Jochem Hendricks

On the yearning for certainty and other wishes, 2002
Dorothea Strauss

Preface for the catalogue Legal Crimes”, Kunstverein Freiburg, 2002 / Dorothea Strauss director of Kunstvereins Freiburg until 2005

You first realize that certain certainties in life, such as a regular income, an intact relationship, or a beautiful apartment, in actual fact hang from a thin thread the moment something goes wrong. And without immediately talking of war or terror, it suffices here to focus on the quite normal madness of everyday life. You notice at the latest if your woman or man leaves you, or you lose your job, or your account is blocked, or notice is served on your apartment, in other words when those aspects of life you take for granted no longer function, that many life constructs are simply borrowed. The are derived from a collective reservoir of norms and clichés that are both structural and aesthetically conditioned and function smoothly as long as everything goes to plan.

The concern with models for life, with personality structures and biographies, is something that has emerged as an important theme in contemporary art in recent years not least because it quite clearly shows the multi-layered, fragmented and heterogeneous nature of current conditions in our society. Frequently, tracing and exploring biographical contexts creates a basis for artists, leaving sufficient scope for personal statements, i.e., deliberately prioritize a subjective force and is yet suited to the task of clearly formulating negotiable factors. The change and constant rephrasing of socially-conditioned notions of how and according to what parameters a life functions or should function can constitute a key basis for an artistic inquiry into alternative world, for probing tabooed zones or critically/affirmatively illuminating wishes and dreams of happiness and freedom.

Jochem Hendricks concerns himself with different models for life and forms of social interaction. He comments critically, often humorously and on occasion ironically the wishes, feelings and fears we have, without ever allowing these commentaries to be sticky or lachrymose. On the contrary: he frequently makes use of a somewhat sober and apparently conceptual aesthetics with which he deliberately draws on the viewer’s fantasies, memories and ideas. His themes have for many years addressed a complex terrain made up of the interrelationships between knowledge, assumptions and yearning for explanations and completion, in the process repeatedly directing our attention to a single motif: how such wishes and demands fail.

Starting with a clear concept, Jochem Hendricks used differing media to create tense interplay between constructed and deconstructed contexts in which moments of uncertainty and the rejections of specific aesthetic norms emerge as the condition enabling the work: For his piece entitled “Room in a Sack”, for example, he had the complete contents of a room (including a small library) shredded and then filled the material into a large transparent bag. His choice of furniture was based on the attempt to put together a standardized room for one person, as it were the prototype for a specific form of life. Thinking about the violability of such a room is just as much the issue here as is the petty-bourgeois nature of the venue of the deed, a metaphorical act of liberation from normative compulsions and a humorous link to the history of sculpture.

Since 1995, Hendricks has been working on the group of items of “Looted Art”. These are objects worth between one and two hundred euro which Jochem Hendricks usually steals from department stores or similar shops. This group of works, hitherto developed under the exclusion of the public eye and with a risky degree of illegality, now culminates in an over-obvious and spectacular gesture. For Jochem Hendricks has, on the occasion of his solo show in Kunstverein Freiburg, created “Miniature Tower Maximum Base”, a three-story and seven and a half meter high tower. You can enter it and survey it from the inside – this tower made exclusively of Hendricks’ loot of recent years.
The work centers on core issues such as the various questions that arise as to what is legitimate in today’s society and how much scope we should all have. Viewers are confronted with their own memories and with the fact that only they each can know what illegal acts they have committed. Stealing as the test for what is possible in our society as a whole, as the metaphoric dimension for an act of liberation per se: planning the perfect bank robbery so interested Bonnie & Clyde not just because they wished to grow rich but above all as a symbol for the ability to overcome themselves and the compulsion to flee the conditions f their respective lives.

However, in his latest work Hendricks focuses not only on a social and personal/individual dimension, for he now in a playful manner takes up a thorny issue in art history: the question of the plinth or base: the base originally defined the sphere in which classical sculpture unfolded and today it is essentially out of place in exhibitions. The base is now something gladly left out in favor of other forms of presentation. In his exhibition “Miniature Tower Maximum Base” Hendricks offers as a room for thought and the imagination, a presentation area in the classical sense and yet at the same time deploys the notion of sculpture as a form of action so prevalent in the 1970s. In passing, as it were, the tarnished image of the base is polished up.

“Legal Crimes” is an exhibition with which Jochem Hendricks explores the inner and outer potentiality of our imagination in a variety of ways. The moments when the game becomes serious and the mystery becomes profane reality are just as much the theme of this exhibition as is the dissolution and disruption of political and social certainties that we are currently witnessing. In the process, Jochem Hendricks forgoes any dilettantish sociological dimension but as always leaves us much scope for our own ideas.