May 072019

Managing accidents, incidents and claims

Who doesn’t know them: the large green square bags with a zipper and an isolating material on the inside that are used by couriers to deliver meals to your home. They usually pass by with high speed on their bikes and scooters. But here, in the presentation Managing accidents, incidents and claims by Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen, the courier came to a halt. His head is resting on top of his Deliveroo bag, his bike has been dismantled and folded into the bag. time out!

A constant throughout the multidisciplinary work of Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen is their fascination with human behavior, the coded structures within it, the influence of time, place and socio-economic structures on human relationships, physiognomy and body language. Their work departs from the notion that people are essentially always playing a role. Sculptures almost become persons and function as performers in a both realistic and imaginary theater of the commonplace. The gestures are based on observations in public spaces, like art fairs.

Breure & Van Hulzen take on doing nothing as a state of being in which an idea can be born and something new can arise. Mees is sitting on the dishwasher, doing nothing. Chris leans against the wall with his headphones. Whether these time outs are just for a short time or a fundamental decision not to participate in the system is not immediately clear. These figures seem – after the famous example of Bartleby, the office clerk from a short story by Melville who one day when asked for the umpteenth job refuses, saying ‘I prefer not to’ – to step out of their role to seek the confrontation with themselves. 

Exhibition at Art Brussels, 2019, winner of the Discovery Prize
Text by Pietje Tegenbosch

Apr 012019

The Thief

Installation overview from solo exhibition “The Floor is Lava” at Marres, Maastricht, 2019.

Twenty-one sculptures made of ceramics, bronze, concrete, steel, plaster, wood and textile. Laminate flooring, translucent curtains, security mirrors. 

“The Thief” is an installation in which sculptures that are portraits of friends and local celebreties, function as actors in a story. In this case the story is taken from the newspaper:

On November 22nd, 2016, a 68-year-old woman steals a wallet at a store in Oldenzaal, the Netherlands. While paying for her purchases she takes the wallet that an elderly woman has left at the checkout counter just before her. It appears to be a deliberate theft.

The theft was recorded by a security camera in the store. The police cannot solve the case and in January 2017, the Public Prosecution Service decided to have the security footage aired on the TV crime show Onder de Loep (under the lens) of the local station RTV-Oost, hoping for tips from viewers. Shortly after this broadcast the images also appear on the web site, a spin-off of the controversial web site GeenStijl that is mainly used to publish videos. Both are owned by Telegraaf Media Groep.

On the video gets hundreds of thousands of views, inviting many –generally vicious – comments. The woman’s address soon becomes publicly known and she receives threats at home as well.

On the day of the broadcast the woman calls the police to turn herself in. She commits suicide a day later.

In a statement the Prosecution Service laments the situation, but it does not consider itself accountable for ‘what happens on the internet’. A later response states that the Prosecution Service ‘has had a wake-up call with regard to privacy’ but does not intend to change its current policy regarding the recognizable showing of suspects. After questions from the NOS (Netherlands Broadcasting Service) a response appears on GeenStijl in its characteristically ironic style, more or less stating there is no proven correlation between the broadcasting of the images and the suicide. The relatives of the deceased do not want any contact with the media.

Photos: Gert Jan van Rooij

Apr 012019

The Floor is Lava

Installation overview from the solo exhibition “The Floor is Lava” at Marres, Maastricht, 2019

Fourth rule (the rights of a Watchman on the roof):

A Watchman has the right to:

  1. Sing.
  2. Shoot at whomever comes along.
  3. Invent and compose, also make notes, and recite in a low voice, or learn by heart.
  4. Look over the panorama.
  5. Compare life below to an anthill.
  6. Contemplate book publishing.
  7. Take a bed along.

[From Daniil Kharms, I’m a phenomenon quite out of the ordinary. Selected, translated, and edited by Anthony Anemone and Peter Scotto. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2013]

Photos: Gert Jan van Rooij

Apr 012019

In a Flickering Light

Installation overview from the solo exhibition “The Floor is Lava” at Marres, Maastricht, 2019.

Installation consisting of a concrete sculpture, two couches, LED lights, and five archival shelves with ceramic heads.

This is installation is an extended form of documentation of the eponymous performance. The decor of the performance—a faux leather IKEA sofa—is divided into two parts in order to created a mirrored situation. The audience becomes a double of the sculpture. The LED lights are integrated into the architecture and are causing the reflection of a movie on the walls of the space. It is the light of a screen, the light which illuminates our homes and our faces.

