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#35 The Essential

Speaking: Martin and Inge Riebeek

Martin and Inge Riebeek. photo Sanne Donders

The Breda artists Martin and Inge Riebeek are in the spotlight this year, because they have been working on the series The Essential for 10 years and have published a book with the same title. In ten years, they shot more than 600 video portraits in 23 different countries. Earlier this year their solo exhibition ‘Save me from this cold’ was on view at Stedelijk Museum Breda. In the solo exhibition at Pennings Foundation, which started at the end of August, the emphasis is on video portraits of performers. The title All the World is a Stage refers to a Shakespearean line of poetry. The exhibition is on show until December 5, 2020.

The central question that Martin and Inge Riebeek ask is: “What, to you, is the essence of life?'' In All the World is a Stage video portraits with street performances of a poet, an actress, a dancer, two singers and a freak show artist are shown in installations. When asked what their motto is, they give a surprising and often philosophical answer.

According to the poet Prince Enoch Afful (Accra), physical perfection does not matter in life. photo installation Martin Riebeek

According to the poet Prince Enoch Afful (Accra), physical perfection does not matter in life. The message of Singer Xinping Fu (Shanghai) is that those who look for a higher goal, above all encounter loneliness. Actress Karelle Prugnaud (Paris) proclaims that man's free will is an illusion; everyone has to adhere to rules and orders. Thomas Nealeigh (Dayton) claims that physical pain is something you can endure and that real pain is the struggle for existence.

The message of Singer Xinping Fu (Shanghai) is that those who look for a higher goal, above all encounter loneliness. photo installation Inge Riebeek

The group exhibition PREVIEW in 2018 already showed the video installation Art doesn’t earn money, art only burns money, which illustrates the importance of money in diverse lives and worlds. In the spotlight, among others, coffee saleswoman Irina Litvinenko, who would love to have a beautiful smile; the American prepper Malcolm Allred preparing for the end of time. Mirza who grew up in children's homes and is now looking for passengers who fell off the train. The Indian railways gives him two dollars for every death. Struggle for existence; that's what life is all about. That is why the mother of the Chinese Man Chui Yan told her to choose an education that offers a future. So, instead of becoming a dancer, she becomes a nurse. Because: "Art doesn't earn money, art only burns money." But she still likes to dance… Her performance in front of the camera was a preview to the current exhibition focusing on performers. That is why the installation is shown again in its entirety.

The installation 'Art doesn't earn money, art only burns money' in the exhibition 'All the World is a Stage'. photo installation Theo Derksen

During a guided tour, a visitor asked why these portraits are presented as video art. They are documentary films, right? A colleague, Carlo Storimans, replied that in art form and content are in balance. The content of the films is strong, but the form in which it is presented is also strong and, moreover, that form has been consistently implemented.