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The artists of the Meta Maze

Doloris‘ Meta Maze has been designed and built by Berlin-based art collective Karmanoia in collaboration with many artists. Here, you can get to know the people behind the work.

Birk Schmithuesen
Nina Maria Stemberger

“It is so important for people to rediscover their play instinct: to lose themselves, let go and find themselves again.”


Birk Schmithüsen and Nina Maria Stemberger joined the building process of the Meta Maze during the final phase. The artist couple came to Tilburg when the structure of the multiple-room installation had already been built and the space design was almost finished. Their contributions would soon turn one of the surreal landscapes into a fascinating light and sound experience.

Birk is an audiovisual artist currently based in Leipzig, Germany. By using computers, electronics, and code in an artistic context, he explores emerging technologies that affect our everyday lives. In this way, he develops aesthetic experiments in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Computer Vision. His work has been shown internationally at key media art festivals in France, Netherlands, Spain, Austria and Germany, including re:publica, Chaos Communication Congress and Ars Electronica Festival. “In my research, I open technological black boxes,” Birk explains.

Nina Maria Stemberger is a performance artist and choreographer as well as a theater and dance educator. In her work, she investigates how art in public spaces can help shape and develop perspectives on the future. Also based in Leipzig, Nina (along with Birk) co-founded the performance collective ArtesMobiles, an interdisciplinary, future-oriented, creative production platform. Harmoniously merging visual, installation-based, and performing arts with music and new media, they create captivating immersive performances and striking stage designs while dissolving academic boundaries between artistic genres.

Inside the Meta Maze, the work of Nina and Birk bears a very distinct signature that you will surely remember: a glowing network of wandering lights, creating peculiar compositions of sound. The installation named ‘Klang·Netz’ is a dynamic organism with network behaviour – similar to intersections of neural nodes triggering chain reactions of sensations in the human body. The interplay between the sound and light impulses creates unique and intelligent patterns which organically evolve.

While busy furthering their exploration of performance and tech art, Birk and Nina like to reflect on their time with Karmanoia, the Berlin-based creative company that built and designed the Meta Maze: “Karmanoia makes the impossible happen and inspires to think big!”



Nina and Birk performing SpeculativeArtificialIntelligence, 2018

Birk working on SpeculativeArtificialIntelligence

Nina working on ‘Ankunft’, Meta Maze, 2019

Picture 1 © ArtesMobiles.
Picture 2 © Sebastian Brunnlechner.
Picture 3 © LABoral.
Picture 4 © Adrian Grunert.

Esther Valk

”There is a wonderful and mysterious world out there.”


Esther Valk is a designer and visual artist from Eindhoven where she currently lives and works. Since her childhood, she has been in love with working with textile. Wool and natural fibres are her favourite material, which she enjoys turning into felt. Created partly in her studio, partly on-site, Esther has contributed large felt sculptures to the Meta Maze.

After having graduated at the Eindhoven Fashion and Industrial Design Academy, she discovered the technique of how woolen fibres could be turned into felt. Thus, her passion for a very special handcraft was born. In the process of wet felting, wool is compressed with hot water under manual pressure. This creates a very sturdy and flexible material. Felting is physically hard work, but the results are always rewarding. It combines design, painting and sculpturing, as it smoothly merges colours into three dimensional objects that can be used for a wide range of purposes.

“Working in the Meta Maze was a great experience because it was so powerful to work with the dynamic artists of Karmanoia. Through lots of fantastic ideas and energy, the project was constantly growing and developing!”

Nature itself is Esther’s biggest source of inspiration. For her feltwork, she observes plants, their shapes, their flowers and seeds – or even pictures from outer space. Using her craft and knowledge, she put together several large felt sculptures in the Meta Maze which form the central elements of the ‘Cocoon’, a space that feels very organic, nest-like and transformational. The wool was partly coloured with flowers she picked.



Recent work: ‘The Dream of the Astronomer’, 2019

Previous work: ‘Seed’, 2016

Making felt for the ‘Cocoon’, Meta Maze, 2019

Picture 1 © Esther Valk.
Picture 2 © Esther Valk.
Picture 3 © Esther Valk.
Picture 4 © Esther Valk.

