Robbie Cornelissen: The Capacious Memory
Text by Erin Silver
…despite one’s sense of departing even further from one’s origin, one winds up, to one’s shock, exactly where one had started out. – Douglas Hofstadter, I Am a Strange Loop (2007) If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. – Lewis Carroll
A faint, asynchronous ruffling can be heard: perhaps the sound of tools, of a creator behind a paper curtain, erecting impenetrable fortresses with mere pencils, digging out harrowing passages with elaborate crosshatching, giving us the illusion of choosing our own adventure as we inquisitively yield to the creator’s chimerical vision. Robbie Cornelissen is both renegade architect and fantastical author, carving out Odyssean epics that escape the confines of the page onto which they are inscribed.
Meta Knol asks, “What world does the artist’s alter ego inhabit—that highly imaginative creature that urges him to draw? What does that reservation of his own imagination look like?” As if recounting the enigmatic elements of a recurring dream, Cornelissen abandons agency, becoming the extension of a pencil in hand that compulsively attempts to arrive at understanding through repetition. However, the pencil is limited by the artist’s knowledge; like Escher’s impossible objects, Cornelissen’s pathways aspire to apexes of awareness, inevitably returning us back to the places at which we began—but propelling us into a psychological beyond.
“Cornelissen’s elastic pencil,” Knol states, “prefers to seek out ambiguity; it winds up in labyrinths—that is the way it goes.” Cornelissen’s animated drawing, Het Grote Geheugen 2006, exemplifies this insight in its winding through both hand-drawn and digital spaces, mimicking the dizzying compartments of the artist’s mind, transplanted into the mind of a faceless figure we encounter at the beginning of our expedition. Timidly roving the alien terrain, we both scrutinize miniscule crevices and absorb vast unpopulated expanses; we take steps forward and steps backward, surveying the space in its complexity and completeness; we stay low to the ground and float up to the ceiling, undaunted by the laws of gravity and dimensionality. Occasional organic forms—a gulping pipe, a hanging mammarian bulge—interrupt this psychological, labyrinthine journey; like the Cheshire Cat, they pop up in unexpected places, act as markers that pronounce, “you are here,” suggesting to us that we might arrive somewhere—if only we walk long enough.
Meta Knol, “The Elastic Pencil,” Het Reservaat, 2003. Knol.