Sunday, May 22, 2016

Kevin Gallagher at Boijmans Rotterdam

I am fascinated and intrigued by the work of Kevin Gallagher at Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam. Rarely am I confronted with art that is incomparable with anything I've seen before. But here I had to sit down, absorb the scenery and think hard. And I was reminded of my two favorite authors: Thomas Ligotti and Mark Samuels.
The exhibition, Doblar Sluuk Ustics, is divided across two floors of the museum. On the ground floor, the heating has been turned off and replaced by two air conditioners which keep the temperature regulated to 16 degrees Celsius. The floor upstairs functions as an elaborate exhaust chamber. In order to cool the lower space the air conditioners must exhaust hot air, this hot air is syphoned into the upstairs space via flexible white tubing.
Downstairs something lies on the floor that I'm forced to read as "creatures". Maybe living, maybe dead, blown ashore from the sea or from another dimension. Vaguely biological, but also clearly artificial with a body made from plastic waste, even including power cords. Do the "creatures" need power? Should I plug them in?
"Just look at them," he urged passersby, "bleeding their colors like that. They should be bled dry, but now they're ... making pictures. Something inside trying to show itself. They're as dead as rags now, look at them all limp and flapping. But something's still in there. Those pictures, do you see them?"

Their gelatinous heads reminiscent of the root structures of coral or sea anemones. But also reminiscent of the inhuman heads of tapeworms. Again it's undecided whether they're biological or artificial. From where have they broken loose? Are they new Anthropocene life-forms evolved from human debris?
He felt an instinctive revulsion at the thing, a desire to blot out its unnatural existence, and it was this sense, rather than any noble motive, that drove him on. Something dead had no right to walk amongst the living. It was an abomination, a rupture in the sane universe that had to be sealed.
One creature is supported in the middle by a Dali-like crutch. Is this an exhibition after all and not the site of a spontaneous cetacean stranding?
The whole surreal scene is monitored by another "creature" with two big and menacing eyes. While the other creatures feel dead, dormant and primitive, this one is alert and intelligent.
Upstairs the whole atmosphere is different. Downstairs is not intended for viewing by humans. Downstairs is the engine room, where strange energies are collected from some unearthly domain. Upstairs is intended for human use, for human consumption.
The upstairs space functions as an exhaust chamber. The hot air from downstairs is syphoned into the upstairs space via flexible white tubing. The ends of the exhaust tubing have been accessorized with soft silicon and fake fur - an anthropomorphic shape that vibrates when warm air is exhausted. Two white upholstered metal benches accompany each exhaust pipe.

The visitor can do only one thing: surrender and let himself be transmuted into something alien.
I was beginning to feel a sense of emptiness creep over me, deadening my spirits, replacing the tension I’d previously felt. And then I realised what should have been obvious: this was the installation! The sense of isolation and dislocation was complete. I felt utterly alone as I walked through the confines of the artificial void.

Sit down on the bench, look into the mouth of the lamprey and become one with the hot breath of the leech.
Through his installations and performances, Kevin Gallagher aims to show qualities and characteristics of objects that go beyond their commonly attributed, day-to-day functions. Notions of transmutation, connection, communication and coincidence form important markers within his so called “gestures towards use”.

And in the first room the visitor could sit down of his own free will. In the second room he can be strapped to the bench and he'll be forced to undergo the alien procedure against his initial will. But afterward he'll be a new entity.
When Dr Haxhausen turned a dial on the remote control unit resting in his palm, the dark metallic beast reared back its head and, with a sinister grinding sound, directed its gaze up toward a grimy skylight. For years this window on the heavens had remained sealed. But that night, through the efforts of the inexhaustible scientist, it was opened. And the spectral light of a full moon shone down into the old factory, pouring its beams into the opalescent eye of Dr Haxhausen's machine.
PDF documentation–-Catalogue.pdf
Grimscribe (Thomas Ligotti)
The Man Who Collected Machen and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
The White Hands and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Noctuary (Thomas Ligotti)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Outsider Art at Rotterdam Kunsthal - 2

The Museum of Everything at the Rotterdam Kunsthal is a mind-blowing experience. There is too much to see, too many worlds to experience. I must ingest and digest in very small bites. Previous posts are here.
Horst Ademeit, 1937-2010 (Cologne, Germany)
Art and machine orientated labourer, whose multiple thousand Polaroid practice documented and described the invisible cold rays emanating from every electrical outlet around him.

Starting his observations and documentation in 1989 he recorded his observation - of smells, sounds and the subjective experience of the visible scenery - in miniscule handwriting on the white frames of his polaroid pictures. He used a wide variety of instruments (Geiger counter, thermometer, Lux meter) and also developed personal methods - like the measuring of the width of a crack in his wooden table.

