Thursday, 31 May 2018

Studio Drift

When we were in Amsterdam last week, we visited the Stedelijk, a most exciting museum devoted entirely to art from 1900. There was so much to see and to think about that we spent the whole day there.

I could write about so many of the things we saw but there was one section right at the end that fascinated us particularly. This was a series of 8 studios set out under the general title of Coded Nature. Each contained a single installation by a pair of Dutch artists, Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta, who work together under the name Studio Drift (also on their website here) We found their work exciting and beautiful and, just occasionally, unnerving.  It was one of the most fascinating and extraordinary exhibitions of new work I've seen for a long time. Sadly, I don't think my photographs quite portray the size and impressivness of the installations we saw.

However, here is a selection that has stayed particularly in the mind, beginning with Amplitude (2017), an installation exploring the pulse that occurs in all living things.


The movement of the articulated glass tubes which were hanging from the ceiling was computer-synchronized and was triggered by a weight that slid back and forth in each tube. It gave the impression of a bird flying in slow and silent motion. To me, it also suggested waves gently and relentlessly approaching a beach.

In a nearby gallery, and also controlled by computer,  there was an installation called Shylight. This piece explored the changeable character of nature, and in particular what is called nyctinasty. This is the circadian rhythmic movement of plants which enables certain flowers to open and close in relation to daylight and nightfall. The flowers in Shylight were made from layers of silk which were raised, lowered and opened in a balletic choreography facilitated by motors and moveable arms. The light levels in the gallery were raised and dimmed to reflect the passing of the day.





The effect was mesmerising and we stood and watched the movements for some time. I now regret that I didn't join the small number of visitors who watched lying flat out on the gallery floor immediately below the display thereby gaining a whole new perspective!

Another which impressed us was the thought-provoking installation Materialism (2018). This involved the dismantling of obects large and small, analysis of the materials used and then the construction of variously coloured blocks which were sized proportionately to the amounts of  each material in the object. The installation worked on so many levels. It revealed just how much material goes into the making of each product and the use of very rare and scare resources and it prompted consideration of the total impact of each object on the planet. It was also very pleasing in its simplicity as a sculptural display.

The objects shown below (from left to right) are the VW Beetle (the list of materials was long and varied - not a surprise), the Dyson vacuum cleaner and a bicycle. Among other objects (not photographed) were a pencil, a plastic carrier bag and a plastic bottle.

Fragile Future, first seen in 2005, is in the Stedelijk in several forms. It is a beautiful series of light sculptures of dandelion heads individually glued (yes really, apparently) to LED lights in what was described as a form of 'slow design'.


Last of all we came to Drifter (2017), an extraordinary and slightly eerie film in which large concrete monoliths hover over a valley in the Scottish Highlands and an unnamed war torn city, multiplying, merging and constantly moving. Like Materialism, it invites us to reflect on the impact of technology on our society - and here to consider whether there is still a difference beween the real and the virtual world. It was mesmerising, if rather disconcerting.



All this and much else besides was seen on the first of four museum days ... and so much more was to come.



4 comments:

  1. What an amazing museum. I am interested in the amplitude installation. It reminds me so much of the lights around the Bordeaux rocade. They too resemble a bird in flight and I love watching how they change as we drive around. Fortunately I am not usually the driver!! as it is an horrendously busy road. xx

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    1. This is just a very small part of the whole museum. It was all fascinating and challenging and a great visit - not to be missed if you're in Amsterdam.

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  2. These sound wonderful, your description brings them to life for me. A while back the V&A had a small exhibition, or work in a larger exhibition, similar to Materialism, about the scarce and rare resources that are needed to make the mobile phones etc that we so lightly toss aside - quite a lot of mental effort needed to take it all in, but it me for one think twice about updating recklessly.

    I haven't visited your blog - or any others - for quite a while, but am coming back to life and look forward to catching up!

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    1. Lovely to see you back! Thanks for your comments. The whole museum was a delight. It could keep me in posts for the rest of the summer.
      I had a 'blogging holiday' last summer and briefly found it a relief. However, I came back eventually as I found I missed the whole process. I discovered how much I enjoy writing and sharing thoughts and how this feeds back profitably into my work. I don't blog as often but, when I do, I find it very helpful.
      In general I think, with the popularity of Instagram and Facebook, people are blogging less. Those two platforms offer quick posting without Blogger's problems on the move and the writing of just a word or two which many prefer. For me, those platforms are less satisfying and, apart from a brief flirtation with Instagram, I don't use either.

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