20-05-2006 - 10-09-2006
When the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC) in Bucharest last year invited the Netherlands Media Art Institute/Montevideo (NIMk) to prepare an exhibition on one of the four floors of the Museum, this did not come as a surprise. As a member of the international board of the MNAC, on October 29, 2004, I had been present at the opening of the largest museum for contemporary art in Central Europe. The construction of the museum had not only required tremendous financial and political effort, but was particularly a clear statement that art and culture would play an important role in the democratic and economic development of Romania. The links between NIM and the MNAC in Romania however went still further back, having began with an invitation from Irina Cios, director of the International Center for Contemporary Art, to participate in a conference in Bucharest in 2001. That was my first acquaintance with Romania and Bucharest.
Since then the city has captured my heart, even though within the fifteen minutes of my first walk from my apartment to a restaurant I was stopped by a man posing as a police agent, had my money and passport ‘checked’, and 1.5 million lei disappeared into his pocket without my being aware of it. During the dinner I heard from Irina that my magnificent apartment, with sleeping accommodations for four and a sunken sitting area for eight, had been the former apartment of one of Ceau%u015Fescu’s sons. Within two hours I had become acquainted with both the reference points for life in Bucharest: daily and historical realities. Yet Bucharest stole my heart because I met people and made friends – students, professors, artists, curators, thinkers and doers – who were seeking to bridge the gap between past and present, between hope and despondency, between honesty and corruption, between the old power structures and democracy.
The MNAC is nestled into the Palace of Parliament, the former palace of Ceau%u015Fescu where the Parliament and representatives of the Romanian people have their seat. Thus the parliament and the museum implement democracy, contemporary architecture and art in a building that, for many Romanians, is tainted and reminds them of their past. Thirty-five thousand people were evicted from their homes to make room for the megalomaniac project of a mad dictator, to build a palace – a palace that is the second largest administrative building in the world (only the Pentagon being larger).
Contemporary art means little or nothing to many people in Romania, because for a long time it was never to be seen, or spoke to people only in the form of socialist realism and state propaganda. Contemporary art reflects the times, the society, economy and politics from which it arises. Seeing that the present times are so complicated, uncertain and fast changing, contemporary art will show images that reflect these developments. I don’t doubt that the art of our day can be – or is – complex . With anything that we do not understand immediately, it always helps if others can explain it to us, show us how to navigate in an unfamiliar environment.
The task of museums and art institutions is not only to show, but also to mediate between art and a large and wide-ranging audience. When we were asked to make an exhibition in this complex environment, we selected artists from The Netherlands for whom experience – the here and now – was central. These are mostly artworks that refer to doing, experiencing and learning interactively. The viewer moves from being a detached spectator to being a participant who can himself or herself determine how he or she will engage with the art being shown. Just as a complex life need not be without pleasure, we hope that with this exhibition we can prove that contemporary art can also be a source of pleasure.
Our thanks go out to Annet Dekker (curator),. Barbara de Preter (producer), Ruxandra Balaci (artistic director), Raluca Velisar (curator) and the funders for the exhibition, the Mondriaan Foundation and the Dutch Embassy in Bucharest.
Amsterdam, April 2006
Dutch Installation art
A desire for the extraordinary, which is at the core of any fantastic machine, travels through this exhibition as an undercurrent – and is often transferred to the viewer as an experience for the senses.
Interactivity is a common word in new technology in general and multimedia in particular. It is featured daily in a growing number of pubic discourses, from entertainment and education to marketing and also since the mid 1990s in art. The term interactivity first surfaced around 1960 in the United States in reference to the computer or to be precise to the fact that scientists had managed to interrupt the computer's operations. They called the interruption an interactivity and decided to focus on the partnership of man and machine in further development of the computer.1 Since then interactivity got directly associated with computer systems. Interactive art as we now has not changed its relation to computers. But the background of Interactive Art harks back to participational art where the spectator is taking part in a given project. This could be Happenings (1950s) or the reactive Kinetic Art (1950s) where the public was encouraged to take part in the realization of the artistic project. Partaking was supposed to stimulate the spectators creativity and hence with inspire new ideas. The ideals of the artists were high they wanted to change both the art world and the world at large. But at the time many of these undertakings failed. Artists soon found out that the public was not keen on being engaged and in making the project alive. The better controlled video installations of the 1970s became an acceptable substitute.
