John Kormeling: Hole in the Wall

, 2010/04/14

John Kormeling stands amidst the disarray that is his house. Metal scraps, paper shreds, a screaming child and watermelon rinds are strewn across the space. Models in metal and wood, children’s toys, faded posters, piles of books, trunks and dark corners full of mystery all make it clear that this is a man who keeps everything. It is one of those rare days in the depths of summer when a balmy heat descends on the Netherlands and sits like a disinterested elephant on the shoulders of sweating and bewildered Dutchmen, and the house takes on the character of a crumbling Mediterranean tenement, stuffed with mementos of the past that mingle with the smells and dazed sensations of the present.

“It’s crazy,” John says again and again, as if it’s a mantra, pointing to his work and all the while chuckling to himself in short little bursts. The energy of this man, a creator in the flesh, is impossible to miss. He moves his massy hands across his brow and seems to be talking to himself as he describes various characteristics of form and function- how at times they correspond, and at times they defy connection. There is little order to his presentation, and as he navigates his cluttered realm with surprising acumen it seems as though John is discovering it himself- again, and for the first time. A picture of Marcel Duchamp adorns the doorjamb of his bedroom, and it would not be at all wonderful if his ghost were to haunt this world, cavorting in and out of the rooms at night, yelling like a banshee, and stubbing its toes on randomness.

The house is really two structures separated by a thick brick wall. One of these buildings originally had space for a bar and was owned by a local criminal. In case of a police raid this man took a sledgehammer to the wall on the bottom floor, to provide a quick exit. John originally found the buildings abandoned and set up his studio as a squatter in the bar space, and after a few years he had bought them both. Inspired by the impromptu passageways hammered into the walls on the bottom floor there is now not a single finished door in the entire structure. John opted for the sledgehammer approach, and so the walls of house are filled with holes.
Kormeling is now standing in front of one of those holes with bricks poking out of their plaster casing. His daughter, appropriately named “Hammer,” stands at his side. The photographer’s lights flash and he says, “It’s easy to make a door.”

John Kormeling is a man who instead of constantly subtracting from what he knows- removing old understandings to make way for new ones, throwing away old possessions and finding their replacements- when knowledge is gained he adds it to the whole. Some may call it nonsense, immaturity, and a god awful mess, but others will see in the clutter undeniable proof of a dreamer. The evidence of this is everywhere in John’s work. The Western salon perched atop a modern customs building in Rotterdam, the suspended laughter in letters hanging from the ceiling in Amsterdam’s airport, the sign north of Japan that the curious can walk right into if they so wish. There is an element of the obvious and the everyday turned on its head in almost of all of Kormeling’s creations, and an unerring attempt to present the beauty of ideas, sensations, and images that are at all times lost and constantly being found. “Its easy to make a door,” John says, and of course, he’s right.

John Kormeling is currently working on the Dutch Pavilion, entitled Happy Street, for the coming 2010 World Expo in Shangahi.

Kormeling’s ‘Hot Spring’ signboard and map (a collaboration with typographer Katsumi Asaba) can be seen in Matsunoyama, Ehime Prefecture.

This story originally appeared in Paper Sky No. 3 (The Netherlands, 2002).


John Kormeling
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