Gijs Leijdekkers

“I like to witness how very simple things can create very complex results.”


Gijs Leijdekkers is a true interdisciplinary artist. Born in Nispen, close to Tilburg, and currently based in Den Haag, he has educated himself in a wide range of disciplines including film, animation, digital painting, design, music, electronics, and programming. He weaves together his skills in his own projects and in his work as an exhibition designer for museums. In the Meta Maze, Gijs created a cinematic installation featuring the illusion of living creatures.

His career as an experience designer began when he started building haunted houses, waterslides and a rollercoaster in the backyard of his family home. Now he professionally works in analog and digital installations, such as a gigantic float for Zundert’s internationally renowned flower parade, and large-scale projection mapping for Tinker Imagineers at the Tirpitz Museum in Denmark. His work with Karmanoia fit very well into his own artistic vision:

“My personal work is experiential art that does not fit easily in the art scene. Collaborating with Karmanoia in the Meta Maze was a unique opportunity for me as all the artworks together form one immersive world. It was a beautiful and very inspiring process to collectively share infinite creative energy with such a large visionary international group!”

In the Meta Maze, Gijs created an installation that merges sculptural and digital art. A forest invites the visitor to take a rest while being visited by a swarm of fireflies. In addition to the concept and set design, Gijs also composed the music, arranged the electronics, and programmed the interactive real-time software, creating a very special experience.

Watch the making-of video here.



‘Monsters’, Zundert flower parade, 2013

Working on the projections for ‘Fireflies’, Meta Maze, 2019

Experience Design for Tirpitz Museum, Denmark

Picture 1  © Adrian Grunert.
Picture 2 © Gijs Leijdekkers.
Picture 3 © Gijs Leijdekkers.
Picture 4 © Tinker Imagineers, Foto by Mike Bink

Guust Persoon

“I’m inspired by reality itself, by being alive and trying to figure out my relation to the place in the world around me.”


Guust Persoon is a sculptor, painter and plastic artist, born in Eindhoven in 1991, who has exhibited his own as well as carried out commissioned work all over the Netherlands. During his collaboration with Karmanoia on the Meta Maze, he has created two sophisticated wooden sculptures and their settings, putting hands on construction work, light design and optical effects himself.

Inspired by Zen Buddhism and Taoism, both artworks playfully focus on the duality that is immanent to all things – an idea embodied in his artistic work by means of light and shadow, reflection and absorption, presence and absence.

“Working with Karmanoia, to me the most fascinating was changing the perspective on my artistic work. Before, I used to make paintings or sculptures for an exhibition where people would come, look at the paintings on the wall, have a drink and carry on. This time, I could design a whole environment around my work to enhance the experience and impact of the artwork. Ever since I haven’t done any regular exhibitions. In fact, my work experience at the Meta Maze is what inspired me to pursue a new career as a ‘shaper’, a sculptor who makes theme world decors.”

Both sculptures, the ‘Shadow door’ and the ‘Black dome’ can be experienced when inside the Meta Maze. One of the most outstanding motives of Karmanoia’s t-shirts in Doloris’ gift shop was also designed by Guust Persoon.



Previous work: ‘Verlate lente’, 2019

Working on ‘Shadow Door’, Meta Maze, 2019

Previous work: ‘Uit Ander Hout Gesneden’, 2015

Picture 1  © Adrian Grunert.
Picture 2 © Guust Persoon.
Picture 3 © Guust Persoon.
Picture 4 © Guust Persoon.

Heidi Jonsson

“I am drawn to the inexplicable, the unusual and the ridiculous.”


Heidi was born into a big family in Vermont, USA, where art was appreciated but not necessarily encouraged as a career.  It was a long, circuitous route with many different paths and studies before she realized that the most consistent and unshakable desire in her life was to make art and music. Heidi has been working together with Tim Henrik Schneider and Karmanoia since 2004, where her work has included concocting ideas, painting, acting, designing, dancing, prop-making, body painting, makeup, singing and more. In the Meta Maze, she was part of the entire process, from the conceptualization to the manifestation.

