Recently had a quick break in Amsterdam to relax and try to see a few exhibitions. Our timing wasn’t great as some of the most interesting spaces seemed to between exhibitions (e.g. Netherlands Media Art Institute).
Deep Screen - Art in Digital Culture at the Stedelijk Museum (temporarily located on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the former Post CS-building) annoyed me quite a bit to be honest. The Stedelijk is expensive (9 Euros), I expected it to be, but I also expected it to be immense (as it was in the former building) with the permanent collection on exhibition. You’ll pay about the same as you would to go see an exhibition at Beaubourg or the ZKM but where as these could take a weekend to explore you’ll do the Stedelijk space in about half an hour. It’s not big, it isn’t even those two floors of the building that are mentioned on the site as many of the rooms are closed or open with nothing in them. The exhibition we saw was very badly laid out with huge gaps between exhibits, having to double back on yourself to get to parts of the exhibition and to be frank seemed very 1990’s in theme (it reminded me of an exhibition at ISEA 2000, Au dela de l’écran / Beyond the Screen), the choice of work and on occasion choice of artists. Added to this was our disappointment at Mediamatic being in the middle of a relocation to new premises (they were in the same building as the Stedelijk) and so they had nothing on - really bad timing on our part.
If you do go to Amsterdam soon however here’s what you could do with that 9 Euro’s!
Rent a bike for a day and cycle around to the much more interesting galleries a little bit further out from the centre. The Netherlands Media Art Institute is well worth checking out however Field Work - part 2 at Smart Project Space was the first show we saw. The gallery is located in what looks like a residential area and is similar to the Stedelijk Museum CS is that it’s using a former industrial / office space. The exhibitions here seem to be free and while the space is small, choice of works seems much more considered.
Two works that stood out were by Juneau Projects (Philip Duckworth and Ben Sadler), Beneath the floorboards of the forest, empty space (image above) and Sewn to the Sky (image below). Beneath the floorboards of the forest, empty space is a text based computer game:
Juneau Projects resurrected an Atari typeface to visualize written passages describing a series of interlocking environments gradually moving from the countryside to the city. Within the gaming format of the work, users encounter various network points in the floorboards that make up the theatrical ground, and during their journey are invited to collect computer parts - a wooden keyboard, a ‘mouse’ made of fur and bones - fashioned from natural elements. Users navigate a fictional narrative and landscape akin to the actual installation and city in which they sit and also have the option to listen to the texts via the inbuilt computerized speech of the Windows software reader, a further conflation of the ‘natural’ and man-made via technological advances…For SMART Project Space, Juneau Projects has worked in references to locations in Amsterdam where a collision between nature and culture plays a key role. They have also realized adapted versions of the hobbyist landscaped work stations, which will be overgrown with moss (a good indicator of air pollution).
Sewn to the Sky is a multimedia performance installation employing music (or sound at least) as an interface to a video game. The work:
connects the process of playing a musical instrument and the structures of composition within visual experience and new technologies as particular sounds and instruments interact differently with the animation. ’Sewn to the Sky’ favours the cooperative nature of performance where the better a band plays together the better they succeed at the game…the owl that is the protagonist of the game cannot die - there is a conspicuous lack of blood, guts and gore in the game. As little owl seeks to evade predators (and flying into trees) he or she tumbles, picks him/herself up and continues on the way. Success is rewarded through graduation to a new habitat - failure through trying again another way…After the performance at SMART Project Space the game will remain as an installation in the exhibition space, to be played by visitors.
On seeing this installation we did not hesitate to start playing the instruments (very loudly), we thought we were lucky nobody was around to hear us but apparently it’s encouraged so jump right in.
Checking Reality (flyers above) at Platform21 (located here) was without a doubt the highlight of our visit and we only saw excerpts as it was only setting up! Works of note include, Lightweeds (image below) by Simon Heijdens. These are digital weeds which:
react to the number of people in the room, while the flowers sway to the wind as it is measured outside and turn with the position of the sun…Nature outside is thus felt inside….Simon Heijdens’ objects and installations respond to the nature immediately surrounding them. He gives them the specific characteristics of nature. Thus the objects’ colour and shape, and therefore the character of the room, change over time. Through sensors, living digital organisms allow us to feel the changing nature outside, thereby restoring a natural timeline to the space.
Squint/Opera and Serge Seidlitz invited artists to contribute to phase one of Doodlearth. Each artist was asked to submit 20 illustrated elements making up a city. These elements were then collaged together in a random way to create a 40-minute animation, which will be projected onto long rolls of paper. The public will be invited to get involved and contribute to the film’s evolution.
Visitors can contribute to the show through a whole series of works and events throughout the exhibition employing semacodes and 3D scanning (image below) led by Sergio Davilla. If you can’t get there you can also contribute to the exhibition by submitting work to the virtual exhibition on Google Earth.
The premise of this exhibition, the virtual is a tried and tested one but the interesting thing here is the combining / mixing / merging that is going on throughout the exhibition which uses the space well, takes the show outside the space in every way possible (into Beatrix Park and online through the web site and Google Earth) and really questions what “A real show about the virtual” can actually achieve. This in combination with the richness of ideas that runs through the works, the very accessible and interesting workshops and the carefully selected contextual books on sale gives the visitor (real or virtual) a massive amount of things to see / do / participate / think about.
The exhibition runs until 27th of August and is well worth the cycle to the space, getting lost, having to ask for directions, nobody knowing where it is and then finally finding it.