Interview with Sabine “Spip” de Graaf on “wat ik leuk vind” – 24/06/2022 by Christine Boxhorn.
It is 3 in the afternoon when I step into the exhibition space of “DeLOODS”. The ceiling of the gallery consists of large semi-transparent windows, casting a pleasant light over the room. An overwhelming amount of a4-sized prints loom over me, filling up all walls and creeping up to the ceiling and floors. The artist, Sabine “Spip” de Graaf, walks towards me, smiling. We introduce ourselves and I hand her a present I brought – a sealed booster pack of Cosmic Eclipse Pokémon cards. Judging from Sabine’s response, my gift is well-received. We settle down and start discussing what I came here for: “wat ik leuk vind”.
S: “This is awesome. Thank you so much. Let’s open it after the interview.”
C: “A good journalist does her research; several articles mentioned your love for Pokémon cards. So I thought it would be a good bribe.”
S: “It most certainly is, the cards made this the best interview I’ve ever had, so far.”
C: “So, could you elaborate on the title of the art show?”
S: “Yes, of course! The title is in Dutch. It is called “wat ik leuk vind”, which roughly translates to “what I like” or “things I like”. It is very literal; as you can see the area is filled to the brim with a4-sized prints, with each sheet of paper showcasing something I enjoy.”
C: “How many sheets are there in total?”
S: “At the moment there are around 1100 pictures hanging up. But it could be more or less, after passing the 500 mark it was hard to stay vigilant in keeping track of the amount.”
C: “It certainly is a lot to take in. It is almost hard to look at, even though I suppose we as people process way more images on a daily basis. Is this something you wanted to refer to, or did you just want to boast about the things you enjoy?”
S: “Absolutely! A huge drive in realizing this exhibit came from the ‘liking’ mechanism in social media. I was taking a shower, and I thought about how often people ‘like’ things by pressing a button. Every individual leaves a personal trail of their experiences in the world. It’s both meaningless and incredibly meaningful, I wanted to put it into a different, more physical format. The result is a very megalomaniacal presentation.”
C: “How did you select the images? Did you just dig through pictures saved on your computer, or was the process different?”
S: “I wanted to be as true to myself as possible. So I spent about a month researching and collecting pictures. Liking something is a broad term, so I had to cover all possible categories. Food, feelings, places, people, possessions, and media like games, books, music, memes. Just to name a few.”
C: “Basically, your entire life is open for all to see.”
S: “There was no other way to do this right. Luckily I’m not easily embarrassed.”
C: “Why did you do this?” *both laugh*
S: “You are not the first to ask that question. I asked myself the same thing, many times. In the end, I just felt like someone had to do this. And if I hadn’t done it, I think no one would have. So a sacrifice had to be made.”
C: “Obviously there is more to this concept, other than just showing things you enjoy. We already discussed social media and the amount of images individuals are subjected to in our current visual culture. The exhibition is also deeply personal, sharing your view of the world, to the world. Am I overlooking any other interpretations?”
S: “Oh yeah. This exhibit can be as superficial or as deep as you want it to be. Through conversations with visitors, I keep encountering new layers myself. Most visitors experience recognition in certain images, because there are many things that multiple people like. This is different for everyone. As an example, I shared a deep conversation with a 10-year old on the delights and mechanics of nose picking. Another visitor was drawn to this Komatsu excavator. He wanted me to explain why I put it up, so I told him encountering a gigantic yellow excavator while on a walk is a great feeling. He immediately understood and seemed surprised we shared that sentiment.”
“I shared a deep conversation with a 10-year old on the delights and mechanics of nose picking”.
C: “So, in a way, it is a celebration of life and its wonders, is that fair to say?”
S: “Absolutely. But also, one of my colleagues noted there are a lot of artists who stay secretive on the things that inspire them. Here, fellow artists can openly see the background of where my art comes from. Like a plagiarism treasure hunt.”
Throughout the interview, the trail of the conversation keeps breaking up because of images that catch my attention. We discuss Mystery Science Theater 3000, poetry by Billy Collins, and moths, among other things. A large percentage of images portray different kinds of video games I am unfamiliar with.
S: “Video games are just a medium, like books or movies. The games shown in this room are all top-tier quality, I assure you.”
C: “I will have to take your word for it.”
A moment of silence passes as I try to take in the last photos I have brain capacity for. I notice Sabine doing the same. Our eyes dart over the printer sheets, until our attention slowly dissipates. One closing remark crosses my mind.
C:“It is interesting to notice the value of such a diverse amount of things melting together. For example, here is a picture of you and your dad, right next to a bottle of iced tea.”
S: “I know right, obviously the amount of worth a picture is to me differs from thing to thing. But everything gets one piece of paper. No bamboozle.”
C: “Is there anything else you would like to add?”
S: “No, I just want to open that pack of cards you brought. Want to go for it?”