In search of the unknown artists and works

Van 14-02-2009 t/m 25-04-2009

In Search of the Unknown is situated in a strange place, at an unfamiliar time, in the midst of visions of the future that pursue the present and the nightmare of there being no future at all. In the first exhibition of 2009, at a moment when the financial prospects for the world are most uncertain, the search for the unknown and unimaginable and the friction between past, present and future is central. The science fiction author J.G. Ballard even writes that 'the present has annexed the future'. According to him 'we learn to live thinking that everything happens at the same time.'...

Neïl Beloufa (FR), Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács (NL), Heman Chong (MY), Graham Ellard & Stephen Johnstone (UK), Johannes Heldén (SE), Sebastian Diaz Morales (AR/NL), Ann Lislegaard (NO), r a d i o q ua l i a (NZ), Semiconductor (UK), Mark Aerial Waller (UK) 

List of works:

Neïl Beloufa
Kempinski, 2007

13'58'' min, Collection NIMk

Kempinski is a mystical and animist place. People emerge from the dark, holding fluorescent lamps; they speak about a magical world, about future and alien technologies such as telepathy and telethought. Their testimonies spark confusion and contradiction in this unique blend of fiction (science fiction) and documentary. The scenario of Kempinski, filmed in various towns in Mali, is defined by specific rules: interviewees were asked to imagine the future and speak about it in the present tense. Beloufa confronts us with the common prejudices about progress and regression; advanced technology, as we know it today, appears backward in comparison with what is presented in Kempinski. Moreover, the hopeful, poetic and spiritual fantasies in the film are melodically recorded and edited. Kempinski thus cleverly challenges our exotic expectations and stereotypes about Africa.


Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács
Manifest Destiny, 2009

HD, 17' min.
Made possible by the Netherlands Film Fund and the Rijksakademie.

The definitive version of Manifest Destiny, the work that Broersen and Lukács made during their final year at the Rijksakademie, is presented here. The pair themselves describe the film as 'a trip through an imaginary cosmos'. The context for this cosmos is formed on the one hand by our tinted imaginative powers, and on the other hand by the human urge – our 'Manifest Destiny' – to want to look across boundaries and conquer new territories. For years the fictional scientist in the voice-over – based on interviews with real scientists – has been doing research on alien planets where there may be life. In contrast, the visual narrative tells about a journey within the existing mental framework, namely a trip through outdated visions of the moon and Mars, an imaginary planet, a savage, empty Earth, and finally an observatory, the point of departure for the unknown. Among other places, the images were made on the plateau of Chile's Atacama Desert, where at an altitude of 2500 meters there are extremely sensitive telescopes searching for planets outside our solar system that are similar to the earth, out on the limits of what we can perceive in time and space.


Heman Chong
Kryptonite, 2008

from the series 'Surfacing', Courtesy of the artist and Vitamin Creative Space

Chong is an artist and curator whose practice involves an investigation of the reasons why and methods by which people imagine the future, and how it can be represented by a series of conceptually generated objects, situations and texts. In his series of wall installations entitled 'Surfacing', the artist has opted for a working process by which the work is folded around existing architecture, taking form as the artist affixes stickers to the wall. By repeatedly pasting up stickers, the space is marked by a minimal change. By this Chong responds to the passage of time in that specific place. The wall installation Kryptonite consists of various stickers the shapes of which refer to a drawing of kryptonite from an old comic book. Kryptonite is a mineral which comes from the planet Krypton, origin of the comic strip hero Superman, but also represents his Achilles heel – the weak spot in an otherwise invulnerable hero – since he loses his powers when he comes in the vicinity of a piece of kryptonite.


Heman Chong
Until The End Of The World (Paused), 2009
In this new work, made for the exhibition by Heman Chong, the Wim Wenders science fiction film Until the End of the World being shown is paused when the first visitor of the day enters. The film remains on pause for the rest of the day. This means that each day a different fragment from this science fiction film is to be seen. It is a road movie which, according to Wenders himself, is 'a metaphor for the journey we must all take toward our future'. In Until the End of the World Dr. Farber has developed an apparatus by which images can be sent direct to the brain, so that blind people, including his wife, can see again. That is in sharp contrast to the deteriorating state of the world, where the continued existence of mankind is threatened by a nuclear satellite that is about to fall to earth.


Graham Ellard & Stephen Johnstone
Proposal, for an unmade film (set in the future), 2007

21' min.

Filmed on the island of Lanzarote, Proposal for an unmade film (set in the future) weaves together the extraordinary volcanic landscape of the Timonfoya National Park with the 'retro-futuristic' utopian architecture of the artist César Manrique. The film supposedly originated from the pre-production process for a cheap science fiction film or architecture documentary which was never finished, forgotten, and later found in an archive. It suggests the story of a visitor who attempts to create a paradise on earth in which volcanic bubbles become time capsules, buildings change into spaceships and sculptural mobiles become radio antennas or navigational devices. Among other things, in the film we see a museum and a garden with a mobile designed by the artist Manrique. Through their situation in volcanic formations like craters and caves, these objects produced a visionary, spectacular and dramatic feeling. But today the architectural objects chiefly look disconcertingly nostalgic, like statements about how the future was once imagined. On the other hand, the landscape appears timeless or placeless - literally 'otherworldly'. It was for that reason that the area was used as the location for a film about an alien planet, the science fiction film Enemy Mine by Wolfgang Peterson, 1985.


