To start explaining the origins of Whatever the Weather, it probably helps to tell that a previous project had me photograph the North Sea horizon for one year, at every full our of that year. That project, NEW HORIZONS, emerged from a wish to portray and share abundance in space and time. NEW HORIZONS led to a series of 8,785 photos of the exact same view, the release of a monumental book, various exhibitions in and outside The Netherlands, as well as the inclusion of work in public and private art collections across the world.
NEW HORIZON #3478, 24.05.2012 - 22h00
Following my quest for abundance in space and time, I wanted to invite people to not only recognise this search through images, but much rather, to join me in actually and physically experiencing this abundance. I asked myself: now that I can enjoy a setting of space and tranquillity, what would I like to experience?
There are two paths that led me tho this theme.
In the summer of 2017, I was drawn to the wish to one day host the popular Dutch TV-program Zomergasten. And given my idea that I would not be invited to do that in the short term, I started looking for the reason behind my wish. What about Zomergasten was so special that made me so eager to host is? I turned out to be inspired by a program that creates space in an otherwise heavily fragmented media landscape that is torn apart by commercial interests.
How great then, to create space for something that is almost the opposite of that. Six times three hours of undivided attention, dedicated to getting to know the guest to the program, creating an opportunity that normally wouldn't be available.
That's how I got to the theme of 'Encounter'. With a certain quality and depth, and in particular: with undivided attention. Meaningful and genuine. 'Wezenlijk' in Dutch, which unfortunately doesn't translate into an equally descriptive word in English.
Adriaan van Dis interviews Sonja Barend for Zomergasten, 1999
What remained was the challenge to find a form in which to work on these meaningful encounters. To experience such encounters myself, and find a form to share the invitation underlying the project. This formed turned out to be a walk with the length of an entire walking day, in a landscape that feels like home: The Hague's Sounth Beach. The form that would become available to share, would be a self-portrait. All 145 captured in the same way, at the same time of the day, same location. All at eye level of the person in the photo, suitable for printing true to scale, without the person wearing any decorations, and while feeling free of stress. Times 144: 12 meetings x 12 months. And eventually even once more, bringing the total encounters and photographs to 145.
Connecting from uniqueness
For most of my life, I have find it difficult to entertain a conversation, unless when it was about a subject that enjoyed my specific interest. I could tell people about trains, and later on about cultural differences. And along the way about photography itself, and abstract concepts, or how to realise your dreams. But I was a lot less fluent when it came to everyday life, like the weather, somebody's new car, or how I feel. Let alone my ability to wrap my arms around somebody, or ask somebody to or hug me.
Conversations and encounters used to have some kind of black hole risk. Of reaching a point where I would have nothing left to say of ask. Holes that would make me disappear, and along with me: every bit of the conversation leading to that point. Or: how I feel no room for my spontaneous, associative way of perceiving the world and reflecting on it.
If I don't feel free to be curious without somebody else projecting judgments on what I feel an think, I prefer to be alone. But even then, I keep wanting to share what I see and experience. Who I am.
That's the kind of context I would like to be able to create. Space for myself, and holding space for the other person. So we can be together and feel safe, experience abundance in space, time and attention. To then see what it is that apperently want to submerge. In me, in the other, in the world. In such a way that silence and discomfort to longer hurt the encounter. In a way of being together unconditonally, without having to sacrifice yourself. 144 times within the scope of this project, and then even once more. 145x unconditionality, Whatever the Weather.
Marina Abramovic in MoMa for The Artist is Present, 2010
Except looking at my own motives, I have also looked at other artists\; projects. One documentary I watched several times is The Artist is Present by Marina Abramovic. I particularly enjoyed looking at portraits taken by Carla van de Puttelaar en Stephan Vanfleteren.