Without doing any research I went to Dordrecht to see Huis van Gijn. I expected a very old museum with old paintings of old people.
When I got there I was surprised to see a beautiful house that had turned itself into a museum.
A museum full of different objects, some collected, others part of the original inventory.
We (as in the group of five artists) first looked around after a quick talk in the garden. While walking around and looking at the exhibition and the way of exhibiting, I started to look more closely into the more unnoticed things. For instance the sensors for the lights, sound and alarm.
It felt weird to investigate the space. My state of being as a spectating visitor ended after I had seen the whole exhibition. Normally you would leave after that. It felt like I was doing something wrong.
We returned to the garden for drinks. Everybody talked about the experiences and what we could do as a group. My ideas were not ready. I erased everything I had in mind. There were only questions regarding what could be a good performance in a space that has so many rules. And what the minimum of a performance would be. The decision of being there for a long time with five Artists was maybe enough.
In one of the performances we occupied different spaces with the little stools from the museum. Something happened that we did not plan. By sitting in the space without any focus on the work present we ignored the function of each room. We were just there. Sometimes we met because we switched from room to room. When three of us met in the room full of dollhouses it felt like we changed the space a little. We added a function with our quiet gathering.
Our stay became more and more an invasion during the day. The guards were getting confused (we were already using their first names when we talked with them). And visitors started to ask questions or left the rooms very quickly when we were there. It was nice to use the museum. It has a perfect setup.
Meeting the employees Starting my expedition, I first noticed the modern additions in the museum. Chicken wire, fire extinguishers, air humidifiers, plastic food, etc. I asked one of the guards about the humidifier and he told me why this machine was there. This was my first encounter with the employees.
Walking aroung in the house, I noticed every floor had a differend guard. Gijs and I met another guard on the first floor, she told us about her experiences with the ‘haunting house’ and the fact that her colleagues didn’t believe her. I got interested in the staff and during our lunch meeting, we decided to get to know them and gain some more information. Every aspect in the Huis Van Gijn is collected and disclosed. The family Van Gijn, the housekeepers, the carpets, the collection of books, vessels and ceramics, the dinnerparty’s. So why isn’t anything about the current situation visible?
Not everybody felt that comfortable with the perspective of chit-chatting, but Gijs, Karina and I were enthusiastic en eager for acquaintance. Not on a stalking / bigdata kind of way, but we started conversations in a sincere manner. Just to chat a bit. We gathered the information we got about Bahar, Jacqueline, Kees (all guards) and Charlies (from the coffeebar) on the chalkboard in the childern’s corner.
A few visitors came to take a closer look to our activities. We involved them in designing the board and included their names and hobby’s in it. The young girls started to draw and we had a fun conversation.
After this, we concluded the drawing with a notion that this all is part of The Parallel Show. When we left, with the inevitable chatter with the staff, we noticed our visit din’t stay unnoticed.
Nice to meet you!
Let yourself be amused One of the most striking sentences I came across was about mrs. Van Gijn in one of the movies about the family’s life. At a party, she had nothing more to do than talk about literature, travelling, art and ‘to let others amuse her’. This statement suggested a passive attitude, and I see certain similarities with visiting a museum as a tourist. It’s a place for pastime, where you’re searching for something to amuse you.
By chance I carried a book from Michel Houellebecq, which I had lent from Gijs and wanted to give back. The title is ‘Atomised’, a so-called nihilistic classic, suitable for intellectual conversations about literature. I proposed to read this out to eachother in the childern’s corner. We also used this book as a startingpoint for the conversation in the ballroom.
This work consisted of five adults sitting at a childern’s size table and bench, listening to the first two chapters of Atomised. It turned out that this book, complicated and very intellectual, is not very suitable for reading out loud. Allthough some sentences and parts of the story were amusing, it was difficult to follow the storyline and the keep paying attention. In this place, intented for pleasure, arose boredom and confusion.
While we were drinking coffee on the terrace in front of the Delphi museum I saw the first tourist entering from a staircase underneath. He looked like an actor stepping on stage. Immediately I had an association with ancient theatre plays. Instead of priests and philosophers occupying the space in ancient times, we have tourists who are animating the spot nowadays .
Then Frans van Lent, initiator/organiser of the Parallel Show, explained the project, and we started for the entrance of the sanctuary.
