Orientation trips
The Mondriaan Fund organises orientation trips for visual artists and mediators to Asia, Latin America and Africa since 2004. The trips are aimed at exchange and cooperation between visual art professionals.

‘My coming out as a visual artist in Latin America’

Dick Verdult is a visual artist, filmmaker, musician and writer. The Dutch audience got to know him in the nineties as a member of the IBW (Instituut voor Betaalbare Waanzin transl Institute for Affordable Lunacy) and more recently with his solo-exhibition at the Van Abbe Museum in 2011. In numerous countries in South America on the other hand, people mostly know him as the musician Dick el Demasiado, having generated a unique blend of the popular music genre cumbia. In Bogota, on the eleventh day of our trip, we speak with him about art and music and the schizophrenia of being a permanent outsider.

Q: You’ve been performing in South America for many years and seem to know the continent very well. Why did you still want to participate in this orientation trip?
‘In Latin America I am known as a pop musician. I started making music about twenty years ago, and quickly gained a lot of success and strong feedback. But I kept my visual art practice a secret, because there was an overload of information around me already. Cumbia was mainly listened to by the lower classes in Argentina. So when I, as a blond European, started to put the focus on this music genre and to experiment with it, it was already pretty confusing for a strongly class-conscious Argentina. And if, on top of that, I had told them I was a visual artist too, I would have inundated the intrigue around me. But now it is time to come out with the visual art element. I have had a big show in Mexico already.’

Q: How are the reactions?
‘Good. It takes a while, for those who hear that I am a visual artist too, to sense the intensity of it. They first suspect I am a musician who makes drawings on the side. So, the orientation trip is a good opportunity to build up another structure of contacts, this time in the visual arts. Knocking on a different set of doors.
‘In Argentina it will be hardest to make this step-over. Music reaches everybody there, but the institutions of visual arts are pretty closed.’

Q: What is the outcome so far?
‘Chile seems a very difficult country, they still are rigorously digesting their sad past. I feel it is not my task to jump into that. From my musical experience I know you only can do something powerful and free if you are invited. If not you suffer the “political-correct” dilemmas and it starts to smell funny.
‘Colombia is different. The things I know about it are more diverse. It is exuberant. I got many new invitations. Musically, I got an invitation to play in the best place of the world which is on a pico-installation during carnival in Barranquilla.
‘On the visual arts side a young woman in Medellin approached me after the Medellin-concert and wants to make an art show with my work. Others informed me that as a cultural organizer she is “a visiting card of Medellin”.
‘Within the group contacts were made too: I will be working with curator Stefanie Noach on an exhibition/film in Cuba. And a Mexican curator appeared, who wants to take me to Puerto Rico, which is an interesting schizophrenic place, half northern American half Latino. I think my work could fit in well there, I am a schizophrenic too, a permanent outsider. All are new contacts that came through this trip.’

Q: Have your ideas about the countries we visited changed?
‘The sadness of Chile and the explosiveness of Colombia were confirmed. In Chile they have one ugly enemy; in Colombia the violence has many masks.’

Q: What are your next steps?
‘After this trip I will go to Lima, Peru, to prepare an art show in the Revolver Gallery. Ironically this gallery will also take my work to the Arteba, the art fair in Argentina. So I will go back to Buenos Aires through a backdoor, through a gallery from Peru, which is a wonderful choreography.
‘I am planning a new film. It is about Friday, the “right hand” of Robinson Crusoe. I will shoot part of the film in Chile, on the island where the story of Robinson Crusoe happened. I found some contacts of people who can help me.
‘And next year my second novel will be published in Colombia at Cain Press. It’s name will be ‘El Puré de mas Papas’ (The Mash with Most Potatoes). I am writing it as if I were a wasted Polish woman who lives in Argentina, who has had many men, many des-enchantments but deals with it happily.’

Q: How is your success here related to your career and life in Europe?
‘In the beginning it was problematic and strange, I had to digest it myself first. Holland takes pride in being political correct. Since I wasn’t called Fernandez, didn’t have a moustache and was blond, the Dutch didn’t believe the success I had in South-America. They thought I was a fake version of reality. When other musicians in South America started to copy the music I was making, in the Netherlands, they gladly believed that these imitations were the source. I couldn’t really do anything, so I just left it and accepted the confusion.
‘But this was also the moment that my visual art resurfaced in the Netherlands, the source for the show at the Van Abbe. Which had a mild, yet deep impact.
‘I consider my musical side as a wonderful platform to generate and communicate ideas. The paraphernalia, videos, interviews, flyers, backdrops reach large amounts of driven and curious people. And in a way they were all given to me by luck and destiny. I was awake enough to seize that occasion.’