‘Have guts and come out of the womb’ Tedja tells his ‘porn art’ viewers

The books, with moody black covers, stand upright in the display case like a sculpture. In gold foil letters it says: the ‘Ignore series’. Visual artist and writer Michael Tedja (1971) – winner of the Jana Beranová Prize, the Sybren Polet Prize and member of the Academy of Arts – creates a kind of universe of his own, and these ‘Ignore series’ are part of the project ‘The Holarium’. In total the series consists of 818 works, for Museum de Fundatie Tedja recreated 279 of them (The Color Guides).

Although we only get to see a fragment of what is hidden in those books, it is an overwhelming whole. Paintings and drawings have been pinned up next to each other on two walls opposite each other, so that they become, as it were, two large pyramids of building blocks consisting of colours, letters, symbols, figures, often abstract and sometimes recognizable figures.

An almost intimidating flood of images that you can best let over you: the house in strange colors, a fantasy animal, faces that are somewhere between an alien and a cartoon character, kites, letters, decorations. Sometimes figurative, sometimes expressionistic – in the style of Cobra or neo-avant-garde, or rather, referring to the same sources. You can view the works one by one, as a kind of visual novel, but you can also try to experience them as one large work of art: they hang so close together that the images flow into each other.

Also read: Prize winner Michael Tedja: ‘To be experimental is necessary for the world’

There is also something mysterious about the whole thing. Because those books are still there, in that display case, and they must therefore contain the original ones that Tedja has recreated for this exhibition. What we cannot see is whether anything has changed, whether there is development. The original versions remain protected.

Michael Tedja, Out One Big King2002-2012, (mixed media on canvas, 300 x 600 cm.)
Photo Peter Tijhuis

counterculture

In the same room you can also see ‘Out One Big King’: the impressive collage/installation that, as it were, bridges the gap between the two walls with the Color Guides. Slats and rope, a broom, there are plaster statues hanging from it, some of them are damaged, victim of a small iconoclasm? While the drawings only show individual letters, ‘Out One Big King’ – slightly smaller but hardly less imposing – also contains words and sentences. Although these are often as ambiguous as Tedja’s poetry, they do reveal something about the artist Tedja wants to be.

Michael Tedja, The Color Guide Series 7-148, 2019-2020. (oil and acrylic on paper, 65 x 45 cm.)
Photo collection Museum de Fundatie Zwolle and Heino / Wijhe

Relatively in any case, and there is a lot to laugh about. The word ‘diamond’ attached to a small work consisting of threads in a window. And another ‘(rough) rough diamond’. Slides by Jackson Pollock, pasted between crayons. A text entitled ‘porno art’, with lines such as ‘have guts and come out of the mother’s womb’ and ‘the farmer often resists horny pictures’. A block of wood with a rant that is as critical as it is cryptic: ‘we are going from multiculti to counterculture’, ‘loss is bad, only for the stupid, but how much longer this, this shit’. Or the statement: “Get the shit typhus. A cheese sandwich is the guideline. How much longer this shit?” So no awe; this is also apparent from the title of those books. ‘Ignore’ is of course a verb, but with Tedja also a play on the word that most art critics carefully avoid. Tedja isn’t, he’s annoyed with wary stuff about identity.

It is certainly not the intention with Tedja that you just let everything passively ‘get over you’. There is a linguistic aspect to his work. His new poetry collection, The selected part, appeared almost simultaneously with the opening in De Fundatie. An explicit connection with the The Color Guide Series is not there at first glance. Nevertheless, there are rules that gain in significance if you have been to De Fundatie:

I walked down the gallery from the

sixth floor and had nothing

lost. What I experienced

seemed like a promise. The world like

which in the future would be on

the way I saw it.

That’s exactly how it is – with the only difference that the Tedja room in Zwolle can be found on the first floor. But you can go further The Color Guides very carefully as Tedja’s vision of a possible future, “the way I saw it”, namely spontaneous and intellectual, playful and stern. In short: impossible to ignore.

The bundle The selected part published by Uitgeverij IJzer, 110 pages. € 22.40.