After the first curve in the path towards the remaining ruins I noticed a group of tourists meeting around a tree. The tree was in de shade and so were the tourists. Continuing for the Apollo temple I realised that all tourist-groups were stepping out of the burning sun and in the shade when a guide was explaining. I realised that stepping into the shade also means that you are stepping into a more comfortable space. Standing in the shade people feel more comfortable, at the same time they are taking distance from the site they are visiting. They are reflecting on the things they have been seeing on stage, in the sun.
As a visitor of the sanctuary you are constantly changing your perspective. From ancient times to modern times and vice versa. But also from being part of a group and a visitor to your own individuality and personal need, the shade.
After a lunch in the village we discussed our experiences and each suggested the group a performing work. I wanted to do something with the site, the tourist and we as a group of artists. I liked the idea of making a walk to the Apollo temple with the five of us and stopping under four or five trees we would pass by. We had to stand next to each other in the shade, facing the antiquities. When tourists meet under a tree they are not standing in a tight position but they are spread all over the place.
The first spot where we were standing was located directly opposite the entrance. So we were looking at the tourists entering the site. On the second spot we stood quite a while and tourists started to notice that we were standing in a strange position. At that moment I realised that I was not only the creator of the concept but also the director of the implementation. I had to give the signal to stop the performance.
After the third standing I noticed that doing such a thing makes you part of the surroundings but it also makes you reflect on a higher level. You reflect and act on the place and on the meaning of it but it also gives you ideas about the way people nowadays appropriate a holy spot to give their own life sense.
I visited the Sanctuary of Apollo before. Today, compared to my last visit twenty years ago, the site is in its organisation far more adapted to the growing number of visiting tourists.
More fencing, more concrete, more signs. And also more supervision.
Until early afternoon the site was very crowded, many groups were moving around.
It was difficult to cut oneself off from this, so I used it as a point of departure.
Group Lift The work started at the entrance of the site. I waited for the first organised group to pass me.
I joined this group in their way up, became part of it. When the group stopped for an explanation from the guide, I stopped too. When I noticed somebody of this group making a photo I went to that same spot and took the same shot.
Copied tourists photo-positions
When another group passed the first group, I stepped over and joined that group to it’s next stop.
Again, as soon as I noticed somebody making a photo I made a photo from the same spot.
This process continued till I reached the highest part of the site, the Stadium.
The work started smoothly but slowed down on the way up. The groups became smaller (and younger) because the climbing was tiring. The last group up to the Stadium consisted of just three Italians climbing together. The organised groups already stopped at a lower level.
When I reached the Stadium the work ended.
Later, when it was less crowded, I was able to focus more on the physical aspects of the site itself.
Map of Storage I made a series of photo’s of parts of the terrain without a presentation structure, parts where stones are nothing more than remains, leftovers. The site is, next to a historic spiritual center, also a storage of architectural objects that lost their initial purpose. What was once given to Apollo was never to leave his Sanctuary again.
For 5 years an image of the Tholos temple has been on my wall. I have marked a visual extension to it, by adding a picture of CCCP athletes exercising. When invited to participate in TheParallelShow, this image turned into a plan to be realized, along with encountering the sacred Omphalos stone and the Iniohos (Charioteer) up close.
On the site I had brought some props, that could be used if an opportunity occurred.
I did 3 actions using props and an intervention of gardening. Then, I followed the pre-existing plan, transforming the images on my wall into experienced events.
I. 3 actions using props in the name of Apollo, noted as instructions.
1. Tribute to the god of Light, Phoebus Concentrate the Delphic light through a magnifying lens on the temperature-sensitive ticket of entrance to the Apollo’s temple, until shapes begin to appear. Stop immediately when the excitement of success is overcome, and you realize that you could be in control of the light and the shapes.
(Photo by Maarten / free entrance ticket found by Maarten)
2. Tribute to the god of Locusts, Panorpius Using a glass jar, capture a grasshopper (locust) in the archaelogical site. Focus on its structure, compare it with other structures attributed to Apollo, release.
3.Tribute to the god of Marble, Marmarinos Find a perfect fit for a contemporary marble object in one of the marble ruins. Does the contact between contemporary marble and ancient marble evoke thoughts of the sublime? Marble is in either case a material with eternal lifespan. Take a digital (immaterial) picture underlining the triviality of your own lifespan.
