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Indepth Arts News:

"Aernout Mik: Vacuum Room"
2005-04-20 until 2005-06-19
Saint-Gervais - Centre pour l'Image Contemporaine
Geneve, , CH

The Centre for Contemporary Images is proud to present the latest work by Dutch artist Aernout Mik, Vacuum Room (2005). Aernout Mikís installations incorporate mix performance, theater, sculpture and video art.†He stages situations that involve groups of people with scenes that puts us in mind collective archetypal images: a riot (Glutinosity, 2001), a crash of the stock market (Middlemen, 2001), waiting refugees (Flock, 2002), or a scene of pillaging (Pulverous, 2003).

The people in his films seem to be in their proper place, exactly where they should be, until in the course of observing them we discover certain details that donít quite fit, behavior that is inadequate and unexpected. Indifferent, Mikís camera passes over these incongruities, neutralizes tham, and brings us back to a reality that is more reassuring, until still other oddities surface in the image. Thus, we are constantly veering back and forth between realism and fiction.

In his video installations, Mik drops us right into a middle of some critical situation whose causes are always unknown to us and whose effects are never revealed. We are transported to a space where time is drawn out and any plot has been obliterated; there is neither beginning not end, only the perception of the passage of time and a state of being.

With this new work, we enter the setting of a meeting room and watch as some 30 politicians debate while seated behind their desks.The image (the sound has been cut) show us discussions that seem to be quite raucous, with participants attempting to make themselves heard and vote, leaving the room and coming back.

Over the reigning disorder is superimposed the arrival of a group of young protestors who occupy the center of the room and find themselves separated from the political community by a barrier of furniture. They impose a protest on this deteriorating atmosphere but it, too, proves just as wild and anarchic. As both groups clash, more and more a frozen vacuum evolves where all people and space seems to merge in one another. Resulting in unexpected moments of quiet equilibrium in the space. Two groups, clearly distinguished by separate fashion codes and supposedly in conflict, reveal similar behaviors in the end, incomprehensibble but clearly visible to the viewer and doomed to come to nothing. The space itself grows disorganized in the face these contradictory impulses, then is restructured, or remains frozen, symbolizing the impasse that exists in the two parties and in the dynamics between the two parties.

The performance brought together around 50 professional and non-professional actors, who were filmed with six surveillance cameras. Outside of their context, in a place reserved for public debates, these cameras offers us circumscribed points of view and hence a fragmentary view of the situation. Normally in the artistís films movement of the camera is worked out in advance. The slow tracking shots and the shifts forward and backward are deliberately planned in order to act upon the viewerís perception. Here the cameras were all programmed to change frame at the same time, filming with the same degree of attention now the setting and the space, now the intense action playing out there.

Viewers are completlely immersed in the action , and are not able to control the whole scene, as are the actors within it. Surrounded by six projections, they physically experience the moving image and, plunged into the heart of the debates, are led to wonder about their role as universal citizens.

Vacuum Room is a co-production of the Centre for Contemporary Images, Saint-Gervais and Argos, Brussels, with the help of Berlin Beamsystems, Amsterdam.

Aernout Mik
Vacuum Room

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