The video installations, especially the closed-circuit installations were based on principals that were close to interactive art. The installations consisted of video camera’s, monitors or projections and were based on relations in which the public didn’t need to actively partake. The media used created the work and from the audience a mere perceptive participation was expected. The interest in these controlled environments in which the actions of the public activate the work increased with the development in technology. Due to cheaper and smaller equipment the installations could become less ‘obvious’ and more adventurous. Not all of the works were interactive in itself, most of the installations were very much controlled, but the creative process was interactive. The public stirs the computer which in turn translates the movements in images, sounds or texts, for the public to play/interact with. The spectator becomes a user searching for the (prescribed) paths. Hoping to encounter the new and unexpected while losing oneself in a total immersion.
Surrounded by a three-dimensional space of the work, projects the users body mentally into another, spatial and temporal dimension he experiences in real time. This use of space and architecture is another characteristic of most interactive and installation art.
Due to its connections with play many of these artworks have not been giving the attention they deserve. Mostly seen as simple mirror effects, they were seen as entertainment and not withstanding the high criteria of art. In the exhibition ‘Installation Art, the total immersion’ (working title) the Netherlands Media Art Institute will present a selection of interactive, installation works and single channel works that not only immerse the active spectator but also reflect upon society, discuss the working of interaction and present us with unexpected alternative modes of presentation.
Annet Dekker (curator)
ARTISTS – ARTWORKS
1.Michiel van Bakel - Hovering over Wasteland Panopticum
2.Jasper van den Brink – Video Fly Tunnelvision
3.Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács – Prime Time Paradise
4.Rikkert Brok - Friendly Fire
5.eddie d - A word of welcome Orquesta Revoltillo
6.Jan Peter van der Wenden - Digital Pin Display De Blauwe man
7.Kirsten Geisler - Dream Dream of Beauty 2.2 / Touch Me
8.Bernard Gigounon - Starship
9.Nan Hoover - black and white… Returning to Fuji
10.SERVAAS - Pfft…
11.Andreas Siefert - Dropshadow
12.Bill Spinhoven – It's about time
13.Eric Steensma -The Park
14.Martijn Veldhoen - Dislocations
15.Gerald van der Kaap – White Chill Terminal
Michiel van Bakel
Hovering over Wasteland (1998, 2.30 min.)
Hovering over Wasteland is in fact a smoothly aligned succession of photos, and therefore expands upon the motion-picture principle that has changed very little since the primitive forerunner of film, the thumb book. The still image of the hovering man is the bench mark, and only from the jerky and constantly changing frame can this procedure be deduced. In this way, Van Bakel paints us a picture of a human being as a lost soul surrounded by wasteland. From above, he is looking at a dehumanized world, but is trapped himself within chaotic frames.
Jasper van den Brink
Tunnelvision (2004, 2.24 min.)
In cinematic films, the relationship between camera and viewer is usually more or less one to one: the camera shows what the viewer would be seeing if he were in the place of action. And indeed, the viewer usually imagines a body attached to the camera, a body that behaves exactly like his own. This body can turn its head or bend its knees; it can come forward to take a closer look or step back to get an overview.
Jasper van den Brink takes pleasure in letting this imaginary camera-body perform the impossible. In Tunnel Vision it is floating and tumbling through a road tunnel, holding on to the belly of a turning cement mixer. In this way, using effective camera positions rather than special effects or complex digital tricks, he undermines the one-to-one relationship with the viewer.
Video Fly (2002)
Moving video-projection of an ordinary house-fly. The fly is projected on all walls and ceiling of the space in which the work is presented. A small mirror is triggered to make the fly move around.
Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács
Prime Time Paradise (2004, 11 min.)
Every day, news reports and other TV images pass by in an endless stream that numbs the viewer, who, as if hypnotized, does nothing more than watch and watch: constantly zapping to the next image or channel, in a steady flow; there is no more standing still. Attention is fragmentary; identification and reflection are impossible, there is always something happening, and old and new images crop up time and again in different places: behind a mountain a town is burning; a soldier is aiming his gun; a girl is screaming; a (destroyed) beach lies next to the building where a UN top meeting is taking place.
Broersen and Lukács have compiled a spatial collage out of innumerable television images, like a scale model. It is not the images that move; they are standing stock-still in a media landscape, the global paradise that is accessible to everyone. Through this décor of simulacra, the weightless viewer flies over hills, through windows and doors and caves, through rooms and across deserts, then under water, only to surface again somewhere else and continue the flight. Devoid of the usual context in which they already seemed to have lost their meaning and effect, the images generate new connections. In an eternal 'now', and within the simultaneity of events, the viewer floats through this infernal landscape, in which nothing is fixed, everything is possible and nothing can touch you. And nevertheless, or perhaps precisely because of this, from time to time it gets to you.
