In 2016 robot Sophia made her first public appearance. The uncanny humanoid robot can detect and mimic a large range of emotions and expressions. After her first appearance she made many others, making her a popular robot around the globe. A lot of people are happy about her creation, seeing her as a helpful addition to the human population and a good direction into the future. However, others aren’t entirely sure about her existence in the world. Her realistic resemblance to humans, yet her robotic movements can create an unsettling feeling. Will she be better than us humans? And to what extent should we integrate technology into our lives? These were some of the questions that I was pondering as I was watching, with skepticism, a video of Jimmy Kimmel interviewing Sophia the Robot on my laptop. And then, in a very coincidental way, a couple of months later, my eye caught the attention of a poster while I was walking through the city. It announced an exhibition called Hyperrealism Sculpture in the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. As I was already quite intrigued with robot Sophia and her creepy resemblance to humans, I made sure to visit this exhibition and delve deeper into the topic of human cloning/robotics. Continue reading “Hyperrealism in Rotterdam”
Do regular diaries and planners annoy you? Have you always wanted to design your own schedule? Do store-bought machine-made agendas feel useless to you? Do not look any further, because the solution is here! Introducing the bullet journal: notebook with dotted, numbered pages. Ready for you and your pen to draw up your schedule the way your heart desires to.
Here it is: your hip, new, anime review. And yes, while Alfred Jodocus Kwak isn’t all that hip or new, it does technically qualify as an anime. There’s your little tidbit for the day.
This, among other facts, is part of the interesting history behind this show (which I will abbreviate to AJK for convenience’s sake) which not a lot of people are familiar with. Of course, a TV-show that was successful for a period in the Netherlands over 20 years ago isn’t expected to be all that en vogue anymore. But since AJK is such an exemplary piece of a unique TV-period, it would be a shame to see it fall into oblivion. That, and Alfred is absolutely adorable. Look at his little shawl! Continue reading “By Unpopular Demand: a Review of Alfred Jodocus Kwak (1989)”
In my daily life, I travel a lot by bike and by means of public transportation. Most of the time, travelling like this goes very smoothly – only lately, it seems like there are a few complications adding up simultaneously. For one, as another year is coming to an end, the days are continuing to get even shorter. It seems reasonable to expect people to see this coming, but this year I have once again been disappointed. There are still a lot of bikes without proper lighting, which creates complex situations. Besides that, Dutch train stations seem to be in a constant state of renovation, meaning that the normal, safe bicycle tracks are nonexistent. Bikers are forced to navigate their way on the pavement or on bus lanes. Also, the renovations cause quite some extra noise, and as a result muffle the relevant sounds of bicycle bells and approaching cars. Finally, an additional aspect of the changing seasons: because of the rain, indications on the road are less clear and travelers lose their peripheral vision because they are wearing ponchos and using unstable umbrellas. Continue reading “Winter Chaos”
At one point or another, art class has been part of every child’s school curriculum. Many of us can remember drawing pictures, doing arts and crafts and showing the end result to our parents who were always proud of our creation. I loved these classes as a child and, as I got older, I took an art history class in my high school. Learning about art history is interesting; you learn about the development of different artistic movements and the impact that these have had on our society. Despite the fact that this was all three years ago, I really enjoyed these classes and can still remember a lot. Towards the end of my high school time I had a realization (or perhaps it was just something that I started to notice more and more): the art that I had been studying was mainly European or Western. I also started to see that whenever art was presented that was not Western it would be regarded as special, or out of what is ordinary. Continue reading “Everybody’s Art”
Towards the end of January I completed a 3 month painting course that I had been taking at CREA (“Cultureel Studenten Centrum”). I took it partly because I felt like I needed to release my artistic ambitions and partly because I needed to shift my focus a little bit. Since the course that I took ended, along with many other courses, CREA hosted an exhibition to showcase the works that the students had created over that period of time. I went to check out all the beautiful works of the students and, of course, to make sure that my piece was hanging amongst them. The rooms at CREA were divided into different sections. One of the rooms was full of paintings and drawings of portraits, self-portraits, nude models and still life. The art works were either very colourful or in black and white. One wall was full of works resembling Picasso’s paintings. I entered another room and quickly noticed that I was in the photography room. Photographs of models and mysterious locations hung everywhere, and around me I heard people