Anna McNay

Interview with Herman de Vries at the Dutch Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale


Interview: Herman de Vries

Herman de Vries: to be all ways to be
Dutch Pavilion, Giardini di Castello, 30122 Venice
9 May – 22 November 2015

Herman de Vries (b1931) was
educated as a horticulturalist and natural scientist and his work focuses on
natural processes and phenomena, directing viewers’ attention to the diversity
of the world around them. He seeks to encourage people to be alive and aware, and
his guru, he says, is a squirrel, because this creature “is always awake”.

De Vries has spent a long time
working in Venice preparing for the Biennale and has published a book, From the
Laguna of Venice – A Journal, which is essentially a travelogue of his
observations and collected material. His exhibition in the Dutch Pavilion
brings some of this notation – written and photographed – and some of the flora
into the gallery setting, “a place for observation”. This includes a central
circle of Rosa damascena buds, creating a sensory experience through their
colour and scent, and large chunks of charred acacia trunk, collected from the
summer solstice bonfire in the village where he now lives in Germany.

Alongside the pavilion exhibition,
de Vries is also displaying a series of posters –with texts including natura numquam errat (nature never makes
mistakes), natura mater (nature is
the mother), veritas existentiae (the
truth of existence) and natura artis
(nature is the teacher of art and science) – across Venice. These
short dicta sum up the artist’s philosophy and work. His succinct
pronouncements can also be found in plaques dotted among the overgrowth on the
abandoned island of Lazzaretto Vecchio, the site of a former hospital, where
plague victims were nursed.

Studio International spoke to de
Vries before taking a boat trip out to explore this sanctuary in the Venetian

To watch this interview, please go to: