“Who was there before me?” – demystifying the studio space:
Studio Index by Sascha Pohle
The Rijksakademie’s teaching collection: Tracing the impact of the academic doctrine in a post-academic institution,
unpublished research master thesis, Groningen: University of Groningen.
Sascha Pohle (1972) asked the question ‘who was there before me?’ or in his own words “which spirits are still floating around here?” when he was an artist in residence at the Rijksakademie in 2006 and 2007.1 Based on his curiosity he made a historical map of the studios of the Rijksakademie, which visually connects the name of the artists to the physical place, the studios.2 The starting point of this work entitled Studio Index was Pohle’s own studio space at the Rijksakademie. He contacted all the artists who worked in the studio before him and invited everyone who answered to his current and their former workplace. Pohle documented all encounters but decided that an abstract map of all the studios would be more meaningful.3 He consulted all participant lists from 1993 onwards to be able to draw the map.4 Since only the records from 1997 onwards were digitalised, he had to dive into the files to be able to track down all artists in residence; and still, some of them were missing.
The intention behind Studio Index was according to Pohle twofold. On the one hand, he critically wanted to investigate the division of the studio spaces among the artists in residence.5 While in the first year the studios are assigned to the artists, in the second year the residents can apply for a studio space. He had the feeling that the most desired studios were assigned to those artists who the Rijksakademie trusted to become successful, and he wanted to investigate this suspicion.6 Of course some studios are more suitable for specific media (for example a studio with more light is convenient for a painter) but still, he suspected that other reasons played a role in the decision-making process, too. Next to this critical attitude towards the institution’s decision-making, he was, on the other hand, interested in the following question: who will be remembered? The historical map is a visual and tactual way to make the connection between the artists and their studios visible. Thereby the future artists in residence can look at the map. Furthermore, Studio Index functions as ‘aide-mémoire’ through which the institution can bear the artists in mind. The Rijksakademie bought Studio Index from Pohle with the agreement to regularly update the map and fill the gaps whenever possible. The commission is another way for the Rijksakademie to actively write their own history. At the RijksOPEN 2017, Studio Index was displayed in a separate room with all posters of the RijksOPEN (previous Open Studios) to provide an insight into the recent history of this event and to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rijksakademie’s location at the Sarphatistraat 470.7 To Pohle, the commission and the active display of the work ensure that the post-academic institution will remember him. Studio Index is a work that not only contributes to the historiography of the Rijksakademie but also guarantees Pohle a place in this history ( see studio A40/241). According to Pohle, Studio Index could be regarded as part of the Rijksakademie’s DNA, because the ‘spirits’ of the predecessors, the aura and myth surrounding the studios, are still influencing and inspiring artists in residence at the Rijksakademie.8
1 Pohle, Interview 2017.
3 Ibid. He kept all the materials, which he gathered during his research. It was not the first time Pohle researched the history of a particular space. In 2001, a year before he graduated from the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main, he also gathered images of everything that happened in one of the art academy’s studios (O.06, east wing). Back then, Pohle mounted the picture collection (as a kind of collage) onto the wall of the studio. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the installation, but Pohle kept all the pictures he gathered during his research in 2001.
4 Pohle, Interview 2017.
7 Each year Pohle’s index is complemented with the names of the current residents. Both Het Parool and NRC Handelsblad focused on one studio in the context of the RijksOPEN 2017. Both newspaper articles allow studio A76 and studio A47 to write their own history.
Lent, Daan, van. “Atelier A47 is een kunstlab dat even van jou is.” NRC Handelsblad, 22 November 2017. <https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2017/11/22/atelier-a47-is-een-kunstlab-dat-even-van-jou-is-14170738-a1582192>
Zürchner, Sophie. “Politiek engagement in de ateliers van de Rijksakademie.“ Het Parool, 23 November 2017. <https://www.parool.nl/stadsgids/politiek-engagement-in-de-ateliers-van-de-rijksakademie~a4541110/>
8 Pohle, Interview 2017.