From 2011 on I occasionally typed a column for the V2_ website, under the title 'The Archivist Speaks...'. In these columns I traced links between current programming of V2_ and events from the past. I have collected all of them on this page -- as an archive. The most recent one is from 2019, but most of them date from 2011.
In the weekend of 9-10 April 2011 researchers and artists meet at V2_ to discuss the fundamental theoretical division between "living" and "non-living".
The Vibrancy Effect is an expert meeting organised by Chris Salter. Some of the invited researchers and artists – for instance Andrew Pickering and Tagny Duff – have never been at V2_ before. Quite a few have presented projects at V2_, or have spoken at V2_ on several occasions. Of course this is the case for Arjen Mulder – as already for years he is an editor and writer for V2_publishing, and is involved in the organisation of the Dutch Electronic Art Festival.
Dmitry Gelfand & Evelina Domnitch are the creators of the wonderful installation Camera Lucida which was exhibited at V2_ in 2007, and Maurizio Martinucci (TeZ) performed his Anharmonium piece during Perform! which was also curated by Chris Salter. Sally Jane Norman has visited V2_ numerous times, for instance already in 1999 when she was part of the string-festival String 'em Up.
What captured my attention while browsing the archive and searching for links between the expert meeting The Vibrancy Effect and earlier events at V2_, is the presence of an earlier co-operation between Chris Salter and Joel Ryan in the group The Sponge – which also included Harry Smoak. As The Sponge they developed the installation Membrane, also a research into interaction, gesture and immersion. It was exhibited at DEAF04 in 2004, and they curated an evening programme too (The Evening of Sponge). There's a short bit on Membrane in the text Of Communication, Interacticity and Intimacy in the publication Feelings are always Local (2004). Joel Ryan works at STEIM, teaches at the Conservatory in The Hague. He is a musician and a physicist – actually he became involved with computer music and live electronics through his background in physics.
It's not a surprise to see they did co-operate already in 2004, but I simply had forgotten about it. There are many more links between the expert meeting and earlier events and research at V2_. The interest in biology, the question of the agency of non-living things and even vitalism can be traced through many publications of V2_. Most recently in The Politics of the Impure and for instance the interview with Lynn Margulis. But one can also go back to 1997 and this essay by Manuel DeLanda: The Machinic Phylum, published in TechnoMorphica, a collection of essay on the merging of technology and nature. Of course those were different times – people were using words like 'Cyberspace' – and the theoretical interest in the technology - life interface cannot really be compared to the topic of The Vibrancy Effect. Or can it? I guess there are some interesting cues in the text of DeLanda.
[AA / 0411]
On the 14th of May 2011 the new book 'Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space' will be presented at V2_, it looks at how new technologies change urban life.
Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space (MIT Press) contains a great number of texts which explore the experience of living in a sentient city, a city that, through the use of mobile technologies, can remember, correlate and anticipate the behavior of its inhabitants. It is edited by Mark Shepard, who last year developed his 'app' Serendipitor during his Sentient City Summer Session residency at V2_.
Obviously the change of the urban landscape and the urban experience through new technologies has been the subject of many other V2_ events, projects and works. A recent Test_Lab, Urban Screen Savers for instance looked at how large screens in public space can be used and are infiltrating the city. The Artvertiser, an Augmented Reality work by Julian Oliver and Damian Stewart, is a practical artistic and activist take on this issue. It reclaims the street for the citizens, as it proposes to show your own images on large publicity billboards, instead of the advertisements.
Sentient City focuses mostly on applications of Augmented Reality and mobile technologies. If we go back in the history of V2_ we find Urban Eyes, by Jussi Ängeslevä and Marcus Kirsch, which was a quite early design proposal which used both a network of pigeons (yes, the birds which were used for delivering mail) and RFID.
Many of such projects are somehow inspired by psychogeography, by the idea of designing ways of wandering through the city that yield new and unexpected experiences – Serendipitor certainly is. Also there is a sometimes almost unconscious, sometimes straightforward approach of the issue of surveillance. This was very 'visible' when surveillance was predominantly a question of the use of CCTV, but is has become 'invisible' as soon as surveillance is played out through the tracking of devices and GPS.
Going further back in the history of V2_, looking for works and events which connect urban life and technology, one rather finds projects and researches which focus on architecture. In 2001 and 2002 the global transformation of cities was the subject of the TransUrbanism research of V2_, which led to a book with the same title: TransUrbanism. At that time the relation between technology and urbanity was often approached from the application of new technologies by architects: it looked at new architectural forms made possible through the application of computer technology. This can be seen in the work of Lars Spuybroek for instance, and was often connected with virtual architecture for 'cyberspace', as in the work 'transarchitect' Marcos Novak. A very interesting example in this respect, is NOX/Lars Spuybroek's and Q.S. Serafijn's D-Tower in the Dutch city Doetinchem, the form of which is computer-generated. It points forward to the sentient city-theme too, as it literally senses the mood of the inhabitants.
What also captured the attention of artists and developers in the 1990's were the possibilities of massive data analysis and the idea of visualizing the various networks which constitute the city. Networks of traffic, communications, movements of people, interactions between cultures, et cetera. This becomes a cornerstone for the understanding of how a city functions (which then becomes important knowledge for architecture). The application of the network metaphor coupled with massive data analysis was at the core of the work of Knowbotic Research in the 1990s. IO_dencies which was presented various times at V2_. Texts about their work were part of not only the Transurbanism book, but also of The Art of the Accident: for instance IO_dencies, Questioning Urbanity (1998).
