Suns and Stars is a young collective with a special history; I first got to know them through the Dutch art gallery Ton de Boer. Not only did their quirky name catch my attention, but also how they do things differently. As a traveling collective, they spread art all throughout The Netherlands. In castles, old hospitals, homes and other amazing historical buildings. The art is always inspired by the next exhibition location. Their website states that they aim to "raise awareness of both our cultural heritage and contemporary art." Examples of artists with works displayed by Suns and Stars exhibitions include Ruta Butkute, Daniëlle van Ark, Berndnaut Smilde, and Annee Grøtte Viken.
It must be a challenge to find these wonderful locations, how do you arrange those usually?
We need to be very flexible and also pragmatic. We do respond to the possibilities of the moment. Due to the economic crisis, a lot of interesting buildings were empty, so it was not hard to find a temporary place to stay. These new locations inspire us to make site-specific, environmental exhibitions and to work with institutions and individuals beyond the field of the visual arts. But now the crisis is over its peak, we do experience it is more difficult to find new locations, it takes more time to convince people and institutions that are not art-related to engage in an exhibition. So, now we've changed our focus again, we seek the collaboration with other art-initiatives, to strengthen ourselves and learn from them. We are still moving around, but we feel we need more mass, to do what we think necessary.
What about your last show? How did you incorporate the location in the work of the artists?
We could use an unconventional space, the Rietveld Huis, in Apeldoorn. This house is really an art piece by itself and actually a home to an art-loving couple, the Vinks. Jan and Netty Vink also had their own art collection of mostly ceramic pieces, which was also a great inspiration. We invited four artists to create work especially made for the specific spaces in the Rietveld Huis. It got really interesting. Sachi Miyachi (Tokyo, Japan), build a huge wooden installation in the garden of the house.
The Rietveld Huis must be a great piece of architectural history.
Yes, you can see on the pictures it’s all designed in the typical Rietveld-style, De Stijl movement. Straight lines, minimalistic. In Japan, there was never a radical movement like De Stijl, however there are some clear similarities in the sober building techniques.
What did the owners think about this? Did the cooperate with everything?
Yes, they did, and they were very cooperative, I think back at them with great gratitude. Sachi even lived with them for a few weeks. And we could use every room in the house, they even allowed us to remove a great deal of their artworks and other objects for the exhibition. After a while we figured out that their contrasting art collection was as a reaction to the sturdy atmosphere of the house. And, in the end Sachi Miyachi incorporated everything in the wooden installation. She presented the families ceramic collection as a tribute and mini-exhibition within our own presentation.
How was the exhibition received?
We had a well-attended opening. Although it’s far away for our network in Amsterdam, people took the effort to travel. I guess a location like this is always extra appealing to the visitors.
What is your vision as independent art collective Suns & Stars?
We developed a work process based on equally shared responsibilities and we operate as an open cooperation. This means the artists engaged with Suns and Stars are welcome to involve themselves in the way it distinguishes itself and have a great deal of input.
Do you always work with the same artists?
We are always open to work with new artists, although we do work with some artists more than once.
What else are highlights for Suns & Stars in the past period?
In a previous show in an old tuberculosis hospital, Zonnestraal, the rooms were all lit very well by the sunlight. However, at night there was no light at all. So, we managed to organize candle-lit tours. Very special. And we also do performances. Like the Sensory Space Show, we did in Pakhuis de Zwijger. One of the participating artists, Tim Beukers invited another Tim Beukers, a professional soccer player. They couldn’t be further apart, but it also felt as they were brothers. In this talk between them, they talked about their lives and their work, about success and failure. And running into each other online all the time.
Wat a variety! And are there more things coming up in the nearby future?
Also a very exiting location is the Amsterdam canal house ‘Het Huis met de Hoofden’. We’re working together with The Ritman Library, who has an extraordinary collection of philosophical and esoterica books. We’re doing research for the exhibition during the opening of the library. We were looking at a book of Jacob Beumen, coincidentally being the first book of their collection. So we’re really on the same page.