His starting point for A Vague Uneasiness is the legacy of the Cameroonian poet Louis-Marie Pouka-M’Bague. The artist takes Pouka as his guide in the Cameroon of the first half of the twentieth century and the culture of the French colonists. He interweaves a hypothetical fiction and a dubious history to form a parallel reality.
Louis-Marie Pouka-M’Bague (1910 – date of death unknown) advocated the assimilation of the Cameroon people into the culture of the French colonisers. Convinced of the superiority of the French culture and lifestyle, he himself moved to France in 1940. However, French society did not fulfil his idealistic expectations and he returned disillusioned to Cameroon in the 1950s. His poems, previously an ode to French culture and ideology, then became characterised by a ‘vague uneasiness’ and a questing style of writing. Hendrikse is producing a new series of works for S.M.A.K. (an installation with slide projection, an architectural intervention and photos from the Photographic archive of the German Colonial Society, University Library of Frankfurt, among others) in which he enters into dialogue with the life and work of the Cameroon poet. The work of Hendrikse often arises out of a fascination with a person who occupies a speculative or overdetermined place in history. This person is deployed as a guide and leads Hendrikse to undertake a journey or actively generate an experience.
His projects are mostly the result of extensive research and intense artistic collaboration with photographers, authors, actors, philosophers and so on. The Last Acquisition (2007) took as its starting point the legacy of Lode Craeybeckx (1897-1976), socialist mayor and founder of the Middelheim Museum in Antwerp. In this performance, the artist combined the collection of the Middelheim into a single all-encompassing work. It formed part of a chain of mutually corresponding works centred on the fictional closing of the museum at the beginning of the 1990s. The series concludes with the audio work Middelheim, The Interviews (2008), produced for the Austrian ORF Kunstradio. In this work, Hendrikse constructs a fiction which corresponds so closely to reality that it becomes a parallel reality in itself. In Hauntology of Smoke and Ochre (2009/2010), which consisted of an exhibition, a book and a performance, fictions were also grafted onto a reality that was itself already uncertain. The starting point for this project was the life of the South African author Ingrid Jonker (1933-1965) and the way she was mythologized after her death. Hendrikse does not make the analysis of this a central feature of his work, but instead uses the politicised and highly mediatised character of Jonker as a support for an investigation into the interwoven vectors of history, biography and mythology. Hendrikse is primarily interested in Jonker’s symbolic value and the way her history was and still is being constructed, not least in the context of South African nation-building. The book Inventory of Possible Narrations will be launched in conjunction with the exhibition at the S.M.A.K. For this book, Paul Hendrikse asked four South African and one Dutch author to write a piece that took Jonker’s life story as a starting point but fictionalised it. They were given a series of photos of interiors and places where Jonker lived or which she wrote about. The authors were able to use these images as a setting for the story, or to extract information from them for his or her characters. With written contributions from Ingrid Winterbach, Mark Behr, Michiel Heyns and others. Inventory of Possible Narrations Paul Hendrikse, Inventory of Possible Narrations, Onomatopee #42 (2010), ISBN 978-90-78454-48-9. On sale in the S.M.A.K. bookshop Book launch: January 2011 (date to be confirmed)More about Paul Hendrikse