A WOR(L) AND THE THING(S) IT DESCRIBES . . .
Dutch-born artist Aafke De Jong (Delft, 1971) implements in an associative way a wide range of themes in her work, that usually forms a fluid blend between dance, performance and other kinds of (visual) arts. Sometimes her works are site specific (e.g. Eitulovni and In The Beginning There Was)
Also she makes drawings, often with pen and ink. Some of them
are shown here on this website.
De Jong spent five years of her life in Indonesia (Bali) to study and work. This influence is often, but not always in a direct way, visible in her work, which shows her vision on various aspects of life.
By trying to ask herself socially, culturally, politically or historically relevant questions about themes like multiculturalism, discrimi-
nation, environmental issues etc. she looks for ways to lead the focus of the audience and allows it (the audience) to think, wonder, worry
or smile with her. She finds it important, though, to leave enough
space for her audience to make up it's own answers and associations or perhaps even raise more questions.
She hopes that her work can be looked upon as a 'conversation' between people - an exchange of thoughts, feelings and ideas.
THE ULTIMATE SENSE OF FREEDOM: AN EMPY SPACE OR A BLANK
SHEET OF PAPER
On another level processes and patterns that can be found in nature and science are encouraging for De Jong to create artwork (see e.g. her solo What Thoughts Are Made Of). Since childhood she has a fascination for the repetitive patterns found in the graphic work of M.C. Escher, who combined art, nature and science. She also enjoys visiting museums, architectural interesting sites or landscapes in her spare time finding inspiration in simply 'being' in an interesting surrounding, allowing her thoughts to come to the surface.
To De Jong the ultimate sense of freedom is an empty space or a blank piece of paper.
The ambiguity of 'belonging' to this place we call earth on the one hand and on the other sometimes feeling 'detached' from her
surroundings is also characteristic to De Jong's life and work.
The discrepancy between the two worlds - what we choose to show
to the outside world and what we prefer to keep to ourselves - never stops intriguing De Jong. In her work she shows a desire to always equally "give the floor" to the two sides of the coin (see e.g. ITCH I and ITCH II). In short, the 'simple' fact of being alive is enough reason for De Jong to produce new work.
CHOCOLATE COOKIES AND FAMILY MATTERS
Already during her childhood De Jong preferably spent her days drawing, making sculptures and writing short poems. About every month she would change the complete look of her room by arranging things found on her parents attic. During her high school years she started making theatre and painting exhibitions and in the summer holidays she wrote scripts, created dance and costumes and made stage settings for her family members (not everyone of them joining
'voluntarily'). Her sister, singer songwriter and theatre maker
These 'happenings' often ended up involving the inhabitants of the little villages in France, Italy or Spain, where the family went for the holidays. The villagers could get a ticket in exchange for a chocolate cookie or another local delicacy.
Also nowadays the two sisters sometimes create performances (e.g. Eitulovni) and give workshops together.
MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES STRENGTHENING EACH OTHER
De Jong finds most joy in making or designing all needs for a performance herself, including costumes and stage setting.
Upon recommendation of her high school teachers at first she
would attend art school to become an illustrator or painter.
Instead De Jong choose a professional education in dance, but never gave up drawing and painting. The idea of theatre functioning as a vessel for interdisciplinary art forms was simply more appealing to De Jong. Her preference for visual art often makes her approaching dance like a sculptor in space.
During times of hypnotic stillness in her performances she hopes to create a situation where performer(s) and audience feel united, be it for just a few seconds. These moments of tranquility will be disrupted from time to time by short and sudden outbursts. This is also a given found in the theatre and dance of Bali (Indonesia), where De Jong lived and worked for a long time and are a sign of the 'two worlds' usually hidden in De Jong's work.
To De Jong all art disciplines in fact sprout from a similar necessity and communicate in a similar way, only using different media. Perhaps therefor it is not a coincidence that De Jong feels so attracted to the culture of Bali, where many artists are often also dancers, musicians, singers, painters and sculptors at the same time.
Education and work
graduated from Rotterdam Dance Academy (now Codarts)
first year of studying Balinese dance on Bali, Indonesia at Denpasar
Conservatory STSI (now ISI) (*) and
with several renowned private
teachers, like Jero Made Puspawati,
Ni Ketut Arini Alit, A. A. Ayu
Sukmawati and Gusti Ayu Raka
(*) study made possible by
fundings of NUFFIC and Nederlands
Fonds voor de Podiumkunsten
(NFPK/Dutch Fund for Performing
graduated from Leiden University - Languages and Cultures of South
East Asia and Oceania with a
thesis on (political) developments
within the Balinese (court)dance
genre Legong Keraton.
