears, hugs and laughter. That was very intense and absolutely beautiful!

Curious about Jessica's other projects? Visit her website.