Heidi’s favoured media are the pencil, the brush and the voice. She became a painter at the age of 3 when left alone with a very white kitchen wall and a fridge full of colorful things. The canvas expanded over time to many other walls, clothing, shoes, furniture, bicycles and body parts. Her voice she discovered while in stairwells, churches, forests and bathtubs, finding her first most appreciative audience in the pregnant cows grazing behind her house.

“My teachers have been the many humans, nonhumans, plants, beasts, rogues, pieces of lonely furniture and magicians who have crossed my path. Resonating with other people (or animals, or objects) emotionally is very important to me.”

In the Meta Maze, the impact of Heidi’s work is omnipresent. Paintings, decoration and surface design, sculpturing and sound all bear her handwriting. She now lives and works in the countryside outside of Berlin, where she is active in different musical groups and currently working on felting female reproductive organs.


Working on a painting for the Meta Maze, 2019

Performing with the band ‘Salty Matches’, Müncheberg, 2017

Working on ‘Morphowurz’, Meta Maze, 2019

Picture 1  © Karmanoia, Photo: Clear Photography.
Picture 2 © Tim Schneider.
Picture 3 © Michel Links.
Picture 4 © Adrian Grunert.

Merlijn van de Sande

“Handmade aesthetics and narratives are the basis for my work.”


Merlijn van de Sande is a Dutch set designer and artist who lives and works in Amsterdam. In her work, she is constantly drawn by the force of creating a new, handcrafted, ethereal world. The creation of such imaginary worlds evokes the illusion of an existing ‘real’ world – a concept that Merlijn and Karmanoia share at heart.

But what is ‘real’? Everyone creates their own perception of reality based on the experiences and expectations they have. Merlijn likes to play with this question, when she deceives our eyes by creating three-dimensional compositions of natural or industrial objects and everyday materials, infusing them with new meaning by changing proportions, color or perspective. In her artwork, the spaces are not literal representations of existing places, but rather combinations of unlikely but truly possible landscapes and architecture.

The surreal miniature city that Merlijn has created for the Meta Maze was designed based on a narrative developed in close exchange with Karmanoia artist Robert Buschbacher. Thus, a collective work of art was created in which the room, designed and built by Robert, and Merlijn’s intricate and detail-minded miniature at the center of this space, establish an organic connection and are encapsuled by the same narrative feel.

From planning through design, production and decoration, the Meta Maze was a huge collaborative process. Merlijn was glad to be woven into this collective act: “I’m used to work alone in my studio, but this time I really enjoyed working with other artists. By developing ideas and working together you learn a lot of new perspectives and techniques.”



Previous work: Diorama ‘Mist’, 2018

Working on ‘Kleine Welt’, Meta Maze, 2019

‘Kleine Welt’, Meta Maze, 2019

Picture 1 © Merlijn van de Sande.
Picture 2 © Merlijn van de Sande.
Picture 3 © Doloris.
Picture 4 © Merlijn van de Sande.

Natalie Tekampe

“Sculpture is for me a language without words, similar to the one I share with animals.”


Natalie Tekampe is a studied sculptor and visual artist who draws her inspiration mainly from the rich qualities of nature itself. Born and based in Bavaria, Germany, she dedicates herself both to free projects and commissioned artwork such as designing sets or even coins for state-run mints. Natalie doesn’t see her medium as something to dominate or conquer, but prefers to engage in a dialogue with her materials.

Much of Natalie’s sculptural work explores the limits of categorical thinking, such as the line between man and woman, or between animal and human. Her work dissolves these boundaries, communicating respect for nature and all its creatures and encouraging a return to our inherent instincts.

This was a good fit for Karmanoia’s artistic vision. As a savvy craftswoman and inspiring personality, Natalie was the top pick to contribute sculptural elements to the Meta Maze. Her readiness to experiment with new techniques along with her extensive experience with varied materials such as concrete, clay, plaster, and wood helped the installation take on its very own shape and atmosphere.

Joining a large team of painters, musicians, designers, builders, and architects to work on something bigger than themselves, Natalie found in the Meta Maze what she deemed the ideal place of artistic collaboration. “It was all about the big picture – not about leaving one’s own fingerprint,” she recalls. “All these people’s work became one coherent ensemble.”

