In dialogue with Fred Sandback: The measurement of space x Michelle de Bruijn


Sandback creates captivating spatial situations, keeping the viewers experience at the center of his artistic practice. In response to the exhibition, artists, performers, dancers and musicians working from different creative disciplines and sources, provide interpretations of their intimate encounters with the void.

Michelle de Bruijn – Contemplation

Michelle de Bruijn is a Buddhist, meditation expert and founder of ‘Silent State’, a concept that combines meditation, visualization and music. She shares her knowledge and interest in (Tibetan) Buddhism with Fred Sandback. Nest asked her to respond to the exhibition from her practice.

You are a meditation specialist, how do you react to the exhibition ‘Fred Sandback: The measurement of space’?

With a meditation I made in relation to the work. It is a short journey with sound towards the void. The guided meditation is a method to undergo the work together. I work with the Buddhist philosophy as a starting point: there are many parallels to discover with the work of Sandback. This form, contemplative meditation, translates the experience I had with this work of art that for me is about emptiness and space. Through meditation you become a co-creator, or performer, in Sandback’s work, bringing it to life.

How do you experience the emptiness?

Emptiness is not nothing, it is space to flow and develop from moment to moment. It is in every object. With minimal means Sandback emphasizes the emptiness in his work, through which something new may arise again and again.

Minimalist artists are (or have been) busy with the continuous scraping away of superfluous elements in order to get to the essence. Do you see similarities with your working method?

I was immediately impressed when I saw the work: how can you create so much effect with so few means? It is an overwhelming experience, while at the same time I realized that I was only looking at a few threads. In a meditation the trick is not to fill the whole void and to create as much as possible with the listener. The music accompanies the listener in the background through a non-physical world as a continuous factor without leading too strongly in a direction or story. In other contexts where I work I am much more visual and concrete, but because of this individual experience in the space in Nest where you are allowed to spend 20 minutes alone, the space doesn’t have to be filled by my voice already. It is the emptiness you are only allowed to embrace during that period.

You say you become a co-creator of this work of art by being present in it.

Yes, because we all see something unique. What you perceive, I just see differently. So the interpretation of an object depends entirely on who is looking at it and his or her interpretation projected onto it. In my guided meditation I first focus on how you can experience works of art on a physical level, the emptiness in your own body, and then work towards the emptiness in a general sense in life and in objects that we perceive. The meditation ends with the sentence ‘You are the artist, creating a masterpiece with no end’. Even if you leave, the work does not stop. There is no end to the work, just as there is no end to space.

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