Contemporary art alters our perception by disrupting reality. Fields of color,
vertiginous lines, and mutating representations make our vision palpable.
Traditionally a core theme in aesthetics, art's ability to stir the mind by targeting the
body is hardly recognized today. Jungles of history, context, and theory seem to
have banned the body from the realm of vision. Yet, it is undeniable that art relies
more than ever on direct impulse, on the bodily intake of stimuli. Changing the
viewer's mental make up, these stimuli prompt an alternative form of perception
comparable to hallucination.
Stimuli explores in a number of modern classics and contemporary works the
physical experience of visual arts on the basis of this hallucinatory experience. With
slowly mutating patterns, repetitious movement and optic distortion the exhibited
works give free reign to various levels of consciousness, including hypnosis, ecstasy,
trance, and shock.
Vito Acconci Theme Song (1973)
In the early 1970s, Vito Acconci (1940) made a series of intense, direct
video-dialogues in which he explored the relationship between self-revelation and
visual immediacy. The ambiguities of this form of close-up self-exhibition, in
seemingly intimate yet carefully orchestrated conversations with the self, is also the
subject of Theme Song in which the artist hypnotizes the viewer in a series of
Dennis Adams Vanity for Jean Seberg (1997) Vanity for Zohra Drif (1997)
The vanities by Dennis Adams (1948) constitute the screen between the intimate
self and the public person. The role-playing before the mirror is a form of condensed
theater, a space for self-irony, conceit, and alter ego, and simultaneously a shrine
(for film star Jean Seberg and writer Zohra Drif) which transforms all attention into a
ritual exploration of the self.
Francis Al s Narcotourism (1996)
The Belgian-Mexican artist Francis Al s (1959) started in 1993 with a series of works
in which walking was the central theme. In Narcotourism (Copenhagen, Denmark),
Al s underlined the transcendent quality of these ambulant projects, in which
physical presence is linked to mental absence. Over the course of seven days, the
artist made a series of walks under the influence of different drugs, alcohol, hashish,
speed, heroin, cocaine, valium, and ecstasy. The effect of each drug lasted
Marcel Duchamp Rotoreliefs (1935)
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) underlined his belief in the reconciliation of art and
engineering by renting a stand at the invention fair the Concours LÚpine to display
his Rotoreliefs. The stand, at which the works were shown revolving both
horizontally and vertically, did not get much attention and the artist had to admit that
the visitors failed to appreciate his vertiginous exhibition. The earliest design of the
cardboard discs with two-sided lithography was shown in the film Anemic Cinema
(1926). The 1935 version appeared in an edition of five hundred. Of these, three
hundred were lost in World War II.
Justin van Duurling Cross Crop (1997)
Justin van Duurling (1973), creates in thin fluorescent phosphorus drawings on
plastic an ethereal dreamworld of three-dimensional structures and extraterrestrial
Peter Fillingham Untitled (1999)
Peter Fillingham(1964) shows an installation inspired by Derek Jarman's film Blue
(1993) featuring, among other things, the director's handwritten script and
Runa Islam Tuin (1998)
Runa Islam (1970) focuses in her work on the dissection of visual narrative
techniques in various media. Tuin (Garden) shows a remake of a fragment of
Rainer Fassbinder's film Martha (1973): a romantic encounter is the subject of a
strange double-take juxtaposing the scene with the shooting of the same scene.
Ann Veronica Janssens Untitled (Aluminum Disc, 1992), Corps Noir (1994 -
1999), Untitled (Aquarium, 1992)
Ann Veronica Janssens (1956) explores the fluid interaction between objects and
space focusing on the changing effects of acoustics, light, and resonance. She
often uses reflecting materials, including glass, fluids, and mirrors. The reflecting
'bodies' not only reinvent the space by simultaneously animating and absorbing it
but also lead, as evidenced by Corps Noir, to complex optic transformations.
Rob Johannesma Boomtakvideo (1998)
The work by Rob Johannesma (1970) uses altered photography and video to
explore the relationship between landscape and dreamscape.
Piero Manzoni Achrome (1958), Achrome (Nuage) (1962)
Piero Manzoni (1933 - 1963), one of the precursors of conceptual art, challenged
iconographic conventions with the assertion that art was in everything, and
everything in art. He made the Anchromes (1957 - 1962) by attaching porcelain
clay tot linen and whiten the result. By privileging texture over expression, the
pleated tabula rasa works effect a pure, trance-like sensation, and constitutes an
explicit response to Yves Klein's famous symbol-laden Monochromes (1957).
Elina Montesinos (1971) will create a new work for this exhibition.
Matt Mullican Hypnosis Tapes (1996)
The late seventies hypnotic performances by Matt Mullican (1951) were inspired by
the ambition to immerse himself in the image, thus eliminating the boundary
between artist and his work. The artist returned to this theme in the reconstruction of
the original performances Two Mirrors, 26 February and Entering a Picture in
which he reexamines the codes of perception and subjectivity under the effects of
Bruce Nauman Clown Torture (1987)
Bruce Nauman (1941) focuses in his work on the tension caused by the disruption
of everyday representations and situations. Clown Torture is inspired by Andy
Warhols's endless 'sleeping' films, in which the artist challenged narrative
conventions of place and time by showing hours-long footage of the same image.
Bruce Nauman's installation eschews narrativity in a similar, almost unbearable
manner through its incessant repetition of a seemingly interactive pattern between
storyteller and audience.
Lou Reed Metal Machine Music (1975)
Member of the legendary sixties rockband Velvet Underground, Lou Reed (1942)
brought his rock & roll roots to their ultimate conclusion, and least recognizable form,
in Metal Machine Music, a work that uses instruments and a wide range of
recording equipment to create a wall of sound. The album, released at the
short-lived peak of quadrophilia, required four loudspeakers so the listener would
literally be wrapped in sound. Metal Machine Music was hailed as a seminal work by
the punk movement.
Nasrin Tabatabai Untitled (1997)
Nasrin Tabatabai (1960) explores in her multi-layered work the relationship between
viewers and the object of their gaze. This work, made at the 'Silk Road' exhibition at
the Museum voor Volkenkunde (Rotterdam), shows the continuously shifting images
of space and visitors as reflected on the glass encasements of the exhibited works.
Fiona Tan The Calender Girl (1993 - 1999)
Fiona Tan (1966) focuses in her work on placing the personal stories and
experiences in a cultural and/or historical continuum. In The Calender Girl, she
explores this relation between time and subjectivity by fixating the classical poster
girl in time.
Koen Timmermans Cancan (1998)
In the works of Koen Timmermans (1962), the human body serves as the source of
mysticism. Cancan transformed a fragment from the burlesque Varietease (1952),
directed by Irving Klaw featuring fifties pin-up Betty Page, into an endless swirl.
Ulay Aboriginal after-image (1997)
The German artist Ulay (1943), once member of the artist duo Ulay/Abramovic, uses
a combination of performance and photography to make photograms depicting
dying (forgotten) 'histories.' For Aboriginal after-image, Ulay traveled to Australia to
document in a ritual a disappearing aboriginal existence.
The exhibition was initiated in collaboration with Karel Schampers, Head Curator
Modern Art, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication with, among others, Georg
Simmel's classic The Metropolis and Mental Life, and Jos ten Berge's Dream
Machines, The New Media as New Intoxicants.