Curated by Andréa Picard and presented in collaboration with the Toronto International Film Festival Future Projections.
Presented with the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Hal Jackman Foundation
Artists are often said to reveal the inscrutable order of things. Some go further and provocatively test the delicate equilibrium between humans and natural forces, and even life and death. Such an artist is Dutch daredevil Jeroen Eisinga. Following in the footsteps of his countryman Bas Jan Ader (who lost his life at sea during a performance), Eisinga consistently ventures into uncomfortable terrain, challenging not only his own limits but our very ways of seeing and making sense of the world.
In Springtime, his latest film installation, Eisinga conducts a simultaneously grotesque, spellbinding, and potentially life-threatening performance, evoking both horror and awe as he withstands a swarming of nearly 200,000 bees. The unstable image flickers with both the grain of 35mm film and the growing, living shroud of buzzing insects, inviting powerfully visceral reactions while at the same time drawing to mind a host of rich and varied art-historical references, from medieval portraiture and nineteenth-century freak-show catalogues to Andy Warhol and Richard Avedon.
Bee-bearding is a custom thought to have begun in Russia in the 1830s (though some claim that it derives from England in the eighteenth century), and continues to this day as a bizarre competitive hobby. Working in an unabashedly Romantic mode, Eisinga reclaims the practice from sensational grotesquerie and invokes the sublime, pitting human will against the power and terror of nature while challenging the limits of spectatorial endurance. Presenting an image that will be unwatchable to some and monumental to many, Springtime is accompanied by a suite of never-before exhibited “test” photographs that detail the meticulous preparations that preceded the production, and offer countless haunting enigmas of their own.
Jeroen Eisinga was born in Delft, Netherlands. He was educated at the art academy in Arnhem, the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, and in scriptwriting at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles. He has made several short art films, including Het zesde zintuig/The Sixth Sense (94), The Green-eyed Monster (00), Cool Lakes of Death (04) and Springtime (11). Eisinga has recently exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Schiedam, NL (11) and at The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (12), Washington DC, USA.