Two months ago, I had just sat down with my family in the TGV to Paris when my phone rang. It was Karin Kortenhorst who surprised me by asking if I wanted to manage today’s opening. What does one do at such a moment?
I thought I’d better make sure to be well-prepared, so a week later I sat down with Karin at the kitchen table in her beautiful house on the Vecht. I had intended to go deep into the details, in order to lay out – as it were – the essence of her artistry here for you today. What moves her, what are her deeper motives, what is the source of her desire to immerse us in the wondrous images that surround us here today? She sat before me in a summer dress laughing easily when my attention was drawn by a slight vibration under her skin. I bravely asked my next reflective question, but as her words danced around me, the meaning remained out of my grasp and I became more and more absorbed by what was happening before my eyes. What went on inside that fragile body? It was fizzing, bubbling and sparkling…. Karin Kortenhorst started to bloom before my eyes, like a young tree in spring. The movement under her skin formed bumps on her arms and shoulders; unsuspected forces pushed from her insides and her tightly stretched skin formed protrusions that pushed outward like thin fingers in a balloon. Something had to be released that had built up over many years. It was knocking at the edges of the body that sat before me smiling and unsuspecting. As the conversation continued, this miracle of growth and movement took place and I could not look away.
One of the most unique characteristics of being human is this ability to function quite normally in the presence of others, while at the same time experiencing something completely different. Being simultaneously inside and outside. I myself spent my secondary school years daydreaming at my desk and continued, unconsciously, to train in this “innermost emigration”. Flying inward and then returning. My talent was exploring the interior space of my world. Probing the boundary between Me and the World. Our skin is a literal border, and this is where, for me, the realisation of an expression was achieved. A work of art that fought its way out. Salman Rushdie once wrote: “Literature is created along the border between the Self and the world, and during the creative act, that border becomes softer. It becomes permeable and enables the world to flow into the artist, and the artist to flow into the world.”
Pondering what had happened to Karin’s skin, shifting from permeable to semi-permeable, it came to me: osmosis. I thought about the science of it, amoebas and paramecia appeared and in the distance a cross-section of the skin from my biology book with hair follicles and calluses.
Meanwhile, the growth process had continued, and dozens of wires twisted out from her arms and shoulders around her head; like graceful dancers they increasingly encircled her. The growth of a piece of jungle twisted quickly, clutching vines wrapped around each other and formed a fortress, the colours were the brightest I had ever seen: deep yellow golds, poison greens, raging reds. The most beautiful pieces of jewellery enclosed her slender neck and moved in braided patterns over her shoulders and back. What happens in a human being that leads to manifestation in art, to the creation of images and music? What is the phenomenon that gives shape to that lonely path which flows from us like an inner inevitability? The flow of bloodstreams and hormonal stimuli that is overtaken by the movement, the line, the thread that gives our individuality and our humanness a face. Why is it that we dedicate ourselves for months to braiding and building these sculptures?
I started to worry when Karin slowly began to fade from view. The initial beauty and elegance of the threads turned to menace and proliferation. They thickened and burst forth like festering growths and the poisonous tentacles of an invisible octopus took possession of the powerless body before me. At the same time, there remained the beauty of a predator or carnivorous plant: look at me being handsome! The network quickly expanded before me and like a runaway monster, the first tentacles reached the ceiling and the kitchen cabinets. The shape before me emitted pinched and strangling sounds. In the meantime, tufts of the uncontrolled growth were already beginning to come loose and transparent structures surrounding the emptiness floated like balloons through the kitchen. Now, a person before me was without a well-defined shape. And from the enclosed body echoed the words “I am my body, I am the space where I am, I am the world”. The first slimy gripper arms touched my hands and face, and a sudden panic made me realise that I had to act. I stood… It hit me as I fled the house, “Brutal Growth” goes beyond ‘just’ growth or’ just’ brutal. Brutal growth is a secret cocktail where the senses take control. And in this cocktail, the most important ingredient is time, time as an archaeology of a collective and biological memory. This, combined with the authenticity of one’s own life, generates an elixir that is extremely nourishing for the creative spirit, as can be seen here today in the layered images of Karin Kortenhorst.
The ability to imagine and daydream must be considered one of the most essential human abilities. What an intriguing work of art I had seen being created. The best in years, and I quickly closed the door behind me.