'If silence is golden, Dutch artist Sarah van Sonsbeeck is a bank' says Nicola Bozzi [1]. 'Her work, ranging across all sorts of media, is always infused with an attention for space, an heritage of her years as an architecture student. It deals with the immaterial, but also with chance. If silence is a place of intimacy, free from the incursions of the outside environment, the accidents that break it are meaningful, enigmatic, chaotic events storming their way into our world. Sound - or lack thereof - is then only one of the dimensions of her installations, consisting primarily in a fragile and intimate experience to cherish and keep to ourselves. In the shape of minimal container cubes, silk-screened vinyl discs, wooden structures or documentary photography, her works almost always imply an interaction with the viewers.'

 

'In fact, though she was trained as one, you can barely call her an architect at all' says Annick Kleizen [2]. 'Her houses just never seem to hold their shape: the walls are fragile, permeable and somewhat ill-defined. Moreover, she makes you aware of their failings - of where sounds leak, the outside world enters and privacy succumbs to neighbours. She deconstructs the solidness of the private shelter and lifts the thin veil of privacy.

 

Sarah van Sonsbeeck's work is two-sided: on the one hand, she tries to define, defend and extend private space; on the other, she simultaneously reveals the impossibility and perhaps even undesirability of being completely shut off from the world. A case in point is when she tried to contain one cubic meter of silence on the as yet undeveloped plot of land around Museum De Paviljoens in the rapidly developing new town of Almere. One night the reinforced glass cube was smashed with a stone by local youths. She embraced this vandalising act and renamed the work One Cubic Meter of Broken Silence (2009). Instead of preserving the increasingly rare silence - which, strictly speaking, because of the rustling reeds and chirping insects, was no silence at all - the focus of the work shifted to communication (however violent) and interaction.

 

Working on what she calls the 'right to silence', she made a tent out of Faraday Fabric that shields the person inside from all electromagnetic signals, and thus not only from visible, but also from all invisible and inaudible noise. The tent becomes a portable personal space that you can take with you wherever you go, but, since it only consists of a very thin cloth, it definitely does not keep audible noise out. It may be a shelter, but only to a certain extent.

 

Her work focuses on the thin permeable line between interior and exterior - without concern for the façade. This detour brings her to an investigation of a more immaterial side of architecture, in which she scrutinizes all the small elements that determine how we live in our homes, the things the architects cannot control. She amplifies these elements and devises shields against them, but also welcomes the unpredictable and reveals the minute but intimate relationships between people who don't necessarily know each other. Sarah van Sonsbeeck practises architecture after all, of the immaterial - though no less fundamental - kind.'

 

Sarah van Sonsbeeck (1976) studied architecture at TUDelft (MA) and art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (BA). In 2008, 2009 she had a residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunste, Amsterdam. She had solo exhibitons at the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam (2017), Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam (2017). Her work was amongst others on show at De Nederlandsche Bank, Amsterdam (2013), Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2013), Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2012), Museum De Paviljoens, Almere (2009), Musem Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (2011), the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2009).



[1] Artslant: The Slant on Sarah van Sonsbeeck, by Nicola Bozzi, November 2010. http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/rackroom/185151-sarah-van-sonsbeeck

 

[2] Excerpts taken from Annick Kleizen, Sarah van Sonsbeeck is not a very good architect, in 'Things To Do in Mönchengladbach', artist book in edition of 100, 2011.