Karel van Laere – Reach (2021)

For the first Open Space working period at The Grey Space artist Karel van Laere worked on his project Reach from September to November 2021. The starting point of this three month residency was his fascination with laparoscopic instruments (robotic tools used for surgery).


Laparoscopic instruments are often robotic instruments for laparoscopic treatment (looking into the abdominal cavity with a viewing tube or operating for medical purposes), also known as keyhole surgery.

Through physicians, Van Laere has a number of such ingenious surgical instruments on loan. Following intensive trainings, he is experimenting with the instruments in a test setup in his studio. Dissecting delicate objects like flower petals or wafer-thin Japanese newsprint is an intimate and fragile process in which, in addition to vulnerability, there is also beauty concealed within. The instruments not only extend the reach of your arm and fingers, but also invite you to see and work on a smaller scale. They appear to be tiny machine movements, but are in fact a result of organic movements of fingers, hand and wrist.

In the hospital, doctors use the instruments for, among other things, internal cutting and the precise placement of stitches. In conversation with surgeons, Van Laere discovered that there are many challenges involved in working with these instruments. During operations, internal cameras show their actions live on large screens. Working ‘blind’ and thereby estimating depth and texture is difficult. And as a patient, you’re completely at the mercy to the skills of your surgeon. This ‘surrender’ of the patient in combination with the haptic feedback that the surgeon receives through his hands and visual feedback on the screen is intriguing.

With his artistic practice as a starting point, van Laere worked with these elements. He fantasizes about an arrangement in which several laparoscopic arms attack a classical still life or, on the contrary, bring a small fragile object to life.


During the residency two public events to interact with the Karel van Laere and his work in progress took place in 2021. In May of this year a solo exhibition will take place between 13 and 22nd May, in which older works are combined with his newly developed work. A performative symposium on Saturday 14 May will provide an in depth view on his artistic research.

Karel van Laere

Karel van Laere’s work takes place at the intersection of live performance and visual art. His own body is the starting point in every artistic process. A recurring theme in his work is the antagonism between the human body and technological systems. From there he navigates through fundamental questions like ‘what if you could switch off your body completely, just like a computer?’ Or, ‘How does it feel to be dependent on a machine or on others?’ In his search he involves experts from other disciplines. Recently he has worked with an anesthesiologist, a hypnotherapist and a deep-sea diver, in order to better understand his field of research around a project. In his search, unexpected discoveries give a twist to the final appearance. This can be a live performance with spectators, screening a video documentation or an autonomous installation.

Open Space

Aiming to act as a catalyst in the artistic practice of contemporary makers, The Grey Space hosts the annual residency Open Space. Open Space is inspired by radical relationism, which can best be explained following the basic principles of particle physics, where in order to study the most fundamental matter of which our universe is composed, things are combined solely to see what unexpected outcomes emerge.

During a three month working period a maker is invited to appropriate The Grey Space. Together they investigate the needs of a proposed project and for its development The Grey Space provides space, resources and tools, opens up its network, provides feedback and organises public events. During the working period often illogical or unexpected connections emerge with thinkers, makers, organisations, companies, tools and professionals from other domains, which all influence the project.

The events allow the public to experience work in progress and to be involved in the development, and in turn allow the maker to be inspired by input of the public.


Open Space [reach] is a co-production of The Grey Space in the Middle and Stichting Largo and is made possible by the City of The Hague, Stroom Den Haag, Mondriaan Fonds, Amarte Fonds, the In Art We Trust Fund (by We Are Public) and Laparoscopyboxx (a brand of Outside the Boxx).