Johannes Heldén
The Prime Directive, 2006

internet piece (Flash), Originally published by Afsnit

The Prime Directive is an online artist's publication with an infinite number of pages. With the aid of thousands of text fragments animated within a dark, futuristic landscape, the viewer creates the narrative, the linearity. The Prime Directive is comprised of two non-linear landscape levels. With each click of the mouse a new time gap opens up, a new possibility to slip through somewhere, like a text, a variable or a prime number. The Prime Directive is also a sort of machine that generates a context where there is none, within the world that we regard as the real world.


Ann Lislegaard
SCIENCE FICTION_3112 (after 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick), 2007

8'30'' min. loop, Courtesy Galerie Paul Andriesse

It is strange how science fiction often takes place in the future, but always in the course of time ends up belonging to the past. Time always overtakes the writer's or filmmaker's view of the future in a particular year. In the sound installation by Ann Lislegaard, the complete soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is speeded up, folded, stretched out and telescoped to a length of eight-and-a-half minutes. The work is installed in the cellar of the Netherlands Media Art Institute and carries the sounds outside, to the street. Reeled off at different speeds, the past and the future blend with the physical environment of the Keizersgracht. As Lislegaard's soundtrack reverbs off the surrounding buildings, the listener or accidental wanderer walks into sound waves of manipulated time. .


Sebastian Diaz Morales
Oracle, 2007

11' min. , Produced by HERMÈS

Oracle confronts us with a seemingly random succession of images. An immobile man, filmed from the back, stares out to sea. Two goldfish swim in a pond littered with banknotes. A crumpled plastic bag is blown over the street and lands in the gutter. Clouds from explosions form and dissolve again. These images act as signs; like an oracle, they speak about the future as a continuous extension of the present, without judgment or interpretation. 'Now' is revealed to the viewer as a point of tension between the past and the future. Or, as J.G. Ballard says: 'After all, time is no more than a neuropsychologic structure that we inherit, and that like the appendix or corporal hair is no longer need. Our next great evolutionary leap will not be of the physical but mental type. We will learn to live thinking that everything happens at the same time. That is to say 'No Future'.'


r a d i o q u a l i a (Adam Hyde & Honor Harger)
Radio Astronomy, 2004 - 2009

Sound Installation

Radio Astronomy broadcasts radio waves from space on the Internet and inside the gallery. The project is a collaboration between the artists and radio telescopes throughout the world.
Though weight of images associated with space is overwhelming, in popular culture, we have no sense of what space sounds like. Indeed, most people associate space with silence. Yet through the intervention of the technology of radio, we are able to hear radiation from many astronomical sources, including the Sun, planets and distant stars. But despite this, very few people have ever heard space.


Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman & Joe Gerhardt)
Do You Think Science..., 2006

12'15'' min., Collection NIMk

In Do You Think Science... the pair of artists interview a group of space scientists about the unanswerable. In doing so, Semiconductor reveals the researchers hidden motivations for seeking out the most extreme boundaries of human understanding. This attempt to recover the meaning of the question opens up a Pandoras box of philosophical limits that exist within science.


Semiconductor (Ruth Jarman & Joe Gerhardt)
Magnetic Movie, 2007

4'56'' min., Collection NIMk

Semiconductor was given the opportunity to go to the Space Science Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, where the artists collective sought to get more understanding of the phenomenon of magnetism. On video the artists interviewed scientists about magnetic fields in relation to the sun, Earth and Mars, and the techniques that are used to visualise them. Because of the complexity of the research they are undertaking the scientists use metaphors to make the material understandable. Thus they speak in terms of hairy balls on the sun and dancing dots, or about abstract forms or motion. In Magnetic Movie Semiconductor makes this material, which lies outside our visual capacities, more understandable. They have here applied the technology of VLF (very low frequency) sound recordings to bring magnetic fields to life and used photographs as the basis for the animation. The question is whether we are here looking at a series of scientific experiments, the cosmos in motion, a documentary or a fictional world?


Mark Aerial Waller
Superpower – Dakar Chapter, 2004

14' min., Courtesy of the artist and Rodeo, Istanbul

Superpower – Dakar Chapter reminds one of a tv soap opera crossed with a cheap horror film. If you look more closely however you see a sort of science fiction film. Shot in the capital city of Senegal, Dakar, the film unfolds as a complex scientific/fictional story, with its starring roles going to the three stars in the astral belt of Orion, in the human guise of three professors: Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. They are played by two local soap stars and an African artist. As an introduction, you are given the information about the three stars, and about light travel in general. Waller uses this astronomical information to underpin the central idea of the film, that the light we see on earth takes thousands of years to reach us, and in fact throws a light on our past. We follow the professors as they prepare to run interference on an extraterrestrial particle cloud causing temporal disturbances on earth. The characters slip in and out of several time zones, so that fantasy and documentary become almost interchangeable. Mark Aerial Waller rearranges and distorts the traditional logic of film, thereby producing a disjointed, psychological time travel film in which fact and fiction, past, present and future all blur.


Thanks to:
BeamSystems, the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and the National Arts Council of Singapore