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17 April 2021

I lift my 13-month-old son into my arms and we step into the backyard.
He stretches his right arm forward and puts his index finger in the air and he shouts: “Daar!” (translated from Dutch to English ‘there’). This word is new to him as many things in this world are, and when something is “new” you want to discover it.

I recognize my own attitude in my artistic practice in the little word “there”. My artistic practice, I like to call a walking practice, consists of walks that I walk alone or together with others. By means of the work that I make or cause to take place, I want to allow an exchange in which we learn more about the environment in which we place ourselves.

Image 1: Part of a walking archive

A central question in my work is: how do we show nature to each other? In my work this mainly manifests itself by means of enlarging and reducing. I take something small from a walk and I zoom in on it. I can drown in the complexity of everything that is exposed during this process of enlarging. An important concept within this enlarging is serendipity; the phenomenon of making a great and valuable discovery while looking for something completely different.

In my walks I need one to be able to discover the other. I need the lichen that grows on the trees to learn to look and to connect with the environment I am in at that moment, and to connect with the people whom I share that space with.

Image 2: Part of a walking archive

What I have captured during and after my walks, is what we take for granted and therefore no longer amazes us and we have forgotten about it. During and after my walks I intuitively feel which aspects these are for me. During my walks I look for the inner “there” that guides me.

I discovered that my sensory observations are not those of a scientist, but are characterized by my intensely personal experience of everything that comes on my way during my walks and intrigues me, namely my sensitivity to nature and my fascination for what we do not initially see and even what is hidden from the human eye and can be discovered by fantasizing about it, writing about it and looking at it under a microscope.

Image 3: My son

The urge I feel in sharing my personal life, namely motherhood and the urgency I feel in researching motherhood in art, takes place alongside my artistic practice but is inextricably linked to it. In addition, researching motherhood in art is also my research into my role as a mother and what her influence is on my artwork and whether my son will play an active role in the making process.

I follow his index finger. When we arrive at “there” he shouts again, just as loudly: “There!” and points the other way. Together we discover where “there” is and what “there” means.

Breda, Netherlands

This text is written by Kija Benford as part of Vrouwenmantel Art Research Group. In it, she shares more about the connection between both her artistic process and motherhood.

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