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Indepth Arts News:

"Stimuli"
1999-11-20 until 2000-02-13
Witte de With Center for Contemporary Arts
Rotterdam, , NL Netherlands

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 monologues.

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 fourteen hours.

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 beings.

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 soundtrack.

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 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 hypnosis.

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.

Publication 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.


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