@Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands
Apart from the enormous amount of children franticly pushing buttons on interactive installations, the most striking observation in Naturalis, is the adults that are apparently put ‘on hold’. It looks as though they’ve come to a complete standstill, wearing vacant expressions gazing into oblivion.
In their apathy they resemble the stuffed animals from the exhibition. As if they are supposed to portray active and involved parents who are doing fun stuff with their kids just like the puma who seems to be frozen during a jump in mid-air.
The more active specimens follow a predefined routine, their actions and routing dictated by the program. No spontaneity and no unexpected events that are so characteristic in real life. Obediently they point out ‘interesting items’ in the exhibition when they’re supposed to, just like the cardboard Freek Vonk figures.
Our idea for the performance ‘On hold’ was inspired by these immobilised adults. What would happen if we as a group would just come to a standstill, and gaze into nothingness amidst the crowd.
Remarkably, nothing happens. At least not with the rest of the crowd. People just manoeuvre around you, not at all alarmed by your apathetic behaviour.
But what does happen is that the performers sort of ended up in a parallel space, like a vacuum. Because you mimic their behaviour, you are truly ‘on hold’ too. It seems like you’ve stopped, and the world passes you by like a film. But you’re not part of it anymore.
A staircase that goes down to a sliding door.
On the other side the Tomatenfabriek exhibit.
Person A takes a position on the stairs.
A approaches the sliding door.
A stops walking when the sliding door opens and continues after the sliding door has closed.
Person B takes a position on the stairs when person A has moved to the other side of the sliding door.
Both A and B approach the sliding door from opposite sides.
A and B stop walking when the sliding door opens, and continue after the door has closed again.
Person C takes a position on the stairs when B has moved to the other side and A has left.
B and C approach the sliding door from opposite sides.
B and C stop walking when the sliding door opens and continue after the door has closed again.
After C enters the exhibition space B leaves.
For a while C approaches the sliding door from the opposite side, stops when the door opens, and continues after it has closed.
Follow the wall on your right side (Ienke Kastelein)
Walk in the museum.
Stay close to the wall on your right side.
Walk until you are back where you started.
Each time when you approach an automatic door, hold your step until the door is wide open, and then continue walking through the door.
Door Exhibit (ieke Trinks)
Visit the museum’s Door Exhibit.
Choose your own route but focus solely on the doors that you can find in the museum.
You can shoot photo’s of the exhibited doors.
Reflections on performing the three ideas.
Sliding Door was an interactive piece. The sliding door’s detector responds to the performers’ movements. The performer responds to the door’s movement. And two performers on opposite sides of the door also influence one another while activating the sliding door. Frans started the action and I noticed that in addition to walking forward down the staircase he also occasionally moved a few steps back. During my turn I decided after a while that I would go only forward. I was excited to find out that I could come so close to the door despite the many times I to had to hold my step. As I neared the door I could only take one step at a time before it would open. Finally, as I stood directly in front of it, the door would no longer open on its own, and a museum staff member helped me by swinging his arms in front of the detector until it opened. But I was not able to move before it closed again. Then a large group of visitors showed up behind me and I decide to no longer block the entrance. I walk into the exhibition space with them.
While visiting the Door Exhibit I was surprised by the multiplicity and variety of the doors in the museum. There were doors used by visitors, doors used as emergency exits, doors that were part of the exhibition furniture, doors for staff members, hidden doors, toilet doors, elevator doors, closet doors, locker doors, doors with exceptional shapes, locked doors, electronic doors, doors displaying information, and open doors. While photographing some of the doors I attracted the attention of a security guard. Feeling nervous about my activity, the guard asked me what I was doing. I told him that I’m visiting the Door Exhibit. There is no door exhibit he explained. I said that after visiting the Do it exhibit, which was the present exhibition at the museum, I got inspired to write my own instructions and then to perform them. As I explained this to the guard I didn’t consider the sensitivity of the subject of doors to the museum’s staff. In 2012 there was a robbery of 7 paintings, including works by Monet, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso. To get in and out the thieves used the emergency exit. The paintings were never returned. It has been said that the mother of one of the burgulars destroyed them in an oven in Romania. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/stolen-rotterdam-picasso-and-monet-paintings-destroyed-a-911775.html
Performing Follow the wall on your right side produced a similar experience to performing the Door Exhibit. Because it put one’s focus on something other than works of art on display, it exposed a new dimension of the experience of visiting exhibitions. It was surprising to find that by continuously following the wall on your right side you automatically pass through all of the exhibition spaces. At some points the walls are huge, empty, and white. At other points you pass by large windows that for a moment introduce the street and the park into your visual experience of the museum’s interior. When I visited the Do it exhibit earlier that day, confetti that is part of the show had been swept together on the floor in front of a wall. It looked beautiful and colorful. When I reentered the same exhibition while I was following the wall on my right side, security guards just had barricaded the space around the confetti to prevent visitors from playing with it.
Walking down the stairs holding the handrail / waiting for the doors to open passing through
Walking closely to a huge empty wall making a turn to the left the overwhelming smell of tomatoes following the grid along the large windows passing a glass house
Waiting for the doors to open letting me through and close behind me turning left I follow the gradient concrete floor
Making curves around pedestals carrying empty space the rough structure of the floor determines the grip of my feet on top I turn left into a orange shining room my feet stumble upon a tapestry of fresh growing grass
Carefully I put my feet down one step at the time than touching solid ground taking sharp turns moving left passing through an open door on my right
Walking along on an open iron grid dizziness creeping up my spine than stepping on a hard floor turning left walking along a serpentine wall leaving the hall through opening doors
Up the stairs leading to a dead end so I walk them down