The observation-pictures show the influence of the threatening force in his immediate surroundings, as reflected in remarkable or irritating phenomena. They show building sites, neglected bicycles, accumulations of garbage, oil stains and the moulding of bread. A car that has not been moved or a letterbox that has not been emptied are all recorded. The pictures also document the behaviour of spiders and fruit flies in his home and the behaviour of swallows and turtles in his garden.
The day-pictures are arrangements of current headlines in the BILD tabloid newspaper, measuring instruments, letters and foodstuffs. Each one of the more than thousand day-pictures is numbered, dated and documented in microscopic writing including recent occurrences and headlines from the newspapers. This process creates correlations between changes in the inner and outer worlds, between public and private life.

His monumental work - built over 40 years - was discovered in 2008 and exhibited for the first time. The artist has died in 2010 at an age of 73 years.

An excessiveness characterizes the work of the German Horst Ademeit, who dedicated himself to documenting the harmful influence of so-called cold rays, a type of radiation he had identified. Each day he took photographs purporting to show the threat to his immediate environment, while also recording the behavior of spiders and fruit flies, and appropriating an arsenal of measuring instruments. His findings were meticulously inscribed on the sides of the photographs.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Outsider Art at Rotterdam Kunsthal

The Museum of Everything at the Rotterdam Kunsthal is a mind-blowing experience. There is too much to see, too many worlds to experience. I must ingest and digest in very small bites.
Miroslav Marsalek, b 1958 (Prague, Czech Republic)
Unstoppable art-maker and journeyman, whose cultural investigations find evidence in his philosophical ruminations and graphic memories of a life spent in the streets and tunnels of the wintery city.

 When I see these hypnagogic artworks I see The Golem and Prague. But I also see plaster-cast Catholic sculpture groups behind chicken wire. I see the Codex Serafinianus. But I also see newspapers used as isolation against the cold during Operation Barbarossa.

Self-taught artist, Miroslav Marsalek (* 1958 Prague, lives and works in Geneva) – aka Mirek or Dugogh tells through his drawings observations and experiments of his daily life. On his notebooks, intertwine sketches, calligraphic essays, portraits and writings on the most diverse subjects: from art history to recipes through a structural analysis of hamburger, or autobiographical notes and quotes from poets and philosophers.
Self-taught, Mirek conveys his daily observations and experiments through his drawings. Of Czech origin, Mirek was trained in graphic design and calligraphy at the SOSV Prague. He came to Switzerland in 1988, where he worked as a graphic designer until 2011, before joining the team of the Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève as a technician.

Probably born out of necessity, not intended as art. Still it looks as a surreal art project by Louise Bourgeois. How satisfying to make hidden art in a grey city corner. A Kabbalist master hiding in back-alleys of Prague and Geneva. Expected in Prague, a huge surprise in Switzerland.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Found poetry from FT Wealth

I am always slightly inconvenienced by this add-on to the Financial Times with its glossy format. But since I had it in my bag anyway, I read it cover to cover. It was quite interesting actually and well written. Some quotes stuck in my mind and I had to arrange them into a found poem. It has a slightly melancholic, existential feeling. (FTWealth, March 2016, Issue 37)

More found poetry here:
from blog comments, from bot texts, from Rotterdam graffiti,
from Flickr comments, from spam and more spam.

To assist the authorities with their investigations

Would you entrust your health to a robot?
So why entrust your wellbeing?

For a split second you wonder
what it would be like
to be a bit more ordinary,
but where would that get you?

Plus, what are the exit charges
if you leave?

Back then,
a lot of things were done
on gut and hunch
but now the world
is obsessed with numbers.

The only guarantee is
that we will be here 30 years from now,
and we will not allow
any activities to distract us.

Of course,
it might have been destroyed;
but it still could exist
and if so,
it is likely standing outdoors
in some garden in France or England,

You have to believe
that as long as you made no mistake,
the government
will not mess with you.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Urban mushroom diary - spring catch up 6

The previous chapters of this diary are: part-1part-2, part-3part-4 and part-5. In november 2015 I was so overwhelmed by fungi that I had to take a break. But deep underground, the thin fungal threads kept growing. Now I'm ready to continue.

All through the autumn of 2015 I watched the photography section of the free Metro newspaper. I caught several mushrooms in print.
A Lego clown riding a mushroom that could be Oudemasiella Mucida. Then two pictures of the ubiquitous Amanita Muscaria or Pantherina. People can't resist photographing this well-known, attractive and nostalgic mushroom (nostalgic because of the canonical Dutch children's song).
Autumn cookies featuring Amanita and the real thing (with the comment: "like a fairy-tale").

