6 September 2017 | Hutspot Interviews

The Things We Are | Hutspot Interviews

On September 8, we will launch the most recent art project by illustrator and artist Joost Stokhof (also known as The Things We Are). For one entire week, he changed the comfortable surroundings of his home in Utrecht for the dynamic and ever changing environment of the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam. Here, he slept, ate and captured his surroundings, resulting in an inspiring series of pencil drawings. Several artist from different disciplines joined Joost during his week in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, including Falco BenzSefEefje de VisserNuno dos SantosI am OakAnne-Fleur van der Heiden and Matteo Myderwyk. Curious about his experiences? Read the interview to learn more.

The Things We Are in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Hi Joost. Have you recovered from your week in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam?
Hi! Yes, I have. It has been an amazing experience and visitors of the Hortus have responded with a lot of excitement when I was there. I am still reminiscing!

How does sleeping in a botanical garden actually work? Where did you sleep?
I slept inside a greenhouse. I had a stretcher and there was a shower that is normally used by the gardeners. Also, the restaurant provided me with food, so I really did not leave the gardens at all.

Did you ever feel a bit exposed during your stay?
In some way, yes. At home, you go to sleep and close the curtains. Here, the space you are living in is huge and the glass walls of the greenhouse do not make it feel any smaller. At night, I was all by myself and all kinds of animals and bugs that hide during the day, such as frogs and toads, will start to make a lot of noise. However, I also noticed that you get used to every sound as the week progresses. It did not take long until I felt completely at home.

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How did you start illustrating?
I studied illustration design in Utrecht. After I graduated, I started to travel a lot and slowly learned how this influenced my creativity. You have so much more space to think creatively when you are not in your everyday surroundings. I started to put words on paper that I would think about or find throughout the day. This slowly turned into a personal collection of travel journals.

How does this process go? Where do those words come from?
Usually, they are just thoughts that pop up. However, I also take a lot of pictures that often serve as a source of inspiration. Sometimes, I just mis hear a lyric that I then use to start a drawing with. In the Hortus, I started to find it quite fascinating how visitors would interact with plants. Or two birds that were trying to reach out to each other, but failed to realize that there was a glass wall in between them. I really like those sudden coincidences. They create an unintentional tention that I find very inspiring.

The shape that I start with dictates the rest of the space. Shape can influence meaning and vice versa. For me, drawing is very much a journey in itself, because I usually do not know what the end result will look like.

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How did this project came about?
I was drawing a lot of leaves and showed these to my father. At some point, he gave me the idea to make some drawings in Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam. The idea really appealed to me. It is such an oase of nature, right in the middle of the city.

Were there certain areas in the Hortus that you found more inspiring than others?
The three different climate greenhouses are truly spectacular. I was able to enter them at night and found them to be way more impactful then. I would sometimes just go and sit there for half an hour, listening to everything that was going on around me.

Other artists and musicians also visited you during this week. Did they have different experiences?
Oh, definitely. I think the gardens influenced everyone’s creative process in different ways. Some artists used its serenity, enabling themselves to become completely focused on their own process. Others used their surroundings very actively. Eefje de Visser and Nuno Dos Santos, for example, recorded various sounds found in the gardens.

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What is the end result like?
As you can imagine, drawing the same kind of objects has the tendency to become a bit boring. However, forcing myself to stay in one place for a longer time has stimulated me to come up with different angles and viewpoints. The result is a diverse selection of drawings; all derived from the same object, but approached differently.

How about the music?
The EP features 4 songs, made by 4 different artists who all did their unique take on the same object. Falco Benz and Sef made a very uplifting song. ‘Wit Blad’ by Eefje De Visser and Nuno Dos Santos is a bit more moody. Somehow, all the songs do connect beautifully as a whole. I kind of see it as the soundtrack to my drawings!

Has this experience inspired you to do more similar projects in the future?
I do find this to be a formula that triggers my creative proces. How do you create differently when you force yourself to stay in one place for a longer period? I can’t wait for the next one!


The Things We Are exhibition is on display from September 8 at Hutspot Van Woustraat
The exhibition is on display from September 20 at Hutspot Utrecht
Join the launch at Hutspot Van Woustraat on September 8.