Unpacking the 3Package Deal: Anthony Nestel

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June 8, 2017

This past year, we caught up with the fifteen eclectic, genre-bending participants of the 3Package Deal 2016 as they honed their craft and prepared themselves for their final presentations in the wide-ranging fields of visual arts, fashion, film, theatre, urban dance, social design and even olfactory art.

For this edition, we visited Belgian interdisciplinary artist Anthony Nestel in his studio in Nieuw-West, which interior reads like an inspirational expedition: start at the landmap of ideas (fig. 1); make your way through the inflatable flamingo jungle (fig. 6); find clues in the stacks of Creole literature (fig. 2); reach your destination at the heaps of coloured sand (fig. 3).

The Ocean’s Moral Compass

The pigmented sand in fact forms part of the research for Nestel’s latest performance project The Seafroth Knows Neiher Pain Nor Time. Dealing with subjects Nestel has addressed in the past - power, identity, heritage, a world in flux - it also reflects on Europe and multiculturalism. The sand colours are based on the colours of the Sahara. Nestel: “They represent different cultures. Deserts and oceans don’t care about human existence. The ocean doesn’t care about the slave ships. It has no moral compass.” Also, the desert is seen as static, but it’s always changing, he says. “Our culture is homogeneous, immobile. The alternative is heterogenous, moving.” In the performance, which is propelled by physicality and experience rather than narrative, the two sides are brought together.

Understanding Your Own Past

In his research for The Seafroth, Nestel focused on the Creole cultures of the Caribbean, reading up on Édouard Glissant’s Créolité and its fluid take on diaspora identity and the past. Nestel: “They started in a new land, through all these atrocities. It wasn’t the best time for a new culture, but it was necessary.” Investigating a different take on heritage can help understand one’s own cultural background. Nestel’s own identity and what it means to be part of a minority - in his case, being Jewish and a redhead - has been a part of his work since his time at Rietveld. Aiming to put his own complex education in a universal context, he created an alter ego named Chaim, who at some point received his own autonomy as the leader of the iiii-Lifestyle (fig. 7, 8), a mix of religion and other power structures like neoliberalism. 

Since Chaim, all Nestel’s projects have been connected. “Through Chaim’s development I recognize more of myself and the world,” he says. “I would never say a work is about Judaism or religion, but the mechanisms behind it are used in other power structures today, so it’s recognizable.” Likewise, for The Seafroth, Nestel recognised an alternative take on Jewish culture in the Creole material, as well as a tie to the current situation in Europe and the Netherlands. Through Glissant’s writing, Nestel is trying to pose an alternative. “I’m not saying I want it to happen the way he’s described, it’s just a different strategy.”

The Negation of Negation

Though Nestel’s work is always preceded by solid research, its form shaped by what the subject needs, it never references the topic directly. He prefers affect over reflection, saying: “Sometimes it’s haptic, almost sensory visual research, an idea turning into form. The research is only there because of this momentary thing, not literally. I don’t want to see art as something that refers to the past. It needs to affect you.” Nestel is interested in disruption, in provoking the viewer. His role as an artist, he feels, is to get people to participate and think, to get under the viewer’s skin: “I’ve always worked with the negation of negation, bringing reality to this absurd moment in an aggressive, alienating way. It doesn’t have be easy.”

This summer, in the last stretch of the 3Package Deal year, Nestel will be working on a new project about false truth, history and nationalism, in Israel. Who knows what form this new expedition will take.

About the 3Package Deal

The 3Package Deal talent scheme - a collaboration between the AFK and Bureau Broedplaatsen (BBp) - assists and encourages exceptional young artists through affordable live/work spaces, a development budget of € 22.500 and professional encouragement from a coalition of renowned Amsterdam art institutions. Anthony Nestel is part of this year’s Engaged Art Coalition, with De Ateliers, Veem House for performance and De Balie. The Seafroth can be seen 08 18 Juni at De Ateliers. 

Text & Images: Lauren Mae Murphy