I see the world as a gigantic network of interconnected systems. As an artist, I try to make this dizzyingly complex unity tangible by scaling it back to imaginable proportions. As such, I study methods through which people make the world logical or meaningful, such as science and religion. I combine these rational and spiritual systems in my work; in my opinion, geometry and the mystical go together very well. Inversion is a technique I use often for this. I put things that are insignificant and worthless on a pedestal, while I relativize things that are considered sacred and valuable.
Concrete objects and behaviour that refer to abstract values intrigue me. Nothing around us has intrinsic value; all meaning we perceive is attributed by us ourselves. There seems to be an enormous difference between a sheet of toilet paper and communion bread, but in material terms there is little to distinguish the two. It is the state and treatment of the goods that differs greatly.
It fascinates me how we can convince ourselves and one another of the sense and the logic of certain notions. I like to make my audience aware of this willingness and capacity by making use of it in a way that is as playful as it is convincing and transparent. As an artist, I allow myself to take on an insidious naivety, and I create an open atmosphere in my work, where there is as much room for seriousness and recognition as there is for humour and estrangement.
I use my position as an artist as a licence to gain entrance to many different, sometimes inaccessible, places. I have done work in a church, a zoo, a hospital, a brothel, a camp site and a cemetery. In such places, I ask for explanations and information about everything that I notice and everything that surprises me. I document, analyse and measure my objects of research with equal amounts of zeal and perspective, and I stylize and ritualize my methods. Sometimes I involve my audience in this process. I organize and present the data I have gathered as directly, accessibly and clearly as possible. Graphic design forms an important part of my work. I like to give people a souvenir to take home as a reminder of the experience my work has given them (pamphlets, posters, cards).
I strive to make my audience feel like they are part of the world, and vice versa: to make my audience feel that the world is inside them. It is the connections that we make between ourselves and things around us that make our existence and our encounters interesting and meaningful. I want to share the feelings of wonder that can be evoked by research into the systems in and around us.
Pavèl van Houten