Friendly Fire (2002)
For a long time Rikkert Brok is fasinated by light and projection. Like miniature theaters he is building his installations and demonstrates the effects of a magic lantern. The appearance of the equipment, mostly self-made, is as important as the result of the projection.
In this installation he is investigating the possibilities of analogue projection. He is playing with the slow human observation power on which the principles of film are based.The result is a very own style of imagery that is different from conventional applications.
A word of welcome (1997-2006)
As a viewer, you are made to feel heartily welcome by this installation. Each time someone walks across the doormat, the news reader opens his or her eyes and welcomes them. That the second date for the work lies in the future is a deliberate choice. By this eddie d wants to indicate that he is always up with the times. Every time he presents a work he not only adapts it to the environment, but he also takes into account changing techniques and keeps a close eye on developments in broadcast-land.
Orquesta Revoltillo (2001)
Orquesta Revoltillo is a large, spatial, musical composition consisting of rhythmic elements, tonal sound objects, spoken word and an "interactive" piece. Everyday utilities, projected on three large video screens, are the musicians as well as the instruments of an orchestra. In the midst of this composition is a video monitor, on its side, on which a small tree is shown that shakes and rustles in reaction of visitors that move in a specific area of the room. Another element is the projection of a head, that occasionally speaks a few words that are taken from television footage about a list of English words disappearing from American spell-check software. Some of the video-instruments are books, coffeecups, and a ball-point pen. A bicycle-bell is, together with the “Ding” and the "Dong" doorbells, the most important tonal, harmonic element. A third screen shows the still image of a broom. It will not move until it’s action is required within the composition. It is so to speak, a percussion instrument that, at some point, plays a duel with the brush on one of the other screens. For the musical composition the work of Mauricio Kagel was an import inspiration and source of motifs. The work starts to play when the visitor enters the room and lasts for a few minutes.
Jan Peter van der Wenden
Digital Pin Display (2003)
For a long time, Jan Peter van der Wenden has been fascinated by the so-called Pin Art unit, also known as the Pinpression. This device has the ability to store 3D images by manually shifting small pins mounted on a surface. You can store your beloved's face or hand in the device and put it on a bookshelf or mantelpiece. However, the device has one major disadvantage; when you want to display another image, the previous image gets lost forever. This notion of pins representing shapes and forms lead to the idea of building an automated device, the Digital Pin Display, which could display stored images by shifting pins. Images can be stored in a databank and can be displayed at any desired moment. The Digital Pin Display transforms 2D images into 3D.
Blauwe man (1999)
In his installation The Blue Man, Jan Peter van der Wenden shows how a moving image, a permanent loop, can be created without the use of video or film. He creates his movement by assembled pieces of animation material that he affixes to round tubes that are then rotated. The only thing from which the blue man takes his personality are the colour and his walk.
Dream Dream of Beauty 2.2
Touch Me (1999)
In 1996 Kirsten Geisler (G/NL) began developing a digital beauty, and since then has continually further perfected her virtual 'Beauties.' The portrait and movements were constructed in 3-D polygonal animation. Geisler shows the way in which ideal of beauty appears to us nowadays. The wish to achieve perfect beauty is still not fulfilled.
When the visitor touches the screen, he also touches the face of the woman and she changes her expression immediately. Depending on which part of the face is touched, she may start weeping, laughing, looking serious, sad or cheerful. Touching her lips induces her to blow a kiss. Through touch, the observer is able to make contact with the virtual beauty.
In the upper half of the image, the force of gravity can be seen to weigh downwards, but in the bottom half it is the other way around. On the dividing line the opposite forces meet and neutralize each other, creating a situation of weightlessness. On this line, viewers will encounter a magical perception of the image, when their rational knowledge of 'what the eye can see' is at the same time confronted with its antipode.
Starship alludes to the pictorial translation of weightless architecture that has been imprinted on our perception by science fiction. The objects are of unearthly perfection and suggest a vulnerable kind of inviolability. Details accumulate into a whole which shows that nothing has been overlooked, and which, majestically as the tall ships of old, glides along in the unruffled space. Simple image interventions (reflection and slow-motion) and an all-encompassing soundtrack of heavy, theatrical orchestra music complete the effect. You become aware that all you need to do to free yourself from earthly matters is looking at things 'with different eyes'.
black and white… (2001)
black and white… is a new version of a closed circuit installation. 4 monitors are in the space, 1 monitor is outside the space observing the inside space, 1 camera observes the whole space, 2 cameras observe the public moving their feet through the light beams on the floor, the switcher moves the live image from one monitor to the other every 30 seconds.
