I was sitting on a bench in a train station, waiting. Bored, I stared in front of me, when a crow hopped into my field of vision, picked up a little black something, and then took off to a small platform. The platform became big, the black thing became a rock, and the train station a world apart. I began to walk, the air thick of humid heat. Far away old sounds pulsating. My body began to morph. Outer cells began to rotate inwardly and intestine feelings pushed outwards. My brain structure reconfigured in response to the landscape. I could almost hear my neuronal meshes expanding and looping like tropical vines and my tissues adjusting to the texture of mud. Transforming the distant rhythms unveiled the sense of breathing. Then a terrifying roar occurred, and bewildered I saw the train arriving. I took my bag, entered, sat down and exhaled.
The solo exhibition The Word For World Is Forest of the artist Dunja Herzog was realised in cooperation with Stroom Den Haag as part of the program Attempts to Read the World (Differently), developed by Stroom Den Haag.
In this exhibition Dunja Herzog explored the notion of living in a world that we do not fully understand, where things are lost in translation and we experience our own vulnerability. Herzog likes to create environments made of everyday junk. Sometimes they are the home landscape of some indefinable entities whose nature and function remain unclear. Climbing and trailing vines and the flickering of disco LED lights create a sensorial energising vibe at 1646. This world breathes the atmosphere of the bustling jungle combined with the rubbish of the urban environment, familiar and strange, like a parallel world with a logic of its own.
The invitation to participate in Attempts to Read the World (Differently) offered an opportunity for Dunja Herzog to connect to the work of the Austrian born artist and Yoruba priestess Susanne Wenger (1915-2009). Wenger devoted most of her life to the preservation, revival, and promotion of the cultural heritage of the Yoruba culture in Nigeria. She worked together with other artists on the restoration of Yoruba shrines in the forest groves where the shrines, nature and her own sculptures all became part of this sacred environment. The fusion of art and religion is at the core of Wenger’s art and she saw it as her purpose to protect the sacredness of nature. Still using a modernist mode of art construction for her reinventions in Yoruba tradition, Wenger merged her holistic worldview into her ‘archisculpture’, which she no longer regarded as autonomous sculpture but as a translation of the messages of the Yoruba deities.
For Dunja Herzog, Wenger functions as a mediator offering a different perspective through which to read global developments and the history of art. Wenger offers Herzog a way out of thinking in binary oppositions of self and other, opting for the contagious travel of ideas and thoughts, and accepting that what is lost and gained in translation.
Attempts to Read the World (Differently) was a program developed by Stroom Den Haag, in collaboration with the artists Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Céline Condorelli, Dunja Herzog and Neïl Beloufa. They took first steps in a different reading, interpretation and imagining of the world, the recalibration of a navigation system in the midst of a change of era, the search for new forms of knowledge, information and communication.