Interview with Tom Van Malderen

You said your work operates in the gap between art and design/architecture, how big and resistant this gap? Or how porous is it? What flexibility do you find operating in between these disciplines?

It’s often been said that art is about posing questions and design about proposing solutions. I feel that these definitions, similar to so many other things, have become more fluid, at least for now. Hence, in practice, I find the gap to be porous and happily enjoy the flexibility. Resistance rarely occurs and only on occasions where people prefer a clearer or more traditional definition or framework. In any case, in my work, rather than asking questions or providing answers, I prefer to shift around our references. I find it more interesting to retain ambiguity and bewilder rather than being specific.

Your work has some monumental aspects such that GAZEBO is subtitled “Monument for The Public-Private Space,” do you consider your pieces minimalist monuments? 

With many of my pieces I like to touch upon an in-between status. GAZEBO is definitely in-between a model for a monument and sculpture. It wants to commemorate the (loss off, need for) public-private space and is as such a model that carries a symbolic value. I don’t consider my pieces as minimalist but rather as reduced forms. In the case of GAZEBO to obtain a certain archetypical appearance. The use of marble and acrylic and certain details reassess the value attributed to materiality and skill – pitting these two qualities subtly against the outsourced and the mass consumed (like the cheap and quick to assemble polyester gazebos that are in many ways a marker of the times).

Tom Van Malderen/Gazebo (Monument for the Public-Private Space), 2018

Tom Van Malderen/Gazebo (Monument for the Public-Private Space), 2018

You must enjoy playing with the materiality of the objects and objecthood of the materials. What is material and what is object for your practice?

The cultural significances associated to these shifting perceptions between the materiality of objects and objecthood of materials, are exactly what make my practice going. The power and emotional presence of things are very similar to the meaning of language for me. I love to shift around material gestures, rituals and ceremonies attached to furniture, objects or environments. And like to look at the process of making things that are at the same time familiar and strange, that borrow from the past, the present and fantasy. Last but not least, it is the ambiguity embedded in objects and materiality that intrigues me: when and how is an object/materiality informed by culture/rationality and when by intuition/emotion?

Either social, political or individual and intimate, what kind of tool is art for you? What’s its purpose for you if we should admit that art has some purposes?

Referring once more to ambiguity, to me, art is both social/political (cultural) and individual/intimate (intuitive, emotional). Making work, means transferring my private thoughts onto a public plane, into a dimension that is also political, and willingly or not commenting on the contemporary condition. Therefore, yes, I definitely think it has a purpose and it is active both on intimate or personal and socio-political universal levels.

What do you think about today's art world? How does an ideal art world look like for you?

Ideally, an ideal art world does not exist. In the sense that keeping it a world on its own, with its insider rules, rites and regulations increasingly turns it into a hermetic bubble with less relevance and resonance. I prefer to see art as an intricate and participative part of the world, than a world on its own. It would definitely improve its current position, where it is too often considered to be elitist and one of the first to be side-lined when the going gets tough. In moments of crisis, art is one of the best things to have around in the world.

This interview is a part of our Public Support section, dedicated to our Kickstarter supporters.