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I/O (a public video art program in San Francisco): Video Art from The Netherlands

Quotidian Gallery
760 Market Street #252
San Francisco
CA 94102
(510) 727-1457

I/O is a public video art program at the Quotidian Gallery in San Francisco. The gallery is located on the second floor in the historic Phelan Building on Market Street in downtown San Francisco. The shows are curated by Michael Smit, a Dutch artist based in San Francisco.

I/O shows usually are silent projections of looping compilations of works-on-video, on a back-lit screen in the gallery's window, facing 50 O'Farrell Street. Shows are changed every four weeks and will play daily during the gallery's closing hours. The I/O projections are intended to be viewed from the street and are only visible when it's dark enough outside (from sunset to sunrise). The sidewalk at 50 O'Farrell Street is the best place to see I/O shows: the gallery window is on the opposite side of the street at the second floor level, above the Rite Aid store.


10/17/02 - 11/14/02

The fifth I/O public video art exhibition in the window of the Quotidian Gallery shows a compilation of 21 works by 20 artists who all are Dutch citizens and/or residents. The show intends to give a good representation of the work that was sent in after an open call for work. The tape -that will loop- has a total length of 90 minutes (one and a half hour).

The 20 artists are (in alphabetical order):
Irem Aydinonat, Michiel van Bakel, Klaus Boegel & Louis Spoelstra, Michal Butink, Radina Dankova, Christina della Giustina, Carla Graft, Liselot van der Heijden, Hermelinde Hergenhahn, Ilja den Hollander, Arianne Olthaar & Marjolijn van der Meij, Ruchama Noorda, Hester Scheurwater, Sara Rajaei, Mariam Smit, Mieke Smits, Yvette Teeuwen, en Brenda Vonk Noordegraaf.

1. Michiel van Bakel - Hovering over Wasteland
2. Carla Graft - Escalator Project: Amsterdam, Magna Plaza (fragment)
3. Michal Butink - Ginza
4. Michal Butink - Damrak
5. Radina Dankova - The Junction
6. Hermelinde Hergenhahn - The Garden
7. Arianne Olthaar & Marjolijn van der Meij - Guinee Pig Disco
8. Liselot van der Heijden - Nature
9. Mieke Smits - Skin Self Portrait
10. Mariam Smit - Archeology
11. Brenda Vonk Noordegraaf - Contact
12. Hester Scheurwater - Taste
13. Irem Aydinonat - 5:00; Colour, with Sound
14. Irem Aydinonat - 6:38; Colour, with Sound
15. Yvette Teeuwen - Untitled
16. Ruchama Noorda - Annunciation
17. Sara Rajaei - Veronica & Chantur
18. Christina della Giustina - Casual
19. Ilja den Hollander - Blue Space
20. Irem Aydinonat - 2:19; Colour, with Sound
21. Klaus Boegel & Louis Spoelstra - O

We received submissions from Dutch artists residing in three different continents (Europe, America, Australia) although the majority of the participating artists are living in some of the internationally most well known cities of the Netherlands: Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam.
What stood out more initially was that one third of the participating artists were born and grew up in other countries (Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran) but are living now in the Netherlands. This should maybe not be a complete surprise, given the long Dutch history of international explorations and relations; and a traditionally generous hospitality towards foreigners and refugees in the Netherlands.
Another interesting fact is that most of the submitting artists are female. Is the video medium currently maybe of particular interest to female artists, at least in the Netherlands?

The selected works can be subdivided into several subcategories:

What stood out was the frequent use of the camera as a very factual registering tool of existing reality in an almost documentary or monitoring fashion. This brought to my mind the historic Dutch interest in looking at (in a flat and very much cultured landscape along the sea) and exploring and opening up of the world, while leaning towards realism; from the seventeenth century Dutch Masters and the early scientific work on optical lenses, to maybe even the voyeuristic curiosity of reality tv in 'Big Brother'.
Carla Graft has a static shot of people descending on an escalator, as part of her international escalator project. Michal Butink catches people while they are moving through his frame at public locations in Amsterdam and Japan.