At all times could one find Natalie casting faces, carving surfaces, and painting textures, a permanent smile on her face. During your visit to the Meta Maze, you will find her artistic signature in most of the plasterwork along walls, portals, and throughout several sculpted elements.

“Under Karmanoia’s artistic direction we were given clear ideas as a guideline, but the Meta Maze project always left us enough leeway to come up with our own solutions. I am so grateful for the courage of this immense project and for all our collaboration!”


Detail of ‘Hermaphrodit’, plaster, branches, 2017

Working on sculpture details, Meta Maze, 2019

‘Maria’, portrait, plaster and pigments, 2009

Picture 1 © Adrian Grunert.
Picture 2 © Michel Links.
Picture 3 © Adrian Grunert.
Picture 4 © Michel Links.

Raquel Rodriguez

”It has always been clear to me that I need to keep my hands at work.“


One of the artworks in the Meta Maze that you only might discover with a closer look originates from the artful hands of Raquel Rodriguez. Fascinated with crafts and architecture, the Spanish-born artisan studied plastic arts and design with a specialization in ceramics. Today, she lives in Den Haag where she mainly works with her favourite material: Plaster. After a lot of research in ancient and modern plasterwork techniques, she created her very own style, applying it in private home interiors and artistic projects.

Raquel’s visual language oftentimes recites textiles such as oriental carpets or African mud dyed clothes. Architectural ornaments like Alhambra mosaics also have a strong inspirational impact on her work as well as the language of ancient symbols. Raquel explains: “In touch with raw materials, I am participating in its transformation.”

While the rest of the Meta Maze was taking its final shape, one place was left to the hands of Raquel. Here, one could witness the alchemical transformation of limestone after calcination turn into a sticky colourful paste that she applied to the wall. With fascinating accuracy, Raquel then carved out an image of the dried surface, following an original design of Karmanoia artist Heidi Jonsson.

The technique Raquel uses is called sgraffito, a technique very similar to fresco, but instead of painting the image it is carved out of the surface – popular in Renaissance and modernist architecture. Raquel’s handcraft is another unique input for the holistic artwork of the Meta Maze. She remembers: “It was a delight to be part of such a complex project and highly creative and inspiring team that I experienced as a source of joyful and inspiring companionship.”



Working on a large oriental sgraffito, interior design, 2015

Previous work: ornamental sgraffito, 2010

Working on the sgraffito wall in the Meta Maze, 2019

Picture 1  © Mark van Laere.
Picture 2 © Raquel Rodriguez.
Picture 3 © Raquel Rodriguez.
Picture 4 © Adrian Grunert.

Robert Buschbacher

”I am fascinated by the fact that people used to devote themselves to huge building projects such as cathedrals, knowing they would never see it finished in their lifetime.”


Robert Buschbacher is a puppeteer and material researcher. By building puppets, masks and mechanical objects, he creates out-of-the-ordinary characters for stage and other theatrical contexts. Having worked for many years with handicapped people, Robert developed a special interest for simple but effectful visual communication. In the Meta Maze, too, he set out to explore the possibilities of conveying meaning across high communication barriers. As a long-time member of Karmanoia, he not only implemented his own artwork into the maze, but also helped to ensure that the concept and dramaturgy of the installation were coherent.

Robert studied puppetry at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart, performs on stage regularly, and today explores the more peripheral areas of classic puppetry. He draws inspiration from old and broken objects and loves to work with unconventional material from natural sources, such as skin, wool or dough. For instance, his solo performance “Timestrudel” deals with dementia and the fugacity of life, brilliantly depicted by the help of a single chunk of cake dough. Or, when touring with the performance crew “Maraña”, he dances in fluorescent wool-knit costumes.

Having followed his calling to work with Karmanoia on the Meta Maze, Robert created the “Oktoboot”, a bubble-like space that feels both cosy and alienating as the walls consist of untanned hide – a material that he salvaged from abandoned leather factories in the region.



Building the ‘Oktoboot’, Meta Maze, 2019

Performing in ‘Macbeth’, Theater der Stadt Aalen, 2017

Working in the Meta Maze, 2019

Picture 1  © Bärbel Bosch.
Picture 2 © Robert Buschbacher.
Picture 3 © Peter Schlipf.
Picture 4 © Robert Buschbacher.

And many more artists..

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