In the next room  (an attic) there are several archival shelves in which ceramic portraits are stored, as a kind of backstage. Every shelf contains four busts which are categorised by facial expression.

Made possible with generous support of the Mondriaan Fund.

Feb 032019

Parts, Bits and Pieces

Solo exhibition at tegenboschvanvreden, 2018

‘Parts, Bits and Pieces’, a solo show of predominantly new work by Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen, departs from the notion that people are essentially always playing a role. This role involves certain characteristics, a specific ‘mask’ and body language, as well as corresponding attributes such as clothing. Breure & Van Hulzen have created an installation consisting of various sculptures. Human figures, but also individual heads, have been staged in a theatrical setting as representatives of ‘optional’ roles.

The sculptures function as performers in a both realistic and imaginary theater of the commonplace. The modelled portraits and assembled figures make up a collection that can be displayed in different combinations. These are portraits based on observations from everyday life, whether they happen to be made with the likenesses of friends, acquaintances or anonymous passersby, or on the basis of fragmentary information such as an overheard conversation or vague memories.

In ancient times the countenance was already being referred to as the ‘mirror of the soul’. During the eighteenth century, physiognomy – the theory that a person’s character can be interpreted from outward appearance – became highly popular, particularly due to the ‘scientific’ treatises of the Swiss theologist Lavater. Wealthy ladies used Lavater’s method to analyze the facial features of their secret lovers. This fashionable hobby led to the refusal of many people to appear on the street without the protection of a mask.

A constant throughout the multidisciplinary work of Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen is their fascination with human behavior, the coded structures within it, the influence of time and place on human relationships, physiognomy and body language. That societal interest is explicitly manifest in ‘Parts, Bits and Pieces’. Here the word ‘part’ can also be taken to mean ‘role’: the role played by an actor, for instance, but also the roles (of pupil, doctor, mother, customer or loved one) played by people in day-to-day life.

Defined frameworks prove to be fluid and interchangeable in the exhibition. Here the notion of identity is emphatically presented as a construction. While Breure & Van Hulzen do shed light on this topical theme, they avoid any moral component or message. The sculptures are comprised of individual segments, ‘bits and pieces’, or constitute elements in themselves, as can be seen with the heads. One of the sculptures in the exhibition, a full-size human figure, stands on a multi-level object, a roof, which represents the urban environment – the city as a theater, a stage for the human condition.

Legend has it that there was once a baker from Eeklo, in Belgium, who had an unusual talent: he specialized in ‘baking’ transformed versions of heads. If your own face didn’t suit you, no problem, the baker from Eeklo could set you free of that cursed mug. Any facial expression or characteristic desired could be baked into a new mask, a new countenance. Nobody knows when this baker lived or how this story came into being. In a certain sense the exhibition holds a mirror up to the audience, as we are actually all the baker from this legend. We construct our personality according to our needs and desires, and are swayed most of all by the issues of the day.

The exhibition is made possible in part by: Mondriaan Fund, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and Dordtyart.

Jul 162018

Exhibition overview “Who are we again?”

Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam, April 13th – May 19th, 2018
Curated by Imke Ruigrok

Jan 242018



The Waiting Room

Installation containing several sculptures and found objects, dimensions variable, 2017

One of the main concerns of the work of Sander Breure & Witte van Hulzen is an expanded research into history of portraiture and its relationship with theater. The work encompasses the vast range of human [facial] expressions and how over time certain gestures become associated with and also disassociated from not only emotions but also social positions and activities.

For their long-term performance at Utrecht train station, they worked with a group of actors that performed highly choreographed quotidian activities that almost go unnoticed in the location. However once the commuters noticed the movements and actions of the actors they became witness to a theater of the everyday that suddenly unweaved itself from the fabric of daily life. Taking place for half a year, this work further raised the question when does performance becomes labor and vice versa.

Currently, the duo continues their research into the archive of human gestures, but this time creating a repository of portable head busts that can match sculpted torsos in different positions. Here the sculptures become the performers and are activated in staged scenarios in the space and in relation to the audience. While actors almost become living sculptures, the sculptures, almost become persons, neither managing to completely cross over to the other. The thin membrane between life and death keeps them apart.

– Sohrab Mohebbi, text for catalogue RijksakademieOpen 2017