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01.06.2019 | Words by: Ruben Leter

One late afternoon, early June, De School discards its club rooms and moves to areas that let in daylight. There, both artists and audience get to take part in the friction; the juxtaposition between individuals trying out the unexpected. It happened before and this time it will happen again. I’m talking of course, about De Happening.

Drop by and you’ll see why they’re so celebrated. Last year, De Happening evolved around the spirit of Simon Vinkenoog, a poet whose voice was his instrument. This year, we have two artists with a similar skill: Carolina Eyck and Greetje Bijma. And there is more. All artists showcasing at De Happening are performing in unexpected duo’s. Theremin and voice musician Eyck will be performing alongside etheric and witty electronic producer Eversines. De School’s favourite quirky dj Oceanic is performing with jazz vocalist Bijma. And then there’s Willemijn Ruissen en Nol Cobben, who are responsible for the art direction.

Once nominated for best high school teacher in The Netherlands, Willemijn teaches art and design to teenagers. She recently took up homebased tattooing and already has a widespread clientele. All the hand-made parts in De Happening’s artwork are created by Willemijn. Nol is responsible for the digital touch. He spends his days experimenting with design for a big company and is responsible for their visual identity. Nol and I met when we were in our late teens, both hosting a one-time Jägermeister-sponsored event. Willemijn, Nol and I talk about their connection to De Happening

Q: De Happening is hosted by Pieter Jansen. The artists he invited are all releasing on his label yeyeh / ninih. Together, you two are responsible for the imprint’s design. About the latest release: Waves by Eversines and Carolina Eyck, how did you two work in creating this beautiful cover?

Willemijn: The artists (Eversines & Eyck) told us their album is music concerning nothing else but music. Sound for sound and colour for colour. It’s not there to describe a story or a certain emotion. I started painting with that idea in mind, whilst listening to the album on repeat. Eventually, I ended up with more than twenty paintings that all arose from the music. Barely figurative, very colourful and adjusted to the tempo and ambiance of the song. 

Nol: Willemijn then sends me all these paintings and I get to do the second part: mix it all up. We take two or three works and use them to create a new object. The effect can be significant. I change the colours, remove parts, copy or adjust them. There are times when we don’t recognize the original work of art. The result is always something that could never be done by anyone of us alone. That goes for the album artwork as well as for the works we created for the Happening.

Q: What did you make for De Happening?

Nol: We made a bunch of new works. Just like the album cover, they’re a combination of paintings by Willemijn that I altered digitally. Those works are all printed on very large semi-transparent flags. If the weather allows us, (it does, red.) we will be exhibiting outside, next to the café of De School. There we can use the surroundings as our décor. That is also where the concerts are held.

Willemijn: The idea is that our works cross territory with the music, so visitors get to experience the contrasts and patterns that align with the music and the works of art. We’re quite nervous, since we still haven’t seen anything. The flags haven’t arrived yet. Only on the day of De Happening we get to assemble and put everything in place. 

Q: Could you describe how the artworks align with the music?

Willemijn: When I hear the Waves album, for instance, I hear lots of dynamics, like light and dark, contrast really. That creates a certain tension or voltage - hoogspanning. It’s both climatic and repetitive. This is something I can see on the album cover: the contrast between the fine liner and the watercolour paint. Repeating shapes like circles and little stripes. The album feels very symphonic. I believe this is visible in the artwork. It’s a symphony of colour, shape, contrast and repetitiveness.

Nol: We work in different ways, apart from each other. But this result comes from us working as a team. Separately, our interpretations don’t align very much. So, we had to work very closely while creating these works for De Happening. It was an amazing opportunity to create a new identity that fits the event. Our task was to translate music into image. I think result is very personal whilst being a team effort.

Q: Can visitors still see your work after De Happening?

Both: Yes! De School asked us if the works can be displayed over the summer. We can’t wait to go to the restaurant on a hot summer day to have a glass of wine, walk through the garden, go back inside and witness our own works. 

De Happening: Onder Hoogspanning takes place this Sunday. Tickets are still available here.
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