Magazine article Sculpture

Mind, Body, and Language: A Conversation with Mark Manders

Magazine article Sculpture

Mind, Body, and Language: A Conversation with Mark Manders

Article excerpt

"I've often heard that it's very difficult to write about my work," Mark Manders told me, "but I think my work is very clear." In business discourse, there's something called the "sweet spot," when a product or service is strategically placed in between things and results in success. Intentionally or not, Manders appears to have done the same in an art context. While attracting widespread interest, his work has created a framework for varied discussion through a positioning of intuitively constructed visual elements that can be very hard to place.

Manders has exhibited extensively over the past 20 years, beginning in his native country of the Netherlands and then expanding across Europe and into the United States. Highlights include his solo presentation at the Dutch Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, as well as solo shows at the Dallas Museum of Art (2012), the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2010), Kunsthaus Zürich (2009), Kunstverein Hannover (2007), BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2006), the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2005), the Art Institute of Chicago (2003), and the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden Baden (1998), among many others.

Robert Preece: I've recently been considering mindfulness, and I've become much more aware of the separation of body and mind through thinking and its physical effects. So, I was very taken by your essay "Why do we have time to think about our bodies?" which was published in the catalogue for the traveling exhibition "The Absence of Mark Manders" (2007). How are you depicting the body and the mind in your installation Mind Study (2010-11)?

Mark Manders: For me, that work is related to another work with the same title. I tried to make a work with just a few words-a table, chairs, a figure-very normal words that are related to each other. It's difficult to capture it with language.

Although it's made with simple words, it's very complex. It's really about balancing, like a balancing trick. It looks extremely fragile, but it's not. At the same time, it's peaceful but has tension. I'm really interested in how we deal with this work once it's here. It's interesting that it's very difficult to describe this work. In this sense, it is also an image of the mind, a Mind Study.

RP: When I see Mind Study, I see the separation of body and mind in an abstract way, dealing with the self in relation to the table, suggesting some sort of group meeting or group thought, which as we know is very strong in the Netherlands. And as others have mentioned, there is a melancholy element. Would you agree?

MM: Yes. The separation of the body and the mind is a very complex thing. After working for so many years, I've realized more and more that my work is sort of like a machine, in the same way that language is like a machine. Because we have words, we think in language. We cannot think without language. Humans can invent music, religion, or mindfulness-I don't know exactly what they are, but I think that they 're a way to try to escape language, a way to not think "in language." As humans, we always have to deal with this language machine. Because I create a few works and push them further and further, my work also becomes like a machine, in a way. I cannot stop, and it tells me what to do.

RP: So, you made this, you refined and changed it, and then you decided that you were done with it. As you were going through this process, were you thinking about how to balance all of these elements?

MM: In my daily practice, I'm working on many projects at once, and all of these works are growing and changing. Mind Study has a very long history. It's related to Figure with Three Piles of Sand / Composition with Three New Piles of Sand (2010), which is in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. This work is also like a balancing trick, with three piles of sand. I take small steps. I'm always thinking about the works and making decisions. But the works also "follow their own rules. …

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