II. Gardening: an intervention One of TheParallelShow’s basic instructions was that the performance should not leave any traces behind. At archaeological sites it is usually forbidden to remove anything from the site as a souvenir. Because succulent plants have the ability to be successfully replanted even without their roots, I removed 2 different kinds of succulent plants from the Apollo’s temple site and replanted them at the Athena Pronaia site, keeping a piece of each kind for my personal succulent collection.
Replanted at the Athena Pronaia site and replanted at my succulent garden.
III. Following the pre-existing plan
1.Encountering the Tholos at the Athena Pronaia site Done.
2. CCCP athletes, exercises Exercise 1: planking with one leg lifted (tripod plank). Picture is taken by Jello, using a faceted lens to simulate the multiplicity of the athletes, asin the original image. Exercise 2: the airplane Visiting the museum after performing this exercise, the same posture was found on the mermaid figures that served as decorative handles for the Oracles tripod.
3. Encountering the sacred Omphalus stone, which marked the center of the world. At this point, I was already tired. When in the Omphalos stone room, I forgot to bend ove the repositioned center of the world.
4.Encountering the Charioteer(INIOHOS): A fly flew around the Charioteer room, and sat on his foot leading my focus there. These feetof exquisite craftsmanship, were not to be seen in the original sculpture composition,as they would be hidden behind the chariot. The fly gave me the terrible impressionthat the Charioteer had smelly feet. The brief illusion of bodily odor, once againconfirmed the Charioteer’s vibrant mystique.
Ending the day, I ate the “Iniohos burger” (μπιφτέκι Ηνίοχος) at the “INIOHOS Hotel Restaurant”.
Preparations for performative works In Delphi, I found myself lost in both the now-moment and in history. Exploring the site, I decided to wander around while making notes of both my state of mind and of my findings. I also took photographs at random.
Here’s what I wrote during the first hour:
‘I am walking, I look around without concentration. My focus constantly switches on and off. Turmoil in my head. I climb the stairs slower and slower, stop, take my camera and make pictures of plants and flowers.
I hear tourist-guides around me. They chatter in Greek, American, Chinese, Italian.
I pick up lost pieces of paper ( a Wi-Fi number, a lottery paper, a ticket origami, folded). I took a picture of one of these.
I listen to bird sounds while I’m walking.
For some time I follow my shadow, until the stairs lead me in another direction. Cameras are clicking everywhere around me. Now I am at the spot where Zeus threw down a stone to mark the centre of the world.
I feel rushed, groups of tourists are passing. I cannot concentrate. I continue and wait, standing in the shade of a tree. Looking around: stones everywhere, remnants of columns. Excited shouts of tourists who discover signs, braille texts.
It starts to get warm now: 30 ° Celsius and it is only 9:45 in the morning. The slope is in full sunlight.
Why can’t I remember this place the way I experience it now? I was here before, somewhere in The 70’s.
I want to know and not know at the same time.
I decide to stop writing and to take pictures, I want to be in the present.
I am aware that I am walking here to prepare a performative work that I will carry out this afternoon. I would like to postpone this moment of developing an idea.
I start writing again because I am afraid to lose the experiences, the details. I am a lousy researcher. I can’t concentrate. I switch my focus to easily.
I am climbing on. From the theater I look down at the temple of Apollo in the valley. I think about teaching materials for my pupils (age 7-9). A tourist shouts ‘stop!’ to her group, pointing that she wants to make a group photo.
My pencil drops a heavy shadow on the paper. I could make a drawing now but I decide not to.
I have to find my focus.
I continue my climb up to the Stadium. Alexia just comes down with a story about the behaviour of an eccentric female-guard.
I am curious, I get distracted again. At the stadium I meet Frans and Maarten and we talk about possible works. While descending the mountain I do some tests for the afternoon works. I regain my focus. But because of that I lose the scurrying around aimlessly and with that, the feeling that anything is possible. I find back all possibilities in the test with water. Then I get distracted again.’
Action and effects of water While descending the mountain I sometimes stop to pour a bit of water on the ground and watch it transforming in different shapes and disappearing by evaporation. I make several pictures. While focussing on the action and effects, I felt tourist passing without giving any attention. Or were they just polite and let me go on, thinking their own thoughts?
