From the beginning of her career, Rini Hurkmans is concerned with topics such as absence, loss, disruption, alienation and the related concepts of safety, security, identity and compassion. This can, among others, be perceived in the photo series Pietà, in the films Dear Son, The Flavor of Salt and Don Quixote but also in the sculptures The White Shroud and The Inner Garden.
Life, art and politics are intertwined in a continuous dialogue and each specific period requires its own thoughts, strategies, and forms.
Hurkmans initiated the conceptual artwork Flag of Compassion in 2002 out of the desire to go beyond the framework of cultural consensus and consumption. Since 2008, she is an advisor to the Unda Foundation, which manages the artwork and also organises a series of Making Waves events around themes related to Flag of Compassion. By engaging with the Flag, it is investigated how a work of art can activate ethical questions in society and how it can function both within the arts and in society. Hurkmans is the driving force behind the book Compassion. A Paradox in Art and Society (Valiz, 2017) in which Flag of Compassion is discussed as a case study.
Presently, she conducts further research into the concept of loss in relation to ethics and politics and makes new work based on her working period as Artist in Residence at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR), partner of the Akademie van Kunsten (KNAW), in 2019. Her research into the press photo of the moment just after Michelangelo's Pietà (1499) was attacked in 1972 serves as the starting point for her current work, which also builds upon earlier work inspired by this photo since she acquired it in 1992. When the Pietà in the St. Peter’s Basilica was attacked by Laszlo Toth, he destroyed the left arm. Consequently, the initial gesture that reaches out to the public to engage with the theme of the Pietà was annihilated. With the overarching investigation entitled Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture, Hurkmans explores the multi-interpretability of the press photo and the gesture, ultimately reconsidering the gesture in all its forms.
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