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Artists in Residence

 The Atelier Robert is situated in a picturesque area above Biel. Built in 1886 by Leo-Paul Robert, since 1986 it has served as a residency studio for international artists, who can rent the house for up to three years. The multi-faceted, restless Dutch artist Fredie Beckmans (born 1956) has lived and worked there since November 2010.

Fredie Beckmans - Truths told as if they were lies

Fredie Beckmans poses as an ex-vegetarian with an enormous sausage in the Atelier Robert, Biel. Photo: Cat Tuong Nguyen

Fredie Beckmans has found his own way in which to orientate himself in new places, and willingly invites others to accompany him. In Biel he offers ‘aimless hikes’ at irregular intervals, on which one can observe birds through a painted, cardboard telescope, or one can search for mushrooms outside of the mushroom season. Whoever offers tours such as this has to be either extremely crazy or extremely wise. Presumably Beckmans is, in the dadaist style, a bit of both.
The Dutch artist Fredie Beckmans is multi-talented. He paints, draws and takes photographs. In 1985 he received an award from Queen Beatrix. In 2002 he was the world performance cooking champion. He writes for art, culinary, literary and homeless magazines. And he loves change, especially change of place. He has lived in Berlin and London. “I’ve already done everything and seen everything there.” In Biel he has regained his lust for life and lust for art.
The small city at the south foot of the Jura offers an ideal environment for the urban nature lover. A lake, vineyards, forests: this is not only good territory to explore with self-made telescopes and genuine curiosity. Biel also inspires Beckmans to continue working on his series of bird houses, little cloud cuckoo lands, labelled with the names of birds of specific regions which, through this, connect scientific accuracy and light-hearted poetry. In the garden surrounding the studio the artist is growing fruit and vegetables, which are used as ingredients for soups, squashes and jams.
In November 2010 he moved as a guest into the idyllically situated Atelier Robert. Since then he has tirelessly built up a network of contacts which reaches far beyond the art scene. Beckmans chats as easily and eloquently with museum directors and booksellers as he does with roadsweepers and the residents of the old people’s home right next to the Atelier Robert. Some of Beckmans’ predecessors have simply used the picturesque studio house as a live / work space. The Dutchman and his wife Kamala Dawar have turned the Atelier Robert into a magnet for people interested in art as well as the merely curious. Interested groups (the Biel Art Association, students from the school of design, and entire school classes) go on pilgrimages to Beckmans’ studio. During the Biel photography festival he installed a small exhibition there, with photos and paintings on the topic ‘mushroom’. Underneath also was a portrait of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wearing a mushroom hat.
The hidden life of the mushroom, the diversity of nature, interests Beckmans as much as the theoretical exploration of existence. In philosophy he is especially interested in the Hegel student Karl Rosenkranz, who produced in 1853 the ‘Aesthetics of Ugliness’, the first systematic analysis of ugliness in all its diverse manifestations. “Good art can only exist if there is also bad art,” explains Beckmans, and discloses through this a need to understand what art is, what keeps the world together at the core. Yet he doesn’t like to linger on heavy thoughts. He prefers to intersperse something light into this, talking about the ‘Worst Club’ founded in 2005, in which the former vegetarian sings the praises of ugly, greasy sausages. He also like posing with plastic inflatable sausages around his neck. He rubs certainties up the wrong way, he likes to spoof serious things, posing profound questions in a playful way. He likes to leave the depth of these profound questions open, “I like pretending as if I understand everything,” he confesses, winking.
So Beckmans claims that the portrait of Schopenhauer as a mushroom referred to a quote from the thinker. “Schopenhauer said about himself: I am a mushroom!”, postulates Beckmans. To whoever this appears implausible to, you are probably right. But possibly not. Beckmans, as a storyteller, knows every trick in the book in relation to spinning a yarn. “I am addicted to sharing”, says Fredie Beckmans about himself. Certainly not a misinterpretation, the clever raconteur is also curious and open, picking up what he hears, sees, reads, transforming the world, which flows into his head, thanks to his orotorial skills, into a world full of new colours and phrases. “I can tell the truth as if it were a lie”, he says proudly. That is the true genius of the storyteller.
But of course he also sometimes likes to invent things. For 15 years he regularly produced reports on new music for Hessian radio. One of his most successful reports covered a fart in new music, with a few examples of fictional composers. The editor-in-chief was not amused. But the audience was enthusiastic. The restless Beckmans appreciates the concentrated form of Biel. “In Amsterdam or Berlin there are thousands of artists”, he says. The envy, and the pressure of competition there was disproportionately larger. Biel is an ideal place for him to recover a lust for work. But also as a guest in the Atelier Robert the busy artist is on the road a lot, either in Holland or in Germany. In July last year he was a guest at the ‘Cage 100’ celebrations in Darmstadt and delighted the audience with three empty suitcases full of ideas, lots of wit and a sense of the absurd.

Bis: 27.01.2013

‹Cantonale Berne Jura›, Centre Pasquart, Biel, until 20.1. ;‹Worst Club Performance›, Centre Pasquart, Biel, on 14.2. ‹Schnee von gestern›, groupshow, Atelier Robert›, Biel, until 27.1.
This interview is published with the support of the Swiss cultural foundation Pro Helvetia Moving Words for the Swiss advancement of translation.

Translation: Paul Harper

Deutsche Version


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Ausgabe 1/2  2013
Ausstellungen Cantonale Berne Jura [20.12.12-20.01.13]
Institutionen Kunsthalle Bern [Bern/Schweiz]
Autor/in Alice Henkes
Künstler/in Fredie Beckmans
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