Cut and paste time documents

Tekst illustratie WagemakerJos Deenen was born in Baarlo on the 24th October 1956. As a student in 1970, he visited an exhibition of work by the artist Jaap Wagemaker, at the Cultural Center in Venlo. His introduction to work by this painter and creator of abstract assemblages was a revelation for him and engaged his interest to a high degree. To an extent that he began to cloth the walls of his bedroom with all sorts of objects and materials found on his walks along the River Meuse. Driftwood, fishing nets, ship chains, plastic dolls and rope, everything was grist to the mill. This creative burp came to an abrupt end one day, when he realized his mother had given the whole creation to the garbage cart. After Deenen graduated from The Graphic School as a trained Typographer, he studied Dutch language and literature at the University of Nijmegen. With one of the lecturers, he often had informal discussions on topics that received little attention in high school: The excesses of Dutch troops in Indonesia: The monarchy as an anti-democratic Juggernaut: The Nazi past of SS officer Prince Bernhard: The Mafia intrigue in the Vatican and: The incredible cynicism of the Director-Generals of war industry. The lecturer stated that these issues were also controversial in college because the government simply did not want to have these delicate subjects to be discussed publicly. “And if you really want to know it all, then you just have to research it yourself …” he concluded and recommended Deenen a number of books: Ewald Vanvugt – The double face of the colonialists: Wim Klinkenberg – Prince Bernhard, A political biography and: David A. Yallop – God’s will or mafia? So Deenen acquired a good taste and was later often seen among the second hand books of Antiquarian De Slegte. Through the WDR, West German Radio, which offered seminars in collaboration with the University of Tübingen, he followed the courses: Funkkolleg Klassische Musik Geschichte and Moderne Kunst, das Funkkolleg zum Gegenwartskunst. He also became fascinated by the visual arts and read many standard works about this subject. In particular, the book Das Lachen Dadas became his guide.

From his childhood Deenen had been completely fascinated by the work of Bosch and Brueghel. Now he saw painters like Grosz and Dix, five hundred years later, portraying the cruelty and decadence of society in an equally brilliant and critical manner. To avoid losing this autodidactic knowledge, Deenen decided to create an account of his reading. This meant that he cut the relevant passages out of the studied publications and created new pages. Over time the texts were illuminated with patches of illustrative material. Tekst illustratie GroszThere was insufficient space for complete pictures, but the collection of fragments, through a natural progression, took on the form of an organic whole. It became clear that the visual parts were much more expressive than the textual, and so arose at the end of 1989, from this creative evolution, his first collages. However, the texts didn’t disappear completely, together with passe-partout and frame mounts, they became an essential part of the artwork. Years later, Deenen realized his images and interests had references to the work of John Heartfield, who pioneered photomontage as a political weapon. Heartfield, nicknamed ‘Monteur Dada’, attacked Hitler’s fascist clique with his biting satirical collages. It inspired Jos Deenen to dissect the world of today with the same instruments: tweezers, scalpel and scissors, and like Heartfield, Jos Deenen has created a huge archive of photographs from various magazines over the years. From stacks of periodicals, printed in millions of copies, but a month later already fully recycled, he has distilled hundreds of thousands items and stored them in various archives and drawers. Everything neatly alphabetized and categorized by keywords. They are akin to catalogued motifs, which he can conjure forth as a theme cries for it, As a painter selects his paint from an arsenal of jars, cans and tubes, so Deenen uses found images to re-envision, literally and figuratively, contemporary documents addressing environmental issues, war insanity, double sexual morality, Roman Catholic hypocrisy and right-wing radicalism. In 2014, the journey is already twenty five years long.