Pim Palsgraaf’s sculptures demonstrate the artist’s love/hate relationship with urban life. Called, Multiscapes, the series is made up of city scenes which are ‘carried’ by taxidermied animals. His intention is to show urbanism as growing like a tumour on nature. We had a chat with Pim about how his relationship with Rotterdam has informed his work and whether he’s ever thought of escaping urban life himself.
Your multiscape sculptures denote a struggle between nature and urban life/ architecture. Do you feel we have been overcome by urbanism now and forgotten our roots?
I have the feeling that we are still in a transformation stage. Slowly but surely we are reaching a point where our roots don’t make sense anymore. We build off of nature but nature, in turn, builds off of us.
The found objects you use in the sculpture to ‘drape’ over the taxidermy animal, what are they normally made of? Where do you acquire them?
I use a lot of different materials for the architectural structures on the taxidermy animals. The basic building materials are styrofoam, metal, wood, plastic, glue and paint. For more detailed materials I stroll around flea markets, streets and old buildings. I use a lot of demolished model houses. Most of the model houses I find on the internet from people who are quitting their hobbies. Lately, I bought a box full with model houses from somebody who had his model train hobby for more than twenty years, he told me that he had to quit because his wife finds it too dusty. I bought it and he decided that it was too fragile to pick it up with my bike so he offered to bring it to my place and yes everything was in perfect shape. I couldn’t tell him that it would be smashed by a hammer and used for my next sculpture….
Are the buildings based on real life structures?
The architecture is not based on structures. When I start building, these cities emerge. I am trying to imagine myself being in that structure, climbing crawling, walking through these cities without any logic or infrastructure. The only thing which is originally based on real life structures are parts of the model houses. After I finished the first multiscape a friend showed me pictures of the Brazilian favelas which are in a way very alike. Gigantic mountains full of chaotic structures and buildings.
Where are the animals from, do you taxidermy them yourself?
No, I don’t do the taxidermy myself. It is not necessary for my sculptures.
Most of the animals I buy on the internet. It is really hard to find the right animal with the right shape and expression. This is a very important part of the process because the architectural structure is a reaction on the already existing shape of the animal.
How long does a sculpture from the multiscape series take to create?
Depends on the size, most of the time around a month, but my latest piece was a sculpture with a size of 325 x 220 x 250 cm with a taxidermy horse as a base. This piece took me over four months.
You’ve said you have a love/ hate relationship with your environment, do you feel that one day this drive you to escape urban life forever?
Like most love/hate relationships, I stay in it because there is something I still need that I can’t give up. I need the city with its overwhelming elements, but I also desire the emptiness of wild nature. I have no idea where I will end up.
multi structure 01
What influence has Rotterdam had on your work? Do you feel it’s particularly prone to causing ‘urban tumours’ compared to other places?
I was born in Gouda, a small town in Holland. During my studies at the art academy I moved to Rotterdam and was immediately fascinated by the big harbors and the heavy industry.
I see two kinds of worlds on this planet: There is the organic world of wildlife and nature and there is the artificial world of human civilization with its urban environments. What I’m really curious about is the vague borderline between these two worlds. This border region is a place where both worlds meet and attack each other. That particular aspect is very clear in the harbor area of Rotterdam.
Your work highlights the destructive nature of urbanism but in what ways can we as a society help solve this problem?
I am like a scientist who is looking through a microscope and fascinated by my subject in a non-judgemental way. For me the transformation of landscapes and environment is the most interesting part. It is more like a volcano which is able to create and reshape a landscape, the same feeling I have with urbanization versus nature.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I am working on a new series sculptures based on cities which grow with the same structure as mold. The base material is concrete, wood, plastic and Styrofoam.
indus structure 01
For more of Pim's work check out his website at pimpalsgraaf.nl