Artists during Pandemic: Suzan Drummen

(Business Lounge Journal – Art)

BL: Business Lounge Journal
SD: Suzan Drummen

BL: Tell us about your background.

SD: Suzan Drummen was born in the Netherlands, Studied at Art Academy Maastricht, Jan van Eyck Academy Maastricht, Rijks Academy Amsterdam, Dutch Insitute in Rome.

Works and lives in Amsterdam and works in the media of painting, photography, installation and public art. The works are a playful investigation of space, illusion, optical effects and other visual phenomena as part of a broad exploration of visual perception and the limits of beauty. There is an ongoing inquiry into the limits of seduction and repulsion.

Suzan Drummen realised more than 40 permanent artworks in the public space and autonomous work has been shown in a lot of solo and group shows. The work is in several private and public collections like: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam, Bonnefanten Museum Maastricht, Museum Bommel van Dam Venlo 
Europees Parlement Brussel, Centraal Museum Utrecht, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

In the last few years there was a focus on site specific installations in a big size. Several in the Netherlands but also in Poland, China, Hong Kong and Japan.

Suzan Drummen is Professor at Bachelor Fine Arts Minerva Art Academy Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen and at The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, (both in the Netherlands). And was a guest teacher in several art academies around the globe.

BL: What’s your current profession?

I make installations made from crystal, chrome-plated metal, precious stones, mirrors and optical glass. From a distance they appear clear and orderly, yet upon closer inspection, the eyes become disoriented by the many details and visual stimuli. That moment, of being able to take it all in or not, is explored, time and time again. The visual perception is challenged, requisitioned and intensified.

The twinkling surfaces, the colour contrasts, the use and reuse of repetitive themes are characteristic of the work. Everything keeps returning in a different form: in different materials or on a different scale. Works endlessly mirror each other. Sometimes there are round photos of earlier works placed between the stones.

I also make films and photo’s and commissions in public space. The viewer is always faced with an abundance of sensory perceptions.

BL: How is the current situation in the Netherlands at the moment, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

SD: Today, May 20 2020, exactly two months after Mark Rutte’s television speech in which he prepared Dutch people for a period in which their freedom would be limited to an unprecedented degree, he announced this week that they will regain some of that freedom in a new form.

The intended relaxation of corona measures after 1 June will continue.
This means that from next month catering, secondary schools, theaters, museums and cinemas will be open again under certain conditions. The “new normal” will be a beer on the one and a half meter terrace and a visit to the cinema in a largely empty hall.

BL: How do the Dutch government handle it, and how do the people react to it?

SD: Holland is a rich country and I think there are many countries where artists have a harder time than here, but it is painful to see that our government does little for the artists during this difficult time.

In 2020, Statistics Netherlands calculated that the culture sector accounts for a contribution to the gross national product of 3.7%. That is almost as much as the Construction Industry (4.2%) and twice as much as Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries combined (1.6%). Culture contributes to 4% of the employment, culture is consumed for € 15 billion.

Tourists come to the Netherlands because of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, which benefits hotels, restaurants, cafes and shopkeepers. Foreign companies prefer to settle in cities with a large cultural offer, the economic reciprocity of culture have received a lot of resonance from city administrators, project developers and city marketers.
If you see these numbers you would think that the government is taking support measures to ensure that the cultural sector remains intact. But most of the money now goes to large companies, such as the airline company KLM. Only 30,000 people work at KLM but they receive € 3 billion corona support. While the 400,000 thousand people working in the culture sector receive only 300,000 thousand euros in support. That money goes to a few large museums and theaters and therefore it hardly ends up with the performers. That is not even a euro per person. Life in the Netherlands is expensive, to give you an impression: a bread costs 2 euros, a cup of coffee 3 euros. Now that all exhibitions have been canceled and all shows and theaters are closed, it is difficult to obtain income, so many artists will go bankrupt.

In Germany, our neighboring country, artists are taken seriously, they are well supported by the German Government. But the Dutch government treats art as a hobby, that makes me very sad.

BL: How do you meet your daily needs in the pandemic situation?

SD: I currently stay either in my house or in my studio, every day I take a walk of at least an hour. Shops are open so I can get my daily groceries. But I am not allowed to visit people or schedule appointments. All contact, and also teaching goes through digital means.

BL: From your opinion, how does this pandemic affect daily life and work flow in the Netherlands, and what sectors do you think are most affected?

SD: Those most affected are, of course, those who become very ill or those who have lost loved ones. The healthcare staff is also struggling, of course. In all sectors, many people are struggling financially now, there are many layoffs and Amsterdam has been hit hardest, because the city depends on culture and tourists. The Dutch government provides a lot of financial support to companies, in order to prevent the entire economy from collapsing. There are 3 groups that do not receive any support at all: the visual artists, the musicians and the writers.

BL: How does this pandemic affect an art worker such as yourself?

SD: All my planned exhibitions and projects have been canceled or postponed. I planned a 12 weeks residency, where I would work with ceramics, which has also been postponed to a later date.

Fortunately I had some savings of which I can pay the running costs such as studio rent and mortgage. One day a week I teach at the academy, normally I would go to the academy every week, now I teach digitally.

BL: According to your local news sources, when would the lockdowns be lifted/eased?

SD: There are now fewer deaths than before and the rules are now a bit less strict. So the lockdown is a bit lifted. The primary schools are now open again.

BL: What do you miss the most during this lockdown?

SD: I miss being able to see art in real life and I miss my busy life; I normally work every day with colleagues, assistants and students. I always revive when I am among people. Now social life has stopped practically and many people are anxious or worried. I thought I was fairly safe and now it appears that everyone is losing all certainties, which is very difficult. Everyone is concerned about the future. So I also miss my previous sense of security and safety. Yesterday, a friend said he was fired and another friend said she can’t sleep because she can no longer pay her mortgage.

BL: Are there any advantages?

SD: There is less traffic, the air is cleaner. Many small initiatives arise in which people help each other.
It is amazing to see how quickly big adjustments can be made in a collective experience. Now because there is a direct threat to health, it is suddenly possible. It would be great if we could maintain this decisiveness and together do our best for the environment. Because climate change is our next major concern.
Perhaps everyone will finally realize that we need to deal with the world better and more carefully.

You can disover more about the work of Suzan Drummen here

ruth_revisiRuth Berliana/VMN/BL/Editor in Chief Business Lounge Journal and Partner of Management & Technology Services, Vibiz Consulting