Other artists are more actively involved with their subject, in the sense that they move around more with their camera and that they are more clearly creating a traditional story line, and increasingly are having a more active role in the behavior of their actors and/or the state of the actual 'film set', but still are a lot in observation mode. The filmed participants might be knowingly performing actions as directed by the artist or are taped within an artificial or customized environment.
Hermelinde Hergenhahn registers the goings-on in her neighbors back garden and its surroundings, peeking out at it from her apartment window. Mieke Smits creates a 'Skin Self Portrait' by registering parts of her own natural surface, as it is, with no make-up or clothes. Mariam Smit studies parts of her mother's aged skin in 'Archeology'. Radina Dankova films the outside street views out of her childhood kitchen window in Bulgaria but mixes it with inside views and views from other windows. Brenda Vonk Noordegraaf is filming her subject shine a torch light into her eyes and wink to us. Liselot van der Heijden introduces conceptual quotes (they are still also' samples') throughout the shots of tourists that are photographing a moose, who doesn't seem to care less. Yvette Teeuwen explores the characteristics of a space using the extending possibilities of her reach by using light and shadow. Christina della Giustina films her installation, made from a collection of words, names for people with deviating sexual preferences. Hester Scheurwater registers the luscious pressing of her face and licking of fluids against a glass plate. Arianne Olthaar & Marjolijn van der Meij create a dance-space set, in the same scale of and for a group of Guinee pigs, that they let loose in it and then observe their 'dancing' in and messing up of the 'disco'.

Some artists refer to more spiritual or religious levels in their work.
Ruchama Noorda combines female eroticism with references to the Holy Mary. Sara Rajaei, who grew up in Iran, shows what seems an Islamic style punishment for the female sexuality. Klaus Boegel & Louis Spoelstra refer to an endless cycle of death and rebirth and renewing.

Several artists show political elements in the work.
Sara Rajaei refers to the position of women in Islamic societies. Christina della Giustina to that of people with sexual preferences that deviate from the 'normal' standards.

A few artists seem to directly face us and interact with us.
Brenda Vonk Noordegraaf's subject winks at us. Hester Scheurwater's piece shows a woman licking a glass plate with liquids and at some point she sees through it. Irem Aydinonat looks directly at the viewer from the screen, and especially her expressions in '2:19, Colour, with Sound' evoke direct reactions in us.

Some artists introduce more magical aspects of realism.
Irem Aydinonat shows a poetic mix of magic, and very subtle, simple, and suggestive actions in mysterious but somehow archetypal environments. Boegel & Spoelstra and Yvette Teeuwen also introduce such 'magical' elements, showing aspects of reality that extend beyond realism.

Playlist with more information:

1. Michiel van Bakel - Hovering over Wasteland (1998) - 2:15
Original format: DV (PAL)
Description by gallery Montevideo: In the fourteenth century, the Renaissance was heralded in by the early humanist and poet, Petrarch, with a description of what he saw from the top of the Mont Ventoux in Southern France. He transcended earthly matters and lost himself in reflections on the reasons why; how his learning, his past and his divine mission had made him a man chosen to observe the world around him and to sing about this in his poetry. Since Petrarch, this vision, in which man sees himself as the center of the universe, has become inherent in Western thought. In this video by Michiel van Bakel, a man is hanging down from a power pylon, in motionless fetal position. He is hovering right in the middle of the frame, holding the exposure-lever wire of a photo camera in his hand. Circling around him, the camera shows him from all sides. We can see the surrounding industrial landscape; it is the wasteland that the title refers to. Nothing but paling, harbor cranes, fences and electrical installations, not a human being in sight. 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.

2. Carla Graft - Escalator Project - Amsterdam - Magna Plaza (fragment of a one hour long tape) (2001) - 6:39
Original format: VHS (PAL)
Description by the artist: Since 2000 I am working on a World wide video-art-project: The Escalator Project. My aim is to make recordings of escalators in shopping centers and/or subway stations all over the world. Escalators are in my vision a bar code of a random social unity in a city in motion. Each registration takes one hour.
I made already recordings in London (Harrods), Brussels (City 2), Portugal (Colombo), Berlin (KaDeWe), Amsterdam (Magna Plaza), Warszawa (Galeria Centrum), Bucuresti Mall in Bucharest and many more. This tape is shot in the Magna Plaza shopping mall in Amsterdam.