Performing a walk-formation-walk
For this performance I asked the other participants (Frans, Jello, Maarten and Alexa) to join. We started like any group of tourists, walking disorderly following the instructions of the guide. At a signal we gathered and formed a circle with our backs pointed inwards. After a while I called the name of something I noticed at that moment. The others did the same in other languages. We left the circle again, started walking disorderly, and the gathering repeated in different places for 3 times.
After Maartens ‘Line-up in the shade’-performance I felt less at ease. I felt more observed. The sound of saying words loudly makes the act more noticeable. I start choosing more eye catching places to form a circle, like the theatre. The side effects were unexpected: a group of tourists (from Shanghai) asked us to join them for a group selfie while singing out loud together. I do not know whether our performance triggered a sense of community . I guess it is a coincidence.
Map of Storage waiting for research For my 4th performative work I used the concept Map of Storage of Frans van Lent. I took a series of photographs with a filter I borrowed from Alexia Karavela. She brought several different camera-filters. I chose the one with a grid on it. I started to look for a non-object while other visitors of the archaeological site were moving in prescribed directions. As soon as I found an unnoticeable spot, I took several pictures, holding the filter between the non-object and the camera-lens. The results were unpredictable. The filter with the grid directed my choice for taking or not taking a picture. Sometimes sharp, sometimes blurry, sometimes with the background in focus.
On a map I marked the places where I took the photos.
After walking around at Art Rotterdam for about one and a half hour in the Van Nelle Factory I find myself somewhere in the back of the Fair wondering what I am doing there.
A woman is talking on her phone: “Where are you? I can’t find you..” she says. This is a very fundamental comment on what is going on. Everybody seems to be moving between getting lost and being found.
There is a kind of pattern in which people seem to move around at the fair. As if everyone is part of a secret community, moving at a certain pace, bumping into one and other and then getting out of sight again.
This observation became the starting point of my performance proposal
“Let’s meet every now and then”. We agreed upon meeting each other all together every now and then at the tables that were placed in the corridors between the gallery-spaces. And so we did, in between other performances.
This was somehow confusing; it might have worked out in a more powerful way if we would have been more equally focused on the concept.
It was interesting though as a choreographed way of moving separately together, like one breathing body getting lost and being found again.
Looking at a work of art intensely for 15 minutes. Ieke Trinks proposed to watch a work of art for 15 minutes.
I found myself in front of a portrait of a young man, that seemed to be from the 19th century. It was by Jake and Dinos Chapman. The more I watched the more I felt uncomfortable.
There seemed to be some kind of evil hidden in the representation of this young man. I took a picture. My presence remained unnoticed or at least uncommented by the gallerist. I was glad to leave the painting behind.
It is first important to consider the context of both the site and those occupying the site: the professional market-oriented art world.
The overall site had a strong sense of the proprietorial – a context distinct from that of a public museum, or even a commercial gallery. Booths represented temporary fiefdoms and a considerable investment for galleries, so space oscillated uncomfortably between public and private. Make yourself at home, but not too much. Move along if you’re not buying… There is no sense of the ideas of self-improvement or didacticism of the museum. Ideas are discussed, but only as commodities, or exotica, to enhance the allure of the objects. Artists are often treated in the manner of farm animals: useful for their products but better kept securely in a field, remotely. One of the dangers of the site is the instinct to engage in pranks.
The social relations, protocols and signals present at this kind of event are important. Presentation or staging is a major factor in the processes at play and the self-staging of the art world has its own tropes – work is given space to allow it to look proper, but not too much. It’s expensive space, so the balance is crucial and carefully established. Curators/gallerists, dress conservatively, but with a twist, as if to reaffirm or proclaim a subtext, variously: counter-cultural; whacky; super rich; aesthete. If they are male, they wear expensive suits or jackets, but with trainers (expensive). The women wear dresses generally, and accessorise with exotic spectacles, or hairstyles: asymmetric; dyed; gamin. And they all smell expensive.
I wore expensive scent (Tom Ford, Grey Vetiver) as I circulated. It was, perhaps, too subtle.
