Halfway his study at the Minerva Academy of Art in the north of Holland, Jaap de Ruig thought: ‘To hell with art.’ One morning he simply got up and left home, heading south. He ended up on a farm in France and stayed there for several years.
Later on he started to travel as a documentary photographer, together with his wife the Dutch writer Mariet Meester (www.marietmeester.nl). For nearly ten years they did not have a fixed adresss. Especially their journeys to Rumania, where they lived with the most impoverished gypsies, left deep marks on them.
In 1992 Jaap de Ruig decided to return to visual art, to be able to reflect on what he had seen while travelling. As he, during his time in France, had become very acqainted with the life of domestic animals, it was obvious that he would use the life and behaviour of animals as a metaphor for human behaviour.
Since 1998 video has become his main medium. During the year 2000 Jaap de Ruig gave himself the opportunity of making one small videofilm every week. He experimented in total freedom, not only challenging his ideas about life and art, but also the medium video itself. After one year 52 WEEKS had become a sequences of nearly two hours. In 2002 he finished a series of twenty-one new videos with the title We are Poetry.
Work of Jaap de Ruig has been shown on ARTE-tv (broadcasted in 34 countries), at the Film- and Videofestival of Kassel (Germany), and at the Museum Reina Sofia in Madrid (Spain), during Cine y casi cine. In November 2002 he was awarded the Premio New Art 2002 in Barcelona during the art festival New Art. He received the award for a series of ten videofilms with the title 10 Fingers. The work has become part of thecollection of the museum for contemporary art in Barcelona, the MACBA.
Screening Europe Tour - From October 2003 until October 2004 Jaap de Ruig and Mariët Meester made a big European tour. In about twenty-five art spaces in Eastern- and Western Europe Jaap de Ruig showed a selection of his videos.
The Power of Imperfection is a solo-exhibition with nine video-installations. Having started in Berlin (Dec.‘05 / Jan.‘06), the exhibition will slowly travel around Europe during the years 2006 and 2007. After Berlijn will follow Groningen, Riga, Tallinn, Skopje, Sofia, Barcelone, Milan and Lisbon.
The protagonists in the work of Jaap de Ruig are mainly animals or symbolized animals. We, as human beings, have a natural tendency to identify ourselves with an animal we are looking at. By using animal life De Ruig creates detours or metaphors to ask questions or make statements about human existence. Humour and aesthetics play a role in making unacceptable sides of life acceptable. Video-installations will dominate the exhibition in the Sofia Art Gallery.
The struggle, 1998
In a circle of light man and animal roll around and over each other, throwing each other to the left and to the right. The representative of humankind and the representative of nature fight endlessly. There will be no winner. The installation is about the struggle between man and nature, the struggle between man and man, and the struggle between man and his own inner nature.
A spluttering little guy on the palm of a hand. Five maggots stuck together with crazy-glue and a small head made of cardboard. The end of one of the maggots functions as a protruding penis. It is a kind of Rorschachtest. What do you see on this video? Five bugs with a piece of cardboard? Or a vulnerable humanoid with the elasticity and motor skills of a baby? Are you an over-sentimental-not realistic-animal-rights-campaigner, or are you so numb that you find it just ‘amusing’? In fact you see living creatures trying to free themselves. And do you realize that the hand of their creator can close around them at any moment and crush them?
Caressing a dead animal, 1998/2006 - text
In his early twenties the artist lived on a farm. A crucial period in his life which helped him to overcome a severe depression. Thinking of that time he wrote down a list of chores he remembered well. Hundred and sixty sentences that start off beautiful small movies in his head. But in someone else’s head the play-back of these movies might be distorted. Words can only be a medium for transmitting images, when the reader has had similar experiences. ‘Caressing a dead animal? Horrible! You don’t do that.’ ‘Cutting away the chestnuts of a horse? What kind of nutty things are they?’
Nosotros y nosotros (we and we), 2003
In ‘nosotros and nosotros’ we see the left hand of the artist sliding carelessly through the water as if it is a fish. A whole shoal of fish appears. Suddenly right hand enters the water and catch some of the fish. Again the artist uses the life and behavior of animals as a metaphor for human existence. Man is like a snake biting its own tail. Fate depends heavily on random luck.
The power of imperfection, 2004
Hundreds of birds fly over a mountainous landscape. When some of the birds pass by at a closer distance, we realize they are made up by a hand. We realize too that those birds are doing something impossible; they are flying while having only one wing. ‘The power of imperfection’ deals with the incredible capacity of human beings to overcome handicaps, lack of material welfare and social disorder.
I want to be brave, 2004
A snail, made up by the two hands of the artist, climbs a tree. When the animal is out of sight it suddenly falls to the ground. But it courageously climbs up again.
‘I want to be brave’ implicates the desire to be courageous until death, as well as the impossibility and uselessness of the same.
The burden, 2005
‘The burden’ is an installation with two video-beamers. One beamer shows high on a wall a white open window. We see the artist standing behind it. He lifts a stone from the window-sill and drops it. Then a second beamer, which is pointed to the floor, takes over. In a circle of light the stone hits the floor. Uttering a loud grin, the stone wiggles and then comes to a standstill. The stone seems to contain the head of the artist.
‘The burden’ or should we say ‘Getting rid of the burden’ deals with the endless process in a human life of getting rid of mental imprints from his youth.
In ‘Merry-go-round’ dead geese are hanging on a swing. The geese are made up by a hand of the artist.