perpetual stew 
I am sitting on a few steps that lead down off the exhibition space on the second floor of Kunstverein, Amsterdam, to a room where the publications from the institution are kept on tall metal bookshelves. The stairs are nestled between the first row of shelving and a wall, creating an intimate narrow corridor space at the end of which is a mid-sized screen on the floor, leaning up against the back wall. Within the image, a monumental wooden staircase is centred in an abandoned industrial space. It reaches up toward skylight windows through which sunlight floods in. I find myself slowly drawn into this dreamy space, which spills over into mine through an atmospheric soundscape. The world which appears is one of repetition and eternal returns, as one performer after another gradually and deliberately makes their way up the huge stairs, one step at a time. The process is slow and arduous, they are up against elemental forces, but well worth the effort, for as they reach the top step and their face bathes in light, they are moved, some to tears.

This video installation entitled The Storm (2023) by Mylan Hoezen, emerged out of the artist’s wish to uncover the foundational pillars of his practice by diving into his traumatic past. Over the past several years Hoezen has developed a body of durational performance work that begins with instructions being handed over to performers to execute . While recently working on a film set, an incident occurred that brought a flood of traumatic memories from Hoezen’s childhood to the surface. He soon realized the many ways he had been repressing these memories and how these mechanisms had become part of his daily life and art practice. The performance space, in his words, “is the one location where I can totally lose myself in the present moment. I create precise directions, gather the tools I’ll need to carry them out, call the audience, then carefully carry out each step. When performed well, these performative scenarios give me clear insights into my emotional state.”  With The Storm, Hoezen wanted to tackle his traumatic history by developing new methods that broke with his habitual ways. He began to keep a dream journal, jotting down keywords and descriptions of images he could remember and then feeding these into a Verbasizer: a piece of software developed by programmer Ty Roberts and used by musician David Bowie, inspired by the cut-up technique writing. The result is a kaleidoscopic mash-up of meanings that becomes the grounds for a visualization of the artist’s dreamscapes.  

What is most intriguing about Hoezen’s piece is how the backstage or infrastructure of the theatricalization is laid bare. Surrounding the monumental steps in the image are cables, clothing racks, and a make-up table; the images of the performers climbing the stairs are interspersed with other images of the performers grouped together behind the stairs sheltered under its scaffolding. What Hoezen brings to the fore is not only the images of his dreams that operate as symbols for psychological trauma but also the mental mechanisms of daily life, including the strategies and instructions we give ourselves in order to keep going. While these processes overlap and differ from one person to the next, they each contain their own poetics. Indeed, referring to the workings of instructions in his practice, Hoezen affirms that “no matter how simple or complex these instructions are, the straightforward and constructive way they have been put together provides room for imagination and a vision of what is possible.” They are for him “a way to comprehend and experience what it means to be alive.”

Anik Fournier
isbn 978-90-833997-9-9