3. Michal Butink - Ginza (2002) - 3:09
Original format: DV (PAL)
Description by the artist: A crossroad in the 'Ginza' district in Tokyo, Japan. Running people and cars are passing by.

4. Michal Butink - Damrak (1999) - 4:36
Original format: DV (PAL)
Description by the artist: People walking on the street in downtown Amsterdam called 'Damrak'. Because of the location and light it looks manipulated but is totally natural.

5. Radina Dankova - The Junction (2002) - 3:50
Original format: DV (PAL)
Description by the artist: From an early age on I was fascinated by the energy of traveling and discovering new things. My father had to travel a lot and sometimes i was allowed to join him. As an artist with a Bulgarian background living and working in the Netherlands, the idea of Home interests me. It is a key element of our identity and offers a space where physical and mental comfort, the private and the public meet. When in a new town I look for a strategic location to observe and experience my surrounding, and to absorb the atmosphere and quickly register it with my camera; to process this raw footage later, when back at home. The Junction is part of a number of pieces, created from material shot while traveling in the area of Bulgaria where I grew up during my youth, referring specifically to the childhood kitchen window through which I loved to watch the outside world for long periods of time.

6. Hermelinde Hergenhahn - The Garden (shortened from 18 minutes) (1999) - 15:15
Original format: Super 8 film
Short Description by the artist: With a mixture of compassion and voyeurism, Hermelinde Hergenhahn shows us a view from a balcony in Rotterdam, into the garden below. The Dutch struggle between man and the sea appears here in the private context of an old man and his garden. The necessity to create, and therefore design, every scrap of land, determines the Dutch landscape. An outside space becomes here an open air interior, a garden an everyday Mondrian. We see the garden develop into a paradisal island, a stage where the family members play their parts, amidst the gloomy, neglected plots which surround it. The circle is closed when the black dog looks up at the camera. A blanket over the railing, hair blown into the frame and, not focused, a little dog's face defines the audience as voyeur too.

7. Arianne Olthaar & Marjolijn van der Meij - Guinee Pig Disco (2002) - 5:12
Original format: DV
Description by the artist: Guinee pigs messing around in the disco.

8. Liselot van der Heijden - Nature (1997) - 4:30
Original format: Video Umatic
Description by the artist: Nature was videotaped in the Rocky Mountain National park in the United States and documents an actual event: an elk is grazing. What follows is the spectacle that was triggered by the tourists looking at, photographing, and video-taping of the animal that is indifferent to all this commotion. The video includes a text: a dictionary definition of nature.

9. Mieke Smits - 140 seconds Skin Self Portrait (2002) - 2:28
Original format: VHS (PAL)
Description by the artist: A study of my skin as part and protection of the self. For 140 seconds, parts of my not restyled natural protection of the individual appear in close-up. I show my skin, the protection of the individuality, to the viewers. As a confrontation with myself: how far do I go in revealing myself, how vulnerable do I dare to be. For the audience it's a confrontation, with human skin as the leading part. When viewed on a television monitor the work stresses-because of its content-both the exhibitionistic nature of the piece as well as the voyeuristic nature of the television medium.

10. Mariam Smit - Archeology (1998) - 3:42
Original format: VHS (PAL)
Description by the artist: A close-up shot of skin of an elderly woman (my mother).

11. Brenda Vonk Noordegraaf - Contact (2002) - 00:56
Original format: Hi8
Description by the artist: Communication starts with the eye contact. A winking eye projection greets the people who are passing by. The aim of this "winking eye projection" in a public space is to stimulate the consciousness of people about their communicational possibilities in public circumstances, and to let them experience the significant effect that this interaction will cause on the air. This hopefully will bring little relief in the busy city life by encouraging people to initiate communication with each other.

12. Hester Scheurwater - Taste (2000) - 2:59
Original format: MiniDV (PAL)
Description by the artist: A woman licks the window.