talking to each other about lighting and shadows. One student had produced a series of photographs of Amsterdam at night, which really spoke to me. The next room was full of ceramics. Abstract and realistic figures were neatly displayed on large tables for visitors to admire. When I walked down the stairs I saw that there was a theatre room and a film room. I was impressed with the fact that a big group of students had the capability of producing art that filled a whole building. What I particularly liked about the course that I took was that the people that were also taking it had different backgrounds. While I am usually surrounded by other students of the Humanities department, in my painting course I was surrounded by students of the medical department, science department and others. We all studied very different things, but we had one thing in common—we enjoyed painting. The exhibition made me think about the importance of art in a students’ life despite of what that person is actually studying. This might sound ignorant for me to say (and maybe I was ignorant of this) but I realized that even somebody studying mathematics could have the inclination to also do something creative, and that is why CREA is so important. Needless to say, I left the exhibition feeling inspired by creativity. Continue reading “Art on the Walls”
Although the majestic works of Henri Matisse have been luring numerous visitors to the Stedelijk Museum, it is its basement that confirms the experimental and contemporary course that the museum has set out to follow when Beatrix Ruf took up position as director last November. Titled Recent Ouija, the exhibition of the works of Ed Atkins (Oxford, 1982) encompass several enormous HD digital video projections including a hyperreal protoganist, identical to what one would call an avatar–a blue-eyed skinhead named Dave (although Atkins himself prefers to leave him unnamed).
Ouija, a combination of the French and German word for ‘yes’, refers to the late-nineteenth century board used for communicating with spirits. Judging on its title, Atkins suggests that his works, or rather the screens of his works function as a contemporary communication board between observer and virtual reality. I say virtual and not digital, because standing in front of the work’s vastness feels like you’re walking through Grand Theft Auto. Vertigo.
Nonetheless, while at first glance the virtuality of Atkins’ works seems to suggest a potentiality of virtual embodiment, very much like gaming, they strongly emphasise the confrontational relationship between the digital potential of new technological media and our physical being in the real world. Although Dave is hyperrealistic–he drinks, farts, sings, and curses–the artist continually confirms that Dave is merely a virtual character: in Ribbons (2014), Dave gets punctured, leaving nothing but a deflated head after begging from his audience compassion, understanding, and pity for 13 minutes. It is also because of the surrogacy of Atkins’ characters that they become “stand-ins for real people, and because they’re not real, I feel able to do more to them, treat them worse in a way”, Atkins discusses in an interview.
A second element of his art works is its linguistic aspect. Like mentioned before, Dave sings and curses, even gets mad on occasion. Welcomed by a gigantic avatar, this time with long black hair, Atkins’ Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths (2013) at the entrance of the exhibition repeats the same monologue over and over again in different scenes: I don’t want to hear any news on the radio about the weather on the weekend. Talk about that. Once upon a time a couple of people were alive who were friends of mine. The weathers, the weathers they lived in! Christ, the sun on those Saturdays. Even though the screens are set up in their own individual rooms, they seem to interact with each other on linguistic level. As the protagonist on the entrance screen states That Leonardo DiCaprio looked like a fucking gun, the first notes of Elvis Presley’s You Are Always On My Mind are channeling from another room until somewhat later you find yourself in the next listening to a drunk Dave singing Bach’s Erbarme Dich.
Atkins writes the texts himself, performs these then in front of a camera with a computer programme that turns his face into an avatar, a surrogate. He doesn’t want to speak for anyone else besides for himself and for that reason uses his own voice and face. Recent Ouija is more than subversive and experimental–after all what kind of contemporary art is not trying to be. The exhibition assumes a paradox in the representation of human lives in contemporary digital culture by exhaustion and hyperrealism. Not just in the Pynchon way or by literally blowing up objects like Jeff Koons’ Inflatable series, but by using himself a questionable medium of technology, Atkins is a pioneer in challenging the medium by exhausting its representation to the fullest. The paradox of performance art has been discussed for many years now, but Atkins shows how relevant this paradox still is: instead of only questioning the artificiality or authenticity of art, representation, and performance, he also tries to grasp the line that divides the two and liquefies it. And though a cursing, singing virtual Dave lamenting might not be inviting or friendly, Ed Atkins’ works are hauntingly beautiful because of that.
Header image: Ed Atkins, Ribbons, 2014, courtesy of the artist and Cabinet, London