Tom Herck | Issue Eight Interview

October 15, 2019

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

 

My father is an artist. He paints and makes sculptures, but he never made a living out of it. When I was a kid, I grew up in a house that was one big gallery of canvasses. My father never pushed me into art, but I remember from a very young age I was always drawing comics and building stuff. Being an only child, I was a lot on my own, so I had a lot of time to be in “my thoughts” and create my own world. Later, when I was a teenager, I went to graphical high school, got my diploma and went to university.

The only thing I could think about at that time was graffiti. I was obsessed about it. My whole life was graffiti. In class, I didn’t pay attention and was sketching all the time. After school I went to the train station to “spot” trains and collect pics of painted trains. My evening was filled by checking spots to paint or reading graffiti magazines and watching graffiti movies. I did not really care about university anymore and dropped out.

Of course, I needed to put food on the table so I worked shitty job after shitty job. But still, graffiti was my biggest love, and growing up in a “social neighborhood” living with my single mom, we never traveled a lot. Graffiti changed that for me. I could buy fake Interrail ti

 

ckets on the black market and went painting trains all over Europe for some years. This caused me some legal problems, and I had to pay some fines. My final graffiti action was actually in the States where I painted the NY Metro and then got a tattoo of the iconic NY Metro logo by graffiti legend SEEN. It was a perfect experience, a teenage dream come true. It seemed like a good time to stop painting illegal graffiti.

I went back to school, got a social worker degree and worked in total 4 years with refugees. When my Decline project started, I quit that job and went all out for that project. Like you already know, you can’t become an artist, you are born an artist. There is a lot of sacrifice to make and a lot of willpower needed. But for passion, nothing is too much, that is the beauty about it. If you think 24/7 of creating and you have that itch or obsession, you find a way to make it happen. Coming from a background with not a lot of chances, dropping out of school, doing a lot of shitty jobs, taking a lot of risk and putting always every penny back into the development of my work, I finally can say that I’m an independent artist.

 

 

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

 

My work is conceptual but also pleasing esthetically.  It's more famous for its monumental size. The medium or technique that I work with is not relevant for me. It can be concrete, bronze, paint or wood. I dont have 1 typical style and want to be as free as possible when I create.

 

The main themes in my work are Vanity, society/political, nostalgia, decay and satire.

 

What was your inspiration for creating ‘the Wall’ 

 

First of all the burning man festival and that is so near to the Mexican border . 

 

Most of the time my projects are society or political oriented, this served with a slice of dark humor and satire. At the burning man festival they normaly never get into politics so it was something special, also for them. I had a lot of dialogues with people while collecting all the fabrics. Its a good setting to talk with people from all over the world and have a view on the USA situation in real life and not only what the media tells you how it is.

I think whenever you are democrate or conservastive. people want a better world. the piece was about uniting and not dividing. There is no hidden agenda in it and people felt it.

 

 

 

What place do you think artists have in the political sphere?

 

The art of art is that you are able to be totaly free and do whatever you want.

It's important that artists can make this statement for their society and inspire people that way.

 

You describe ‘the wall’ partly as a reference to the global ‘fortification’ trend, what do you think has sparked this inward looking ideology? 

 

Walls have always been present between people. Mental and physical. Walls recur in projects throughout my career (fe 'The Decline', a 60.000 kg house of cards made of concrete cards) I think it's a very interesting topic to work with cause its something universal and repetitive in history.

 

 

 

We last looked at your work when you completed your interactive artwork Eurovision, how has your work progressed and developed since that performance? 

 

My progression goes pretty fast. Eurovision was my first bigger (sailing) installation in (so far) Europe. The wall is my first bigger installation in the states. Most of my projects are autonomous, in that manner I have less restrictions and can do whatever I want.

Every project leads someway or another to another project. 

 

Having just been involved in burning man with ‘the wall’, what is next for your artistic career?

 

Participating Burning man really inspired me because due to extreme weather conditions and distance of the location the festival requires an exceptional commitment from the artists. Succeeding at this has encouraged me to challenge myself even further in future projects. My ambition is to participate international art venues like the Biennale of Venice. It all depends on me. It I get a chance to participate the Biennale I will, if I don't I will find another way to m this dream come true. 

 

 

 

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