Han Hoogerbrugge

Date 12 OCTOBER 2009

Looking at Hoogerbrugge’s work in retrospect, it often seems to reflect the zeitgeist, predominantly through the non-verbal utterances and obsessions of the main character. This character, a close representation of the artist himself, takes centre stage in so many of his projects. His ‘alter ego’ serves as a vessel through which Hoogerbrugge explores both personal and universal themes: age, fear, death, religion, and alienation.

Hoogerbrugge uses a distinct visual vocabulary consisting of elements taken from previous works, which are reassembled -or remixed, if you will- to take on new meanings.
It’s a personal language that continually evolves, as new elements are added, others are disregarded – deleted from his library of images. As is the case with language, one has to learn to read between the lines.

So, what can then be said of these men here, who appear to be trapped in eternal mental feedback loops, most likely of their own making? An apocalyptic vision or just a temporary state of mind? A sign of hope, or perhaps just a brief moment of relief, lies in the quote: “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story”.

Remco Vlaanderen

Interview with Han Hoogerbrugge

In your own words, how would you describe the work of Han Hoogerbrugge?
The past 10 years people called me: the Mr. Bean of the internet, the Gilbert and George of the web, flash god, the Lying Dutchman, the David Lynch of interactive animation, a sick fuck, an annoying overrated animator, the greatest artist of the web, a digital genius, a flash guru and a scary man. That’s the best description I can give.

Your work is centred around a main-character, which is based on your self-portrait. You often explain the use of your self-portrait as a practical solution and a fascination with the possibility for a continuous (cartoon) character to grow with age. However it sure feels like a way of allowing yourself to express ideas and (neurotic) acts which in reality would be unacceptable if not impossible and psychiatrists might have a thing or two to say about that… Would you perhaps say that your main character is a kind of ‘Modern Everyman’? Who is he?
I don’t want to know who hé is. I don’t want to know who I am, if I knew that, there wouldn’t be a future. I would deliberate everything and I do my utmost to steer clear from that. Despite – or perhaps owing to not knowing who he (or I) is I’m very clear about what I want. What I do is what I want.

Do you feel this ‘self’ is able to express and explore everything you wish, or will there be a day that ‘he’ needs to get a ‘total make-over’ or even replaced?
In effect I can express everything with this so called ‘self’. Prostress 2.0., (an ongoing online series of daily cartoons and drawings started in September 2008), starts every Monday with chitchat between Tarantino and David Lynch. The other days this ‘self’ often expresses the ideas, but so do many more characters, like Dr. Phill. Bob Ross, Iggy Pop, Ross of Friends and a clown. I’ve got my personal favourites. The characters might be the subjects of the comic or through them I express opinions like I imagine they would in real life.

In Hotel (interactive online animation 2004-2006) and your commercial work like the video for the Pet Shop Boys we see you use other many more characters, backgrounds and typography, which aren’t typical in your personal work. How much expressive freedom can you claim when you are working for a commercial or editorial client?
Expressive freedom with commercial jobs is quite easy. Usually the more they pay the less freedom I get. Which is fine by me. Commercial jobs provide the money I need to do my real work, my art, in complete freedom.

In Prostress 2.0, painting has entered your public work in the ‘La Grande Fête’ series. Why did you find the need to start painting, is this a sign of things to come?
It is most certainly a sign of things to come. These ‘La Grande Fête’ watercolours are studies. But I haven’t figured out yet for what, a movie, an installation, sculptures, a book? Time will tell.

VFC-Berlin asked you to reflect on boundaries and borders in the context of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. These characters with their typical neurotic and surreal gestures are now presented and interpreted in this light. Can you explain your ideas behind this work?
I don’t really want to explain the work too much. They are a group of idea’s that come together. I can give you some insight into the work. The title of the video is ‘If you want a happy ending that depends, of course, on where you stop your story’. The fall of the wall is like one of those ‘ Happy Endings’, a positive moment in history. But…if the wall hadn’t been there in the first place, Berlin would have been completely different in the seventies and eighties and it might not have had the attraction to the likes of Bowie and Iggy Pop. My favourite albums of these artists come from that era. I have been in Berlin when the wall was still there, I must say it gave the city a very attractive and at same time menacing feel, that’s the contradiction. We’re are now twenty years down the line and what has changed? Did the world improve or get worse? My character is continuously lost. The repetitive actions are compulsive, oppressive but at the same time absurd, possibly comical. The rest I leave for the audience to interpret.

In Oog, a project in the Volkskrant online where artists were asked to reflect on news and current events you were a regular contributor, how do you see your role as visual news commentator?
I think it’s a beautiful title ‘Visual News Commentator’, is that me? Ha, ha! I read my paper daily and I’m sure the news does something to me. I also make a weekly illustration for the section called ‘Green & Economy’ in ’The Volkskrant’ (Dutch National Newspaper), but whether this can be regarded as visual news comment?
Prostress sometimes deals with courant affairs and news, more news facts, not so much political affairs. It’s about the kind of questions you get when you read a news story. Like this week’s discovery by NASA of the extra ring around Saturn, which is so large that it can fit planet earth a billion times over. I then start to calculate how long it must have taken God to create it, if He took seven days to create earth. In this case of Prostress (week 41- day 4), But this edition is not pure visual, I also do use text.

What’s next, what are you working on currently?
I just finished a video clip for The Young Punx and I’m busy with the preparations of the next video clip of this English band.
Last year I created an animation that reacted to sound. The Belgian singer’ Daan’ was singing live and my animation reacted to the sounds. We both got very excited by the results and we are definitely going to do more with it. Like I said earlier. ‘La Grande Fete’ is now still an experiment, but I expect the start of next year to progress from it. Next to that there are invitations to exhibitions, which always stimulate me to create new work. And last but not least, a graphic novel (in print) of Prostress is planned for next year.

Many thanks
Nanette Hoogslag

Han Hoogerbrugge (The Netherlands)
Han Hoogerbrugge’s early body of work consisted mainly of sculptures, paintings and illustrations.
In 1996, lured by the promise of a potential audience of millions and complete control over your own content, he started publishing his comics on his own website – a move into a new medium that would influence his work in ways he could not have foreseen. Somewhat of an early adopter, Hoogerbrugge eagerly explored the possibilities of interactive storytelling and Flash animation, in his acclaimed online series Modern Living/Neurotica (’98-’01), later followed by HOTEL (for SubmarineChannel.com), and NAILS. His current body of work includes installations, films, music videos, illustrations, and commissioned works. In 2008, a 200-page book and full length DVD ‘The Graphic Universe of Han Hoogerbrugge’ was published.