Prescribed Disruption/Variable Reception (2016)
We undertook a variation on this work – available at: theconceptbank.org – which involves disrupting usual patterns of looking at art. In this case we used audioguides: Ieke and Ienke acted as ‘mules’, carrying the hidden audioguide, circulating the booths. (I had audioguides from the Modernamuseet in Stockholm on my iPhone, the ‘mule’ carried a bluetooth speaker in their bag. If they stopped by a work, I activated an audioguide.) We used guides for works by Lucio Fontana, Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Kosuth. In most cases this improving contextualising was ignored, or treated with mild curiosity. One gallerist engaged in a jovial, but passive aggressive manner, the quicker to be rid of us, it felt.
Looking at a work for 15 minutes. This was very demanding. I chose a small work by Julie Cockburn, a found image augmented by hand embroidery. It was at the rear of a space. As it was glazed it reflected to me what was happening behind me as I looked at the work. I was aware of a kind of low level anxiety amongst the gallery staff (there were two) caused by my presence, and over the period the booth emptied – it had been busy when I entered – perhaps why I chose this – and empty by the end as though my extended presence, a transgression of, or challenge to the accepted protocols of looking at art in a social context, had spooked new viewers. I chose to engage with the gallerists after the 15 minutes, I think to dispel any concerns or instabilities my presence might have generated. Or to legitimate my actions. Always polite…
In addition to the above, I also met someone I knew.
Choose one artwork and spend 15 minutes looking at it. Before all 5 of us start executing this idea, each one points out on the art fair’s map the gallery where one will go to watch an artwork.
My decision was arbitrary. I didn’t know the gallery, and I can’t remember from my earlier visit what kind of art is present there. When I walk into the gallery’s stand I don’t take the time to look around but go straight to the first work hanging on a wall. It’s near the gallerist table. As soon I stand still in front of the work I set the timer for 15 minutes.
I start looking at the artwork. What do I see? It takes a while to get my concentration into the activity of seeing. I’m distracted by the thought that I’m going to stand here for 15 minutes and that I might get noticed. An art fair is not a museum. In a museum one can spend time in front of a work without being noticed too much. Here it is unusual. My presence could be understood to be a provocative gesture. Could I be recognized as an art collector or a curator? If not, what could be my interest in spending such an amount of time this way?
I redirect my focus back on the artwork. Then the doubt comes in. Was this a good choice? Wouldn’t I rather spend time on a different artwork? Will this become a rewarding experience? Is it about having a rewarding experience? What does rewarding here mean? Is it rewarding if I discover something that I wouldn’t have known if instead I had taken a quick look at it?
I tell myself that time is the important factor, no matter what I’m looking at. There is always an opportunity to discover a deeper meaning or something unexpected to discover, as long one takes time for something. I am looking at a canvas hanging in a standing position with blue and pink paint. The blue is the first layer covering the whole canvas. The pink’s arbitrary brushstrokes are the second layer. When I take a closer look the pink strokes are vertical and seem to be carelessly placed. Here and there they overlap one another. I get the impression that the painting doesn’t want to be something other than paint on a canvas. I try to think figurative. I see a sky at sunset and pink clouds. I can’t stay long with this in my imagination. The painting doesn’t want me to make it into something other than a canvas with blue and pink paint.
What do I know of painting in general? Maybe I haven’t enough knowledge to read such a work. It worries me. I go for a different strategy. What do the colors mean to me? The pink reminds me of my early teenage period, where I was allowed to paint my own bedroom. I was warned to use subtle colors. The pink in my room was an ugly color, just like this pink. But the blue in the canvas is worse. Baby blue. I fail in my attempt to appreciate the work. It might be because I don’t know a few things: the title, whether it is part of a series, and who the artist is.
What was the artist’s intention? What if the painting is a detail of something bigger? What if the pink brushstrokes are an imitation of the artist’s studio wall? What if the painting is of a painting in its early moments of creation, when it is first being set up? Maybe I’m going too much into conceptual thinking. Why can’t it be a work that allows for brushstrokes intuitively placed? The painter taking pleasure in the action of painting.
I feel a sudden shock going through my body. For a moment I think I hear the gallerist’s voice addressing me, but it is to someone else. I wouldn’t know what to say to the gallerist but I am curious what she would say about this work. My attention is drawn to my body now. I suddenly think I’m too motionless and start shuffling my feet, change the position of my arms and move my head unnecessarily, as if I am actively browsing the painting. The alarm goes off. I turn around to see if the gallerist looks in my direction. Nothing happens, she talks with someone. Dazed I leave the stand.