01-04-2002door Jaap Vinken / Martine van KampenCould you tell something on the problematic of the perception of media art?
It is still very important to communicate, that of course media art needs a different way of perception than for example a painting or a photography. This has mainly to do with the time based character of media art. A video not offers one, but many images (as well as sound, in a lot of cases), the structure, its form appears within the time and by - permanently - loosing images (which is the very condition of film). Video installations again open up the filmic structure, by the possibilities of non linear narrations, projected on more than one screen…
This means, that the presentation of media art has to refer to this time based, non linear, etc. structures, that the physical presence of the spectator plays a different role, than in front of non-time-based art works.In how far can you be directive as a curator and is there a risk of leading the spectator too much
We think that every exhibition leads the spectator: he never enters a neutral space, an art work never just and only talks through itself. Already the context and function of the institution of each exhibition plays an important role for its perception: is it a museum, which represents 'values' or is it an 'alternative' space, which represents 'low budget' and 'experiment'? (The same art work by the same art student will be regarded totally different, if it is presented at the documenta or at a non-profit artist initiative. And imagine a painting by Rembrand in that non-profit artist initiative…)
The Union-Brewery (where 'Reservate der Sehnsucht' took place) for example is an ambiguous collective symbol for the inhabitants of Dortmund. It stands as well as for the loss of an economic, cultural and social identity as well as - today - for a certain nostalgic relation to the former industrial times. At the same time the building, like many in this region (the 'Ruhrgebiet'), is extremely spectacular. And a lot of these former industrial buildings today are here used for spectacular events. For us it was clear, that we could not fight against the spectacular character of the building - and that a lot of people would come to the exhibition especially for this reason. So it was for us very important to make there an exhibition, which deals with the 'society of the spectacle' - in a highly ambiguous way: to make a 'spectacle' which calls itself permanently into question. We knew, that a lot of people would visit this exhibition, which would not be part of the 'art world' (in fact 40 % of the 18.000 visitors saw with 'Reservate' their first exhibition of contemporary art'). So we had to find ways, how to present an exhibition, which is not easily to consume but which at the same time would not exclude people, who are not trained in the latest discourses of the 'art world'.
A very important thing also is to have in mind, that people should feel invited/included to an exhibition. That means on the one hand, to respect, that an exhibition should request and apply on various and even very different competences of a (in the most cases) divers (and not a one dimensional 'mass') public. On the other hand this means, to create situations, where people feel comfortable - even and especially if - what they experience - might be very uncomfortable. And at the same time it is also important, to give the public the possibility of a certain distance and 'mistrust' concerning what they' will get to see and to experience'. Because every exhibition represents just one of many possible discourses and contexts of art - and many 'blind spots'. For us, the more an exhibition has a kind of 'artificial' and/or contradictory character, the more people can develop closeness as well as distance towards it - and so can built up their own meaning and relation - concerning the exhibition itself but also in regard to every single work.
So far the more theoretical approach. The other question is, how to transfer these curatorial aims into the presentation, the storyboard of an exhibition. Of course one has to think a lot about the audio-visual and 3-dimensional aspects of the exhibition, the 'moving body' of spectators, the more pragmatic needs of every art work concerning its presentation, etc. Video installations, for example, have a specific condition - in a certain way they carry along their own 'houses' or 'container'. They define pretty much their functional conditions by the conditions of the space needed for a correct presentation.
The more, for example, an exhibition (like 'Reservate der Sehnsucht' but also 'Dis.Location', which we curated together with Jan Schuyren) has a strong 'story-board' the more the presentation needs an open and serious exchange with the artists. Because we do not want to present any 'curatorial discourse' on the back of artists.
Other important questions are: how do people enter the exhibition? Do they follow an open or strict 'parcours', how does the exhibition creates an atmosphere, where people are able to take their time.
Since the subject of the exhibition (the structuring qualities of language and architecture) is one that does have political implications, could you say there's a political content in this exhibition
We would say that 'Say Hello to Peace and Tranquillity' rather deals with social and psychological aspects, than with political issues.
Of course language and architecture appear in their function of control. But the works of the exhibition talk more about our very private and ambiguous belongings: like identity, order, security, values,… . Language as well as architecture are tools
to construct our perception of 'reality', to give it forms, perspectives, order, etc. But in fact, these constructions, as we often have to experience, are quite unstable and vulnerable. Works like 'Full House', 'dialogues' or 'Someone, somewhere is doing this' are dealing a lot with our fears, the fear to loose control, stability, our familiar relation to the 'reality', based on language or space/architecture.
Is there a relation to be made between the subject and the form of the exhibition
The presentation of 'Say Hello to Peace and Tranquility' in Amsterdam and Copenhagen will differ very much from each other. In both places, the exhibition will not be shown in a very typical exhibition space, like the classical 'white cube'. Instead, the situation in Amsterdam is shaped by the architecture of a former school, in Copenhagen it is shaped by the architecture of a former church. In both cases the exhibition will in a certain way be implemented like an 'alien', like something strange or artificial in regard to the given situation. Its in itself a construction, a - highly temporarily - 'model world'.
In both cases we will construct somehow articial 'rooms-in-rooms-situation' and this will not be hidden, but be very obvious.
The 'Parcours' at MonteVideo and in Copenhagen will also differ: At MonteVideo the exhibition will be enterd by the work of Mike Marshall, showing a highly aesthetically and at the same time strange and hypnotic situation of a sun set. It respresents at first glance pretty much what everybody would connect to 'Peace and Tranquility', but after a while it turns into the opposite. So this work introduces the exhibition in a very specific way: by the desire and fear to get lost.
In Copenhagen, the visitors at first will see a quite abstract and graphically work by Antoine Schmitt, which talks pretty much about the severity of order - and a certain resistance against it.
To start the exhibition in Copenhagen with this works refers pretty much to the architecture of a church, dominated by rules of harmony, hierarchy and power. The whole presentation in Copenhagen follows the symmetrical idea of a church's architecture. At MonteVideo, where the exhibition will be presented on two floors, its (own) architecture will define a 'new/other/artificial space' in the given situation.Have you thought about the relation between the 'structuring qualities of space' and how a spectator feels 'very well taken care of'
In a certain way it is always very important that the relation between the artworks, the content of the exhibition and the specific conditions of the given space are transparent. That means, that the exhibition manifests a clear position concerning the space: may it be as an 'opposite', an 'alien', like with 'Say Hello' (or Reservate) or may it be in a harmonic or corresponding manner.
The 'care' of the visitor has to do with the presentation, the whole story board - also in that sense, that he finds his own link or 'entrance' or connection to it. That the exhibition opens a lot of questions, aspects, for different ways to regard it. Even if a story board of an exhibition is quite dominant, it still - or it just than - can open up these different 'entrances'.