In his early career Teun Vonk (1986, Uden) focused on photography and video. Group dynamics and how a group affects an individual were his main topics, as well as the interaction between the visual director, himself, and the subject. Vonk used the camera as a means of exercising power, used it to create a situation and register the spontaneous reactions of the participants.
Currently, Vonk has a radically different direction in his approach to this subject: he creates art installations that focus on individual physical experience. Following a personal experience during a residency in Shanghai, his own body and that of the viewer/participant are his focus point. This has also shaped Vonks daily practice: instead of working primarily from behind a desk, Vonk focuses on the process of making and uses his studio as playground, test site and production area.
Teun Vonk has shown his work at Ars Electronica, FILE Brazil, STRP Biennial Eindhoven, Art Rotterdam, Chronus Art Center Shanghai, EYE Amsterdam and CTM Festival Berlin.
KIKK in townThe Physical Mind
During a residency in Shanghai, Teun Vonk discovered by chance that it eased his stressed body and mind to apply physical pressure to his body. Contrary to what one may expect, the registration of sensory input does not improve in a heightened state of sensitivity, such as stress. Such a state serves the evolutionary purpose by filtering out irrelevant information, only focusing on the accurate response: fight or flight. When experiencing such a state, applying pressure to the body has a strong stress-relieving effect.
With The Physical Mind, Vonk seeks to let participants experience the relation between their physical and mental states by applying physical pressure to the body. The installation consists of two inflatable objects. The participant lays down in between, is lifted up and gently squeezed between the two inflatable objects. The lifting creates an unstable feeling, a slightly stressful sensation that is directly contrasted with a secure feeling of being gently squeezed between two soft objects. Paradoxically, this forced physical stimulus reduces feelings anxiety and paradoxically stress and the flight- or fight-response disappear. The participant experiences and increased sensitivity to stimuli, normalised alertness and a calm state of mind. The positive effects of this increased receptivity can continue for a few hours after the experience. The installation evokes empathy in bystanders who witness a participant undergo the experience.
This project has been realised in co-production with Chronus Art Center and V2_Lab for the Unstable Media as part of the Summer Sessions Network, with generous support of the Creative Industries Fund NL.