Anemoon Fokkinga and Rik Laging on their latest project 'Aquatic Fauna Research Lab (A.F.R.L.) - Chapter Two: Adapting and Evolving'

Anemoon Fokkinga & Rik Laging, Aquatic Fauna Research Lab (A.F.R.L), 2023

For the second time, No Limits! Art Castle is curating a boundless, imaginative exhibition in their stand at Art Rotterdam. For a few years now, the sparkling artist duo Anemoon Fokkinga (2003) and Rik Laging (1993) have been collecting their sea of ideas, resulting in the multimedia installation Aquatic Fauna Research Lab (A.F.R.L., 2023). Based on news reports, diving excursions and a dose of fiction - the latter manifested in their shared interest in science fiction - they bring the confrontational state of the underwater world to the surface. In this interview, the artists talk about their encounter, the themes that resonate with them and the artworks on show at 'New Art' and 'Prospects'.

Video still Innovatielabs #1: No Limits! Art Castle, 2023

A direct artistic match

When I ask the artists about their meeting, Rik Laging doesn't have to think long. Rik: "When No Limits! Art Castle was still called Outsiderland, I designed the website together with Joeri Woudstra, and before that, I had collaborated with the founder Jan Hoek several times. A few years ago, I visited the opening of an exhibition where I came across Anemoon's work. There, I discovered our shared interest in the American fantasy and horror author H.P. Lovecraft, and I bought one of her artworks." Rik proudly produces a small ceramic piece of a heart with a staring eye. Anemoon responds flattered: "Wow, that was a long time ago - I almost forgot about that." He continues: "Shortly after that, Jan Hoek approached me with the question if I wanted to collaborate with one of the No Limits! Art Castle artists. My initial reaction was: 'Yes, I want to, but only if it's with Anemoon Fokkinga'."

Rik asks curiously: "I don't know how you discovered my art. Did you receive a portfolio from me?" Anemoon responds: "Jan Hoek approached me with the question, 'Do you want to collaborate with 'Rik-rik-rik' (editor's note: his former Instagram name)?' That's when I saw the video of the airplane Lyves II (2023), which I thought was incredibly cool, so I was immediately sold." The interaction between the artists reveals a direct match and admiration for each other's work.

Anemoon Fokkinga, Balaena Decem Trunci, 2022

It doesn't take long for the duo to meet in a studio to further plan their collaboration. Rik: "This meeting once again confirmed our shared interest, which is creating art that explores alternative realities through (science) fiction to address major societal issues. It quickly became clear to me that I could add my layer to Anemoon's material to expand that world further. We both have our own working methods. Anemoon works more with physical and static materials, while I focus more on digitally processing materials like objects, 3D models, and animations. I saw the potential to bring Anemoon's world to life." Anemoon adds: "From there, our idea of a 'laboratory of the future' was born. We also collaborated remotely for a while when I stayed in Florida for three months last year, partly due to medical reasons. I combined it with diving, which provided me with a lot of inspiration for this project and allowed me to improve artistically." For Anemoon, these diving adventures are a direct source of inspiration for her art, which she later elaborates on.

Rik Laging, mte/mte1. Video still from Lyves II, More Than Ever, 2023

Aquatic Fauna Research Lab (A.F.R.L.) - Chapter Two: Adapting and Evolving

At Art Rotterdam, the artists showcase their project Aquatic Fauna Research Lab (A.F.R.L.) - Chapter Two: Adapting and Evolving (2023), where visitors delve into a dystopian underwater world. Rik: "What is being shown is a series of fictional fish species created by Anemoon, which I have further developed in text. These fish species have evolved despite ocean pollution. There is a classification of species, ranging from those that have emerged from nuclear waste to the plastic soup islands and pollution caused by cargo ships. This creates a fictional world that addresses larger societal issues and makes them more accessible and understandable. We present the laboratory as an abandoned place. As artists, we are the researchers who have left various clues to connect this world together. This invites spectators to embark on an exploration." One such hint is that there is a double meaning behind the abbreviation 'A.F.R.L.', perhaps the observant art viewer can unravel it.

The artwork consists of various techniques, such as the lab as an installation, Anemoon's ceramic work, supplemented with video footage by Rik, and a booklet that serves as an encyclopedia of different animals. The installation has an industrial look and feel to evoke the illusion of the future. Their project is closely connected to climate change, one of the greatest challenges of our era.

Anemoon Fokkinga & Rik Laging, Aquatic Fauna Research Lab (A.F.R.L), 2023

There is room for humor alongside that heavy subject matter. Rik, jokingly: "As mentioned, Anemoon loves diving. It's no wonder she has this name (editor's note: a sea anemone is a flower-like animal with tentacles)." The remark makes Anemoon beam and generates a lot of enthusiasm. She has been diving since she was eight years old. What are her favorite sea creatures? "All sorts of things - I find ocean life incredibly cool. For example, I'm fascinated by crab species that decorate themselves with coral and waste. Overall, I love all animals, whether they're in the water or the sky." In addition to the beauty, she is not oblivious to the suffering. Anemoon shares about her last dive in Florida: "We had very good visibility and saw a turtle without hind legs. The likely cause is fishing line. Occasionally, you see condoms floating in the water instead of jellyfish. What also made an impression was when in 2015, I went to a turtle hospital with my parents and saw a turtle that had swallowed a hook. It was sad to see, but that's precisely why we're doing this project - to raise awareness among people."

Last year, Anemoon also received a contribution from the Mondriaan Fund. That's why her brand new sculpture can be seen at 'Prospects'. Anemoon: "At Prospects, I'm presenting a very large animal, 1.60 meters tall, emerging from a sewer. Drawing from my imagination and considering the climate issues, I imagined that in the future, mutated animals would shoot up from the sewer drains. When the work was almost finished, reality caught up with me, and New York was actually submerged in water." The artist doesn't want to reveal which animal it is just yet. Like the installation in the 'New Art' section, the viewer relies on their own reasoning and instinct. The objects by Anemoon Fokkinga & Rik Laging can be viewed from various angles, with the idea that there are always new discoveries to be made.

Anemoon Fokkinga & Rik Laging, Aquatic Fauna Research Lab (A.F.R.L), 2023

About No Limits! Art Castle

No Limits! Art Castle (formerly Outsiderland) offers an artistic-social stage to people who, for whatever reason, have a distance from the art world. The initiative aims to break down stigmas about artists; between so-called 'outsider' artists and the dominant 'insider' art world, between art and design, between day and night culture or fantasy and reality. The initiator is artist Jan Hoek, who has been linking (un)conventional artists with various projects since the establishment of his Foundation Captain Hoek in 2018, such as self-taught artist Anemoon Fokkinga (2003, artist name 'Anemoon On Fire') and Rik Laging (1993, studied Graphic Design at the KABK from 2014-2018).No Limits! Art Castle is located on the IJ in Amsterdam Noord, where art can be viewed and collected from Wednesday to Sunday.

Immediately upon entering Art Rotterdam, Anemoon Fokkinga and Rik Laging will show their art at No Limits! Art Castle (New Art, booth 1).

Written by Pienk de Gaay Fortman

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