Then two difficult mushrooms. The first one is beyond my abilities. The second one could be Macrolepiota Procera.

The newspaper mushroom season seems to run from late September to early November. This is confirmed by Google trends for the Dutch word "paddestoel".

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rotterdam - Places of pilgrimage - 6

I'm building a mental map of Rotterdam. There is one rule: I have to remember the place myself, without artificial memory aids like archives, books and photographs. It has to be personal.

The previous lists of pilgrimage destinations are here: part 1part 2part 3part 4 and part 5.  The complete map can be browsed on Google maps.
Street numbers
This edition will be dedicated to "street numbers": numbers found on (usually older, brick) cobblestones throughout Rotterdam.

Numbered bricks are rare but often they form clusters. If you search for them actively they're nowhere in sight. Then you go for a random walk and you see several of them. And afterward it takes several years to see new ones.

The numbers are handwritten and they point to a pre-industrial age without labels and barcodes, when administration was done on "the thing itself." I don't know the age of these cobblestones and I don't know where I could find more information.
Note: I'm not the only one obsessed by details like this. The "Forgotten NY" website has a whole chapter on cobblestones. They have bricks but they don't mention numbers.

This is my current list. Note: I have not kept records of the earliest street number locations. They could be incorrect:
  1. Cobblestone bricks numbered: 15 and 87 - Crossing of Pr. Beatrixlaan and Konijnenlaantje in the Kralingse Bos. Seen in 2009.
  2. Cobblestone bricks numbered: 21x34 and 46. - Between Steiger and Vlasmarkt. Seen in 2009.
  3. Cobblestone brick marked: 43 - Crossing of Pr. Beatrixlaan and Doorkijk in the Kralingse Bos. Seen in 2011.
  4. Cobblestone brick marked: 2DW - Crossing of Pr. Beatrixlaan and Hoogtaludpad in the Kralingse Bos. Seen in 2012.
  5. Cobblestone brick marked: 7DW - Near the crossing of 's-Lands Erf and Willem Ruyslaan. Seen in 2013.
  6. Cobblestone bricks marked: 66, 66.4 and 21x34. - Between Steiger and Vlasmarkt. Seen in 2013 and 2015.
  7. Cobblestone brick marked: 75 - Crossing of Parklaan and Parkstraat. Seen in 2015.
  8. Cobblestone bricks marked: 42 and 26 - Charloisse Hoofd, behind the Maatunnel bicycle entrance. Seen in 2015.




The map demonstrates the random distribution of numbered cobblestones. Some clustering is predictable because one batch of bricks will be laid in one specific area. And - assuming that during road works bricks are dug up, laid aside and then replaced again - a cluster of numbered bricks can stay in place for many years.

Modern numbered cobblestones also exist. But they're numbered industrially and not by hand. Example from Hardinxveld-Giessendam (2011) and the Hague (2014).

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Nature near home - 2

In an older post I cited John Burroughs (1918):
  • The birds about his own door are his birds, the flowers in his own fields and wood are his, the rainbow springs its magic arch across his valley, even the everlasting stars to which one lifts his eye, night after night, and year after year, from his own doorstep, have something private and personal about them.
Magpie construction site
My personal birds give me much pleasure, especially since they've started to make their nest opposite my kitchen window. You can see the progress on their building site:
 06 February
 13 February

Exactly like their Wikipedia article they build their nest in:
  • ... tall trees ... firmly attaching them to a central fork in the upper branches. A framework of the sticks is cemented with earth and clay, and a lining of the same is covered with fine roots. Above is a stout though loosely built dome of prickly branches with a single well-concealed entrance.
Bird count
Each year I try to participate in the National Garden Bird Count. My area is almost standard and has all the top-10 birds, except the sparrow. We have no sparrows in our territory, even though they're nr.1 in the national bird-count.

Last year I tried to photograph all my local birds and, using our balcony bird-feeder, I recorded some of them on my own doorstep. I add their rank in the national bird count below.

I have no pictures of the following top-25 birds that I have seen on my doorstep:
  • Eurasian collared dove, starling, Eurasian jay, great spotted woodpecker, European herring gull, feral pigeon.
And birds, not in the top-25, that I have seen on my doorstep more than once:
  • stork, grey heron, cormorant, great crested grebe, Egyptian goose, chicken, Eurasian coot, common moorhen, common chiffchaff. And we have a tawny owl somewhere that I hear at night.
In total: 28 bird species on my doorstep and only 12 pictures. I have more work to do.