Returning to Fuji (1984, 9.00 min.)
Perception is a constantly recurring theme in the work of Nan Hoover. Her video works explore in a meditative and concentrated fashion the various ways in which reality occurs and can be seen. In Returning To Fuji, Hoover turns her attentions to Mount Fuji in Japan where it is viewed as being the spiritual symbol of the coexistence of Man and nature. The tape consists of one single image of Fuji and is accompanied by the sound of the wind. The mountain is in a constant state of metamorphosis because of the changing weather conditions and the varying camera angles. Without revealing its secret, Fuji is continually changing its appearance: from harmonious and 'beautiful' to threatening and bleak. The landscape's solidity is rendered abstract so giving free rein to the imagination. And here, along with the physical, psychological factors also influence what one observes.
Pfft… 1982 (01'30 min.)
The installation Pfft... is an example of SERVAAS's first experiments with video in combination with electronic techniques. On a high pedestal stands an old-fashioned television set. A small, white, fluffy feather has been mounted in the middle, in front of the screen. The image shows a blowing mouth with clearly audible breath, which passes through the glass of the screen to make the feather move. Although this installation is already several years old, the magic effects of the medium have lost none of their power.
In his interactive installation "dropshadow" Andreas Siefert (Germany, 1976) takes as a theme the dimension of the shadow. Entering a room, a person's shadow is being frozen and remains as an image on the wall. The real silhouette is moving with the person, the captured silhouette however remains fixed. After a short while the latter starts to change in unpredictable ways and is being superimposed by the shadows of other visitors. Storing the outlines of a human being, materialised as digital traces, can be considered a means of surveillance technology. The shadow is part of a person, however it is not part of a person's body. It is neither tangible nor material, and does not have a surface, colour or volume. Nevertheless it is inevitably bound to the human being. With "dropshadow" a shadow is being detached from the person and shifted into a realm beyond reality.
It's about Time (1988-2002)
Whereas the flat screen normally presents us with the projection of a three-dimensional body, It's about time shows us the projection of a body with four dimensions. Due to this, the body can be observed at different times simultaneously and due to this it can spread out in space in this way. The live-aspect of the installation is not only important because movement and distortion are thus related directly to each other, but also because the passing of time is only visible when there are 'signs of life', when a viewer ventures to come near this machine. The installation is a kind of vitality defector, separating the animate from the inanimate, the alive from the dead.
The Meeting (2003)
Eric Steensma sets photographic images in motion and liberates them from the medium that carried them, so that they become a part of the environment. This creates a third dimension. The images are literally projected into the existing world, so that reality itself is called into doubt: what is really real, and what am I really seeing? Because of the absence of a clearly visible narrative with a beginning or end, the viewer continues to look with fascination at the created mini-reality in the real environment, each time asking again what is actually happening.
The installation Dislocations consists of a large screen onto which video images are projected: city and rural panoramas that are completely devoid of any human presence. The images succeed each other in a slowly rotating longshot in which separate panoramas link up to form a seamless, gigantic super-panorama. But the moment that the observer - drawn inexorably towards the spotlighted white cross - steps under a movement- detector, the tranquillity of the panorama is rudely disturbed. A salvo of rapidly alternating fragments moving across the serene and silent panorama ensures that the empty streets and desolate rural landscapes are suddenly populated with people, animals, cars and planes. Everything in Dislocations rotates - almost literally - around the observer. In two encircling movements, comparable with the manner in which the earth rotates on itself and around the sun, the projected images turn the observer into a pivotal-axis.
Gerald van der Kaap
Chill cave (1992)
The power of the Image is more in evidence than ever: we're being bombarded on all sides by a profusion of images, and a consequent confusion of the senses. It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between representations and reality. Technological images: synthetic images, virtual images. Chill Cave, which is based on this image-ecstasy concept, is the brainchild of Gerald van der Kaap, with the 'hardware' designed by Peter Giele. Lying in a Chill Terminal, a metal cylinder, lined on the inside with mirrors, descends above your head. On the end of which is a monitor screening an avalanche of psychedelic images teeming with techno-effects, and snatches of sentences quoted out of context and single English and Japanese words. All this accompanied by the music of Leo Anemaet. In de Chill Cave your brains are directly injected with an image-overdose. No rest, no reflection: the transcendence that van der Kaap s(t)imulates, does not rely on meditation and stillness, but on an 'overkill', on rising above and overcoming the onslaught of images fired at you from 'out there'.