13. Irem Aydinonat - 5:00, Colour, with Sound (2001) - 5:00
Original format: MiniDV (PAL)
Description by the artist: No identity through many. The core issues of my work are consciousness and transformation of the 'Self'. For their agility, quickness and accuracy, I prefer video and photography as the appropriate mediums.
I shape my video work in three stages: I value the first hand experience as the crucial part of my work. After that the genuine registration comes. After these two steps, I produce the final combination of images with an aim of stimulating the imagination of the spectator to flow throughout the images. The third step serves to carry suggestions that go beyond a dry registration. To be loyal to the genuine registration of the experience, I try to avoid montage to a considerable extend. I demand from my imagination to communicate with the imagination of other(s)/spectators. To approach this communication, I use signs and symbols to be suggestions and/or to be imagery to be freely processed by the spectator. I do not intend to be precise and literal. My work does not require a total understanding but rather proposes a communication base. Communication of my work is born not necessarily from clear understanding but necessarily from imagination and sensitivity to differences. Therefore I do not necessitate titles because titles claim a manipulation in the other's mind. I prefer to construct my work from hints and traces and attach importance to atmosphere and tone of the image.
For the last year my focus was on camera experiments. These experiments with video had exciting results in letting my insights from my unconsciousness come through. I value the experiments being the witnesses and fields of transformation. The two untitled video works of 6 minutes 38 seconds and 5 minutes length are examples of these experiments. Transformation requires movement in my work. These movements are subtle but non-cunning ones. I let the movement take its own direction and flow. I use my own body and face as the channel of my expression. I let myself experience the time, mood and movement in the simplest and most naive way. I try to avoid any identity, which I assess that might belong to me. To be clearer, I try to avoid all qualities, ideas, beliefs and suggestions that I think form "myself" in the social life. I say social life because identity can by definition only be evaluated in a social context, in a particular group. I do not give importance to identity of mine since I assert that successful communication does not require identity frames of parties. As my work's emphasis is on the true communication, identity patterns handicap my meaning. Identity-less self-being might occur as the flow within the mass. It may be looked at as the unimportance or insignificance of human beings in the mass by identity 'readings' but as soon as a definition of an identity or identity 'readings' are neglected, the significance and impact become gently visible.

14. Irem Aydinonat - 6:38, Colour, with Sound (2001) - 6:38
Original format: MiniDV (PAL)
Description by the artist: (See 13.)

15. Yvette Teeuwen - Untitled (2001) - 5:38
Original format: Video (PAL)
Description by the artist: A shadow (Gestalt) is following the ordered architecture of the room. It touches 'the body of the space'. When the immaterial shadow meets the tangible rigidness of the architecture, their differences become evident.

16. Ruchama Noorda - Annunciation (2002) - 2:31
Original format: DV (PAL)
Description by the artist: The video deals with the theme of the lilly that in art history stands for virginity and the impregnation of Mary. In Annunciation I lick at the top of a lilly, a shape that resembles the male sexual organ. The slow licking movement and the pink glow suggest an esthetic kind of pornography, in which vulgar and sacred elements are handed over to each other but that most of all just want to be part of a delicious picture.

17. Sara Rajaei - Veronica & Chantur (2001) - 00:53
Original format: Video (PAL)
Description by the artist: The image of a beautiful woman in a black dress, without the head scarf. The man enters and ties up her hair to the rope behind her and kicks away the chair underneath her. A punishment!

18. Christina della Giustina - Casual (2002) - 1:53
Original format: DV (PAL)
Description by the artist: The Casual movie-recorded as documentation of an installation created together with Sabina Baumann-shows the drawing on the ceiling of the exhibition space, shot while lying on the podium, looking up, letting the camera search and zoom into the 500 words that are written on the ceiling. Casual is the label for the artistic and political practice of focusing on the process of discarding and extending gender categories. The casual Naming Set is a collection of slang terms, 'abusive words' for people who deviate from the normative sexual behavior and who live diverse genders and lifestyles.

19. Ilja den Hollander - Blue Space (2001) - 1:12
Original format: DV (PAL)
Description by the artist: Inside a blue space , without any windows or doors their is a woman standing in an extreme position : Bended backwards completely. She is dressed like a fancy business woman and wearing high heals. She stays in this position forever (normally the video is shown as a loop).

20. Irem Aydinonat - 2:19, Colour, with Sound (2002) - 2:19
Original format: MiniDV (PAL)
Description by the artist: (See 13.)

21. Klaus Boegel & Louis Spoelstra - O (2001) - 5:44
Original format: VHS (PAL)
Description by the artist: Pictures of performances from the last 20 years start burning.
(See also http://www.lifeside.nl)