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Every week, Het Nieuwe Instituut invites a designer to create a cover for the website in response to the question: What’s occupying you now? This week: Harmen Liemburg.

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What’s the story behind your web cover design for Het Nieuwe Instituut Online?

On 1 July, I had to leave my anti-squat studio home on the Arnhems Buiten business park, the former KEMA site on Arnhem’s western outskirts. Too bad, because I loved the peace and space, the old beech trees, the drumming of the greater spotted woodpeckers during the day and the hooting of the tawny owls at night. Before I could go to my temporary summer shelter, I spent a few days on a campsite nearby. No punishment: I love camping and being outside. And you need a tent for that. If the design is right, a tent protects you from wind, rain, insects and other critters. That little bit of canvas, rope and aluminum provides a cosy nook for sleeping in an open space. Plus privacy, when other people are around. As a tool, I pay attention to the tent’s space, strength and practicality in use. No tent is perfect or suitable for all circumstances, but that’s okay. Even more importantly, to me they are symbols of freedom, of adventures yet to be experienced and the desire for a different, purer way of life. You can never own enough tents.

How does this piece relate to the rest of your work?

Photography usually plays a minor role in my work, as a way of collecting graphic images and later converting them into linear graphics. I find photo techniques interesting but also complicated. Finding the right settings, post-processing, often it takes too long. I prefer to spend that time drawing and printing. For this image, I have put together all the tents that are currently in my possession. If this were a real campground, I’d run away from this nightmare screaming, looking for a place with more space.

Is the coronavirus pandemic changing the way you work? 

Last winter, I picked up the thread of art education again. On the agenda for spring were project weeks with students from academies in France and Germany and a few master classes too. In March, they were all cancelled one by one. Working with groups of students in workshops will continue to be problematic for some time, although I have just been able to work with a small group of students again at Plaatsmaking in Arnhem. Apart from that, my life involves spending a lot of time alone in the studio; coronavirus doesn’t much change that.

Photography: Ellen Boersma & Harmen Liemburg Font: Cako Thin, VJ-Type.

Harmen Liemburg (1966) originally trained as a cartographer, later pursuing a more expressive direction and studying at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Now based in Arnhem, he has worked as a graphic designer and screen printer since 1998, focusing on autonomous work. For every project, he immerses himself in the visual aspects of the subject, including clichés and apparent trivia. The visual building blocks he collects this way are often redrawn and adapted for the screen-printing technique. “Individual elements are combined in a poetic way to acquire a new role and meaning,” he explains. “Every project is a graphic exploration in itself, with which I expand my playing field within visual and material culture.”