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December 6, 2023

SPOTTED: BEAR Fine Art-alumni Lesse Melijn van der Veer tells Metropolis M about their research into the essence of the tongue

Every year, magazine Metropolis M releases a Graduation Special, featuring work by several alumni who graduated as visual artists. Lesse Melijn van der Veer is one of the alumni featured in the special. Metropolis M asked the artist the question, "What is the story behind your work?"

Over the past year, Lesse Melijn van der Veer has been visiting people at home to catalogue their tongues for her graduation project The Tongue Truth. According to the artist, the tongue, which she calls 'the body's soul', is not limited to the mouth but extends all the way to the anus. That tunnel through the body is what Van der Veer is seeking to record. In conversation with her test subjects, she determines the locations of organs such as the stomach, the oesophagus and the large intestine. The artist carefully traces the line with a paintbrush, directly onto the body and then takes prints from it. "I try to locate people's stomachs with them", explains Van der Veer. "Where is it? What course do the intestines follow? Why do we think they are there – can we feel it, or is that just what we have been told?"

The artist also runs "tongue training" sessions, with the aim of enabling people to experience for themselves how their tongue works. The sessions seek to give participants a better sense of what the tongue wants. The tongue wants a lot: "The soul preferably wants to taste, touch and kiss as much as possible", says Van der Veer.

On the tile floor, she has depicted the tongue's "great escape". Four floating bodies are rendered with blue lines, complete with tongues curving this way and that. By means of the tongue training, the artist wants to teach visitors to give their tongues space but not to let them escape completely, as happens in these paintings: "It's about balance."

Alongside the prints, tiled floor and two large pieces of cloth also depicting the tongue tunnel, Van der Veer has created a ‘tongue toilet’: a fibrous, whitewashed structure on high legs that invites visitors to relieve themselves at great height, their stool then falling down through a transparent tube. Although the tongue toilet is not in use in this presentation, during a subsequent presentation of the work, Van der Veer hopes to truly be able to celebrate the turd – rich as it is in nutrients and good for the soil.

All those separate works should be seen as being like "poems that make up part of a poetry collection", says Van der Veer. Together they proclaim the "truth of the tongue"– also the title of the work. It is up to the visitor whether that she wants to believe that truth.

Author: Marsha Bruinen, writer on art and philosophy, and web editor at Metropolis M.