When Voebe de Gruyter was a child she often visited the Abdij van Averbode with her family to eat ice cream. She was 15 when she noticed that only two flavors of ice-cream were sold: mocha and vanilla and that the ice-cream sellers, and the people eating ice cream, were mimicking characteristics of the stone abbey behind them. The vendors in white aprons looked like friars. The Ice-cream cones were inverted abbey towers. Mocha was the color of the abbey’s stone and vanilla the color of its grout.
In The Hague, De Gruyter presented the slide show Mocha and Vanilla, the real abbey ice-cream (1989) about those Sunday ice-cream sales at the abbey. The enigmatic situation she encountered at the abbey led to an extended project incorporating spontaneous discoveries and chance. For example, when she went in search of a childhood friend Jos van de Put, intending to ask him to do the voice over for her slideshow, she came in contact with another Jos van de Put by accident. Both Jos van de Put’s did the voice-over together.
De Gruyter also presented the premiere of Secret export of stories / Historias exportadas en secreto (2011) a 12 minute video documenting visits she made to two cigar factories in Havana. Workers in those factories are treated to live readings of books and newspapers on a daily basis. De Gruyter read the cigar rollers a personal letter that she wrote to them: “”Two times a year you vote for a reader with the right kind of voice and you choose the books and newspaper articles that you like. Well, the words that glide out of the mouth of your favorite reader hit the factory walls and are rolled into the fermented tobacco leaves by your experienced hands. These words speak again when the cigars are lit
De Gruyter also exhibited a tv-fragment derived from regional RTV Oost that tells the story of how a hubcap rolling into Herman Ket’s front yard inspired his hubcap collection.
Events like this exhibition in 1646, are, for De Gruyter, part of her work process. She describes her works as “”self-operating things””. Reactions to and occurrences around exhibits are themselves incorporated in the work.