1999 - 2003
continuation of studying in Bali, Indonesia De Jong founded
Centre for Balinese Art & Culture
DwiBhumi (meaning 'two worlds')
in cooperation with Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud, Bali. Here many
Balinese artists worked together involving foreigners in their
life, art and culture.
2003 - 2019
De Jong moved back to The Netherlands and founded
mainly toured Europe, giving
dance performances, workshops and lectures. At the same time
she started Aafke de Jong | Interdisciplinary Dance Projects
* Mid 2019 De Jong turned over her Balinese dance ensemble DwiBhumi to a senior dancer
of the group, in order to being able to focus more on
choreography, drawing and
other art related projects.
2003 - now
Member of (now advisor to)
Stichting Indisch Erfgoed (Foundation for Indo-European Heritage) in The Netherlands for which she helped to realize
2005 - now
since many years De Jong is a regular guest dance teacher at
Codarts Dance Academy in
Rotterdam, where she also
received her formal dance
picture by Jaap Berends
IN(DO)SPIRATION - THE RESULTS OF LIVING IN TWO WORLDS
De Jong creates multidisciplinary work, often - but not always - inspired by different aspects of various Indonesian cultures and
artforms. Ways of movement found in specific Indonesian dance styles often find their way into her performances, be it in a changed, adapted, sometimes perhaps even distorted way.
Her curiosity towards Indonesia started at a very young age -
she was around 7 years old - when she began to wonder why
so many people with an Indo-European background are living in
The Netherlands. She started asking questions and somewhat
later began reading books about the subject and so learned more about colonial history, which - be it in a very dubious way - ties Indonesia and The Netherlands together. In The Netherlands even nowadays you almost can't find a person who has no connection
to the former Dutch Indies, in one way or another. This stirred up her interest in the very rich culture and art forms of especially
Bali and Java, where she lived, studied and worked for five years
of her life. After finishing the Rotterdam Dance Academy, de Jong went to Bali to study the local dance forms and back in The Netherlands took on a study Indonesian Languages and Cultures
on Indonesia at Leiden University.
Since 2003 Aafke de Jong often works together with Indonesian artists, about which you can find some examples on this website,
e.g. GONG, a co-creation with Indonesian composer Iwan Gunawan
(Java, Bandung) or Jatuh Bisu/Falling in Silence, a cooperation
with Indonesian composer Sinta Wullur (Java) and writer Ketut Yuliarsa (Bali). She also regularly holds improvisation sessions
with musician/composer Krishna Sutedja (Bali).
SHARED MEMORIES - BRIDGING CULTURES
De Jong believes that the - often troubled - debate about colonial history, that today is again particularly topical, can benefit from
the cooperation and exchange between artists from Indonesian
and Dutch background. However, this is not the single reason for
De Jong to seek cooperation with other (for example Indonesian)
artists. She is convinced that an open attitude towards 'the other' - be it another human being, another way of thinking or another culture - is a necessity in order to being able to live together in
a peaceful way.
"When we (artists from Indonesian and Dutch backgrounds) work together it is not even necessary to talk directly about our shared history (when we want to we do so anyway), because we understand each other on a different level. It is through our art
that we can communicate and strive towards a more open and inclusive future in general."
- Aafke de Jong during a lecture at Iwanson School of Contemporary Dance in München, Germany 2017
De Jong also often works together with artists from other art disciplines in general, like writers, composers, costume designers and video artists. De Jong especially appreciates working together with other artists, not only because she enjoys exchanging ideas on a similar level, but also because she likes the idea of being able to inspire each other and discover unbeaten paths together.
"Art in general ,- unlike the language we often hear in every day speech or media - because of it's capability to bring more sensitive, hidden subjects or even taboes to the surface in a less direct way, has the unique quality to open up people's minds and t
herefor deserves ... no ... nééds to play a more prominent role in
our (multicultural) society as we live in today. It is especially
through music, dance, literature, poetry, visual arts etc. that we
can learn to listen to each other and that we can learn to have a more open and respectful attitude towards our fellow human beings, towards nature and towards our surroundings."
-Aafke de Jong during an interview at the Münchner Stadtmuseum in Germany in 2017