Curator Ils Huygens on artist Jasper Rigole

81 Things I Thought I had Forgotten, is the title of multimedia artist Jasper Rigole’s most recent exhibition on view now at Z33, Hasselt. Ils Huygens, curator of the exhibition, talks us through the solo show’s influences and the technicalities behind presenting a well researched collection for what became a fictitious institute fabricated by Rigole.

Can you talk to us about the exhibition? What were its starting points?

At Z33 we are interested in artists that see their practice as a form of research, not scientific or theoretical but art-based research, which we feel has just as much value in producing critical thought. Rigole’s work combines this research-based attitude with outstandingly qualitative artistic work, and that is precisely what we look for. After a studio visit it became clear that it was the right time for a larger solo presentation, since he was going into the final phase of his Phd at KASK. The research he did there, the resulting publication called Addenda and the 81 Things exhibition all feed each other, creating a labyrinth universe with many levels and connections.


How would you describe the artist’s work, his approach and aesthetic?

Jasper Rigole’s work is based on a collection of found personal objects and documents, a collection of what he refers to as ‘other people’s memories.’ It started with a collection of 8mm home movies, with typical scenes of wedding parties, picnics and barbecues, visits to the funfair, birthday parties, day trips to the Ardennes or the sea, and lots of holiday movies. These documents and the memories they convey construct a kind of ‘other’ history of a certain period; a personal and intimate history of family life (mainly from the late ’60s to early ’80s). Although the collected memories are individual and randomly found they share a lot of similarities in terms of form and content, and so there arises a kind of collective element in them. One thing they all have in common is that they present a form of history that is highly constructed: people recorded only those moments that were considered special and unique enough to bring the camera for. So in this collection of memories, life becomes idealized and idyllic, showing an array of people smiling and drinking at parties and holidays.

After a while, Rigole started developing a classification system to label and categorize the memories he found in the films, dividing them into categories such as family, holidays, sports, work, or archetypes like mountain views, and so on. At that point the collection became a real archive, which needed an official name. And so the IICADOM came into being: The International Institute for the Conservation, Archiving and Distribution of Other people’s Memories. This ‘institute’ started to operate as a kind of alter ego for the artist and his practice, and the institute began producing found footage films and media installations with a semi-fictional critical look at the archive and its material.

While looking for films in flea markets and garage sales, Jasper started collecting other things as well. These include found photos, lost playing cards or lonely puzzle pieces, strangers’ notes or notebooks, hair clips, buttons, toys or key hangers and many other things that were lost or discarded by their owners. The difference with films is that they refer less directly to the memories of other people but more strongly to Jasper’s own memories. The objects have become part of the archive and are labeled, categorized and associated with other archival pieces.


How does the exhibition’s name help to evoke its content?

81 things I thought I had forgotten, the title of the exhibition, was based on the title of an existing work. 81 things represent 81 key objects from Jasper’s studio and archive. They are not so much important because of their archival or intrinsic mnemonic value but because of the personal, souvenir function they have taken for Jasper. Each object evokes a specific memory of a time, place and feeling (a visit to the Parisian flea market, a photo found in the street where you used to live, a book found in a bar).

The installation work that is called 81 Things is the start of the exhibition. It combines a slide projection of the 81 things combined with three recordings where a voice sums up 81 memories associated with each of these objects. The recording was repeated three times, each time with an interval of one year. So the memory changes and transforms. Telling and re-telling the story has an effect on how the story is stored in your head, so the each time you will tell it differently. And this is what Rigole is interested in: the gap that arises between the actual event, the memory, the story of the memory and how images and words affect them.


In terms of approach, how did you go about producing the show?

The artists Z33 invites for a solo show in our main exhibition building, Vleugel 58, are always given the opportunity to develop a large new production. In this case it is a new presentation of Jasper’s film archive, the IICADOM and the taxonomy he created: a 14meter long table showing film clips from the archive, highlighting certain categories or archetypes combined with graphic and textual explanation. The discussions on how to develop and present this archive became the basis for the scenography of the whole show.


From research to scenography, can you discuss the various different people involved in the show?

First of all there is KASK who supported Jasper’s PhD research that formed the conceptual basis for both the exhibition and the publication. The exhibition is a coproduction between Z33 and De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam. So, after Hasselt, the project travels immediately to Amsterdam – an amazing opportunity for Jasper. Another co-producer is Jubilee, the artist collective that Jasper is a member of. They took care of the funding for the new installation and the production of the publication.

