"This is to certify that Daniel Georg Friedrich Dressel has been awarded a scholarship by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) for the academic year 2014/2015. The DAAD is an organisation of the institutions of higher education in the Federal Republic of Germany. It is the national agency for the promotion of international academic co-operation and exchanges. All DAAD scholarship holders are chosen in a national competition by a selection committee made up of prominent German professors in their respective disciplines. The DAAD supports approximately 350 one year scholarship holders in Great Britain each academic year."
Head of Section Northern Europe
DAAD / Bonn, 10.07.2014
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Based on the selection of works represented here, I have been awarded a DAAD scholarship to complete my Masters degree (MFA Fine Art) at Goldsmiths University in London.
All ideas and projects were developed during my time at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. During that time I lived and worked at AK9 until it disappeared. Fellow artists, allies and friends shaped my approach to life and defined the way I work.
I want to thank all of them for their support and for what we shared.
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Sylvanus was a friend.
He used to study with me at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.
When he suddenly passed away he had almost completed his first year. I remember most vividly about the funeral that his parents could not be present. Instead, one of the guests was holding an iPhone, which was connected via Skype to an internet caffe somewhere in Accra. His grieving mom could be heard through the phone line as it was lowered into the coffin to scan over Sylvanus' dead body. She watched her son being buried in Amsterdam on a computer screen in Africa.
During the following years I visited Sylvanus' grave together with some friends quite frequently. We had to remember where to find it, because for years there was no tombstone, no plants, no candles to indicate that someone was buried there - only an empty rectangle of earth and a slab of concrete. Sometimes we left flowers, a small candle or a can of beer.
Only in September 2012, after Marianne Theunissen, Sylvanus’ former professor, had visited his family in Ghana, I was asked by the Academie if I was willing to design a monument for Sylvanus. I accepted. My idea was to make two stones, one for the grave where Sylvanus' body is buried, and one for the place in Ghana where he grew up. I wanted the stones to form sort of a meta-bridge between the two places, expressing both unity and separation at the same time.
One of the pieces is slightly smaller than the other. They are both cast in resin and fit perfectly into each other. They are made to catch the sunlight and have a translucent look, like white glass that has been washed on the shore. Yet when they get wet, they become almost transparent. Depending on the weather conditions the letters can be seen as shadows inside the material. Each surface of both stones carries one or two short sentences, epitaphs taken from Sylvanus’ Facebook account, posted by friends after his death. On the top surface is his name, one side carries the names of close family members, inside the dates, his birthplace and the place where he died.
The placement ceremony in Amsterdam happened in November 2013. Only a few friends and people who were close to Sylvanus were present. Some gave short speeches, others performed music. Both stones were placed together on Sylvanus' grave, then the smaller piece was removed. Daniel Yeboah, Sylvanus' mentor and a close friend of his family, carried it to Ghana and handed it over to Sylvanus mother.
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NL / 10.11.2013Video, HD (3:36 min)
Friends performing a song for Sylvanus at Begraafsplaats Buitenveldert in Amsterdam
Already in front of the building the howling sound of the dog was loud and clear.
It was the first thing you would notice, intense enough to make people believe that there was a real dog chained up in the backyard.
Yet as soon as you entered the small room in the back of the exhibition space, surrounded by empty old shelves, you would realize that the sound was only a recording. A video of the howling dog was playing in a loop on a small TV screen connected to a microphone stand. You would notice that it was shot just where were standing, right inside this very space in front of the window, with the sound outside in sync with the video: a slow moving shot around the howling dog in its centre.
You would realize that the installation was already set up when the video was made, though then the TV screen connected to the microphone stand showed only a blue colour field. If you watched the video, you could see that the door to the room was left open, implying that the dog could have left at any moment. And if you looked through the window down into the backyard, a speaker - the source of the howling sound - was clearly visible.
When the video was shot, the microphone was already switched on, broadcasting the dog via a delay pedal to the speaker in the backyard. A few seconds after the dog started to howl, its own delayed sound bounced back into the space from the outside, instantly triggering the dog to respond again. When you wore headphones which could be picked up from an empty shelf, this sound of the dog became even more crisp and clear. Inside the headphones it mixed with live sounds from the outside, picked up by hidden microphones: the sound of cars passing by, the falling leaves, the blowing wind and the rain, but also the clattering and chatting inside the exhibition space.
On top of that, if you stood still, you could hear the sound of your own breath, picked up by the microphone in front of you, still slightly delayed, yet crystal clear.
All those layers of time and space, of different situations and assumptions, step by step revealed themselves as you were approaching from the outside. They finally collapsed into one ‘thing’ with you in the middle of it, wearing the headphones, watching the video, standing in the back of the exhibition space, looking outside of the window.
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Helmbrechts used to have 12000 inhabitants. Today there are only 6000 left which means that almost 50% of former stores, shopping windows and houses are empty. One of these stores owned by company SELL was given to the organizers of the first Anthropozänta to curate an exhibition. The project was initiated by Michael Sell and Sophie Innmann. 56 artists, most of them from Karlsruhe Art Academy, but also from other places in Germany, Great Britain, Korea, China, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Portugal were invited to participate.
The initial impulse for my installation came from the impression of a ‘dying town’ which is left behind by young people who move to the next big city. I grew up in this area, in a village not far away from Helmbrechts. I left the area too. For me Helmbrechts is the kind of empty town on the German countryside where dogs howl outside at night.
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DE / 12.10. - 26.10.2013
Invitation / Anthropozänta, Helmbrechts, DE / 12.10. - 26.10.2013
Detail: Speaker in the Backyard / Helmbrechts, DE / 13.10.2013