The immersive environment created by Hengeveld, in the installation titled In Pursuit of Paradise takes us on a journey into perception. The viewer is instantly plunged into a synthetic Paradise, this environment animated by an inflating/deflating deer, cuckoo birds and a rotating rock offers us a joyous but suspicious experience. The glorious manmade oasis is framed by the evident structural construct of the installation.
The drastic contrast of the structure to the created nature it contains, brings awareness to the subjectivity of our perception. This duality points to our questionable willingness to accept stand-ins as “real” despite our awareness of their construct. But this is where this work truly exists and functions, within the perception of authenticity, within the gap between the real and the unreal where familiarity can fool the senses. The environment created is submersive, bringing forth the contrast between rationality and sensory experience.
Reality is the state in which things exist, it encompasses all that is and has been, regardless of observability or comprehensibility. Perception is the reception of sensory information; it is to collect or apprehend with the senses. Perceived reality comes from the sensory understanding of our surroundings and happens in the viewer’s mind. All senses and the passing of time, are functions of the perceptual system; this in combination with memory’s subjectivity renders experience ungraspable and inaccurate. Hengeveld is aware of these possibilities and uses the viewer’s sensory systems as he uses materials and technology in the make-up of his installation. Art is in the experience and the memory of it. The work is activated by audience perception: it is perceptually interactive. The artwork is neither the viewer nor the created environment; it is the coalescence of the two and is not an objective reality. The audience’s cognizance of the work initiates and completes the art experience. Hengeveld utilizes the sensory modalities as construct: The audience experience is the work and the physical work is the stimulus.
The stimulus takes the form of a wonderful and serene but unarguably fake romanticized landscape. The man-made environment is a peaceful and idyllic representation of the real world; it contains a jewelled waterfall and (otherwise incompatible) animals spending happy times together. We are being allowed this pleasure but made wise to our flawed enjoyment. In Pursuit of Paradise proposes our idealization for human conceptions of nature.
Julie René de Cotret
Hengeveld is an installation and multi-media artist whose work explores the boundaries between reality and fiction, and where we find ourselves within that relationship. He is currently living and working in Toronto, Canada. He completed his MFA at the University of Victoria in 2005 and studied the Ontario College of Art and Design. He began his art practice at Georgian College, where he received a Certificate and Diploma in Fine Arts. He is currently Artistin Residence at the University of Guelph in the School of Environmental Science. Some recent and upcoming exhibitions include Hallwalls Contemporary (Buffalo), MacDonald Stewart (Guelph), Eastern Edge (St. John’s), EyeLevel Gallery (Halifax), and Mulherin Pollard Projects (NYC). Robert Hengeveld is represented by Katharine Mulherin Contemporary
Julie René de Cotret (Montreal) Visual artist and independant curator studied arts at John Abbott College 1996 and NSCAD 2004, followed by a year long self directed internship at the Meadows School of Art, Dallas TX. 2005. She recently finished a two year artist residency program at the School of Environnemental Science, U. of Guelph, which she founded. She curated several exhibitions and alternative programming at the Elora Center for the Arts, between 2009-2012. Her studios are located in Hillsburgh and Guelph, Ontario, Canada. René de Cotret had been on the board of directors at Ed Video Media Arts Center, since 2006.