In terms of shaping the exhibition, an important role was given to Thomas Lommée, who developed the scenography. A couple of years ago, one of the first projects I did at Z33 was with Thomas Lommée. The exhibition was the first try-out and public presentation of his Open Structures project, an open design system based on a grid that Thomas developed and an online design platform to download instructions or participate and improve the system, a form of Wikipedia but for physical things. We continued working with Thomas on a regular basis. Open Structures was the perfect match for Jasper’s exhibition since the scenography had to be modular, open, easily adaptable and transportable. It also had to be multi-functional in the sense that it presents, represents and contains the archive. Thomas developed a range of structures that can be used both for showing things as for storing them. It was quite a complex production, which was taken care of meticulously by Andries Vanvinckenroye, who is a designer and really understood both Thomas’ and Jasper’s ideas. The result looks amazing, if I may say so myself, I think we really succeeded at evoking the right atmosphere to present the ‘institute’ and Rigole’s work.

In terms of atmosphere it is of course also a dream (and a technical team’s worst nightmare) to work with all these beautiful analog media, rattling 16-mm projectors, slides clicking in and out of their carrousels, the cracked sound of tape decks, the microfiche readers you manually have to shove forward or sideward to see an image. It’s also really a pity how rare all this material is becoming, how fast these old -and not so old- mechanical devices are disappearing, and how few people there are with the expertise to handle them.


What do you feel is the exhibition’s main statement?

It is no coincidence that the slide carrousel showing the 81 Things at the start of the show is placed on a stack of different second hand editions of two books: Les Mots by Sartre and Les Choses by Georges Perec. The exhibition deals with this constant slippage that happens between ‘words’ and ‘things,’ between objects and images, between story and history, between telling and re-telling. The exhibition deals with memories, words and images and how they constantly affect and influence each other. The way this happens is not rational, logic or straightforward but, through free association, a wonderfully creative and ungraspable process.


And how do you feel it fits in with the artist’s oeuvre in a more general sense?

I think for Jasper Rigole the exhibition can be seen as a key turning point in his work, in the sense that it is both a kind of round up of his IICADOM film archive and, on other hand, it introduces new paths. The exhibition is the first time Rigole is showing the collections of found objects I mentioned earlier. The way the objects are displayed creates a different way of evoking mnemonic effects, much more direct and much less mediated than in the found footage films made by the IICADOM, where he evokes a certain critical distance towards these intimate documents, a semi-fictional distance.

What do you hope viewers will get from visiting the show?

The element of playfulness became very important in Jasper’s work while working with these objects. A trajectory of mnemonic associations is carefully laid out throughout the exhibition; and the visitor is invited to create his own associations and connections, not only between what he experiences and sees in the show, but also with his own personal things and memories – there are so many levels to this work. I hope visitors will really take the time to explore this Borgesian universe and are triggered to open their minds to the game of association.


Would you say any influences / references played a major role in shaping the exhibition?

This game of free and visual association is of course influenced by Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas. I already mentioned writers like Jorge Luis Borges, Georges Perec and Sartre. As for other conceptual references, Jasper’s work is influenced by so many people, from Tom Gunning, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Foucault, to Pierre Nora… I can only advise people to get hold of the publication to learn more about this.

As a curator, how do you select the artists whom you’d like to exhibit? Would you say your shows all have somewhat of a common denominator to them?

Every year Z33 invites one artist to make a large scale solo presentation. In choosing the artist we have particular guidelines. As I mentioned, we first look for artists whose oeuvre we feel is in line with Z33’s research-based approach, and although this can take different forms, it needs to be in tandem with the quality of the work produced. Secondly, the artists we select are people living and/or working in Belgium and who are somewhere in between phases of their career. So not the relatively young, nor the established names but people who have developed a consistent and qualitative oeuvre for some 10 or 15 years and who have had some national and international exposure and critical acclaim; people for whom we feel the time is right to offer them a large platform, including a publication and new production(s). By taking this approach we modestly hope to give the right push at the right time to the right person. In the past we have done this type of solo-show with Philip Metten, Frederic Geurts, Sarah & Charles, Ives Maes, and Leon Vranken, to name a few.

Jasper Rigole: 81 things I thought I had forgotten
Z33, Hasselt 
Runs until the 6th of December
Credits of exhibition images: Kristof Vrancken.