Interview from the Gallery Text:
Dorine van Meel, the fourth recipient of the Nina Stewart Residency in conversation with Margot Heller, Director of the South London Gallery.
Margot: You’ve been in residence in our Outset artists’ flat next door for the past few months, but to what degree has that context had an impact on the work you’ve produced for the exhibition?
Dorine: All the works have been made during my stay, and the texts reflect directly on the enviornment I found myself in. Visitors might recognise specific details when listening to the narrators. Daily observations are mixed with reflections on books I was reading at the time – mainly biographies of female artists and revolutionaries, as well as feminist theory – and conversations I had with my female friends about the end of the world, the desire for a future, or the films of Agnes Varda.
M: Your interest in feminism has been manifest in all your work to dat. Where does that stem from and why do you think it’s particularly relevant today?
D: I arrived in London from Amsterdam at the same time as the economic crisis so I immediately joined the discussions about the presumed impossibility of an alternative to capitalism or an outsider perspective – against the backdrop of a postmodern worldview in which grand narratives are dead. To me however, neither irony nor cynicism are productive positions. In my understanding, feminism can open up a space in which to imagine the world differently, and invites us to act differently within the world as we find it. The relatively recent history of feminism not only shows us that even the most deeply rooted behavioural patterns are subject to change, but that change within society can come from unexpected corners. My research into feminisim also opened up new connections to my grandmother and mother, and their silent struggles, as well as to female artists from the past, like the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, whose writing I refer to in the work.
M: The exhibition title, Between the Dog and the Wolf, is drawn from that research, and chimes with references to duality which permeate the show through the voices, scripts and imagery, as well as in the way they are presented in the gallery spaces. What’s the source of the phrase and how did you come to choose it?
D: In her essay, Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable, the American writer Rebecca Solnit mentions a French expression used to refer to the twilight: ‘entre le chien et le loup’/ I understand it as the moment the night starts its battle with the day, the moment one is no longer able to distinguish the dog from the wofl, when the civilised foregrounds its savage side. If one thinks of the dog and wolf as one creature, the title of the show reads as an internal dialogue between its dual sides. It resonates with my rejection of the idea that any single subject can exist in isolation because we are formed of many. Helene Cixous, the French feminist writer, says it best: “Our customers demand simplicity. You are always full of doubles, we can’t count on you, there is otherness in your sameness.’
M: The scripts you’ve written are both puzzling and captivating, like a stream of consciousness in which disconnected observations, reflections and ideas somehow manage to flow thanks to the rhythm of the language, recurring imagery and momentary glimpses of cycles of thought. The words: ‘this was before the internet, and at bedtime I tell him dragons don’t exist, fear the real world instead’, prompt an association between the fragmentation embodied in your script with a navigation of a digitally mediated world. This is reinforced by the imagery of the projections, which equally seem to portray a dream-like or meditative state of mind. The words themselves are poetic and I’m intrigued to know how far they, and your work more broadly, embrace a sense of nostalgia for a pre-internet existence?
D: I find that a difficult question, nostalgia implies a longing for the past which it might falsely romanticise. I guess the strawberry iMac and the pre-internet reference locate the subject very precisely in the early nineties, a time in which images could still get lost or forgotten. I was a teenager when the internet entered our homes and many of my childhood memories are coloured by the digital forests and desolated hotel lobbies of computer games like Myst and Labyrinths of Time. I believe there is still an offline world out there, although one might need to force those encounters more consciously than one did in a pre-internet era.