With IO_dencies we are somehow also so far removed from the actual physical space of the city. Though the project was about physical cities, the presentation emphasized the virtual networks. That begs a question. How different are the contemporary visions of the technologically invaded city from those of only 15 years ago? Or, the same question, stated differently: what connects Knowbotic Research's projects of the middle 1990's and the idea of transarchitecture and transurbanism with the projects Mark Shepard collected for Sentient City?
On May 26th of 2011 'Test_Lab Clothing without Cloth' explores new directions for wearable and fashionable technology. Here we have a look at some recent and not so recent projects and events from the V2_archive which are somehow related.
Test_Lab Clothing without Cloth, Material Explorations in the Field of Fashion & Technology considers in the first place the design of new materials for clothing, and the transformation of the relationship between body and clothing which might develop from these new materials. Wearable technology has been one of the main research-theme's of V2_lab for quite a while now, the connection with the fashion world has not always been sought as directly as currently. Examples of projects which one could call fashionable technology were the projects that both Daan Roosegaarde (Intimacy) and Anouk Wipprecht (Pseudomorphs) developed last year in collaboration with V2_.
In 2006 a seminal event took place at Virtueel Platform and V2_: the expert meeting and public presentation Fleshing Out Technology combined – certainly in retrospect – the perspectives of bioart and werable technology, and assessed the possibilities of new materials for fashion and for clothing. There was a Test_Lab Fleshing Out, and reports were written by Leonieke Verhoog (Day 1 Fleshing Out) and Sabine Seymour (Day 2 Fleshing Out).
Previously when the term wearable technology was mentioned, one would rather thing of computers which were worn 'on the body' – and which, in the future, might become embedded in clothing... Steve Mann's 'experiment' with wearing a computer on his head used to be the key image of wearable technology. He was interviewed in 1998 By Arjen Mulder for The Art of the Accident, the text is online as Experiment is Accident.
Another 'key image' – and by now classic of electronic art – is the performance Ping Body by the Australian artist Stelarc. His 'wearable' technology - contraptions looks almost 'steampunk' now – but the research into the body-technology interface was there, and is still topical. "The body has been augmented, invaded and now becomes a host - not only for technology, but also for remote agents" he wrote in the essay Parasite Visions, 1997. Piem Wirtz mentions his works when she was interviewed by Valerie Lamontagne on the topic of wearable technology. Stelarc's vision is much more extreme, testing the body through technology rather than searching for fashionable technologies or new materials for clothing... In 1997 Stelarc ended his essay with these sentences: "Consider a body whose awareness is extruded by surrogate robots in situations and spaces where no body could go. These machines with arrays of sensors, manipulators and hybrid locomotion would exponentially multiply the operational possibilities - scaling-up the subtlety, speed and complexity of human action. Perhaps what it means to be human is about not retaining our humanity ..." That's quite a different perspective from contemporary fashionable technologies...
Of course there is much more in the archive which relates to wearable technology.
On July 7th a new series of events at V2_ kicks off with Wild Things. What's in the archive that is related to this?
The new series of events at V2_ is entitled Blowup. The first event in this series, Wild Things, features art for animals, or more precisely: "art and design projects that are created with animals in mind as the end users and active participants – not people." It presents Wilfried Houjebek's rewriting of the Gilgamesh epic in pictograms which can be understood by great apes; new habitats for hermit crabs and a lounge space for crickets created by Amy Young; television for pigs by Elio Caccavale and finally an iPad arena in which cats can play.
Wilfried Houjebek has been at V2_ at least twice. He led a street walk in 2010, but he must have participated years earlier (2000) in Wiretap 6.11 Slow Crash on art and space travel, as he was one of the driving forces behind the Jungle Association of Autonomous Astronauts, which generated lots of interest and lots of fun around that time.
Browsing through the archive – both the material which is publicly available and all those photographs, videos and scans which are not yet accessible through the website – one has to conclude that animals have not played a major role in the arts and projects which have been presented at V2_ through the years.
Yes, there was a dog in Paul Garrin's work Yuppie Ghetto with Watchdog, but it was not a real dog; it was a 'virtual dog'. This work was presented at DEAF94, which featured many other works that dealt with the theme Digital Nature. But digital nature was exactly not concerned with real animals, nor with real nature, Both the exhibition of DEAF94 and the symposium on Generated Life which was part of DEAF94 were concerned with digital artifacts which behaved just like nature, or reflected on philosophical questions of nature and 'life'. Papegaaien (Parrots) by Felix Hess is not an installations with or for parrots, it's a sound installation consisting of loudspeakers.
An interesting case is the work of artist and biologist Louis Bec. His work opens a very intriguing take on technology its influence on human nature, and how we understand our environment by reasoning from the perspective of strange, fictional animals. He did a lecture at the symposium of DEAF94, and his essay Squids, Elements of Technozoosemiotics is part of the the book Technomorphica.
Though V2_ has upheld firm interest in biology through the years, it has seldom welcomed animals. Except, of course, when these animals were robots, as in Chico MacMurtrie's The Ancestral Path: The Dog Monkeys Journey through the Amorphic Society. There are many more of those examples to find....
From the 26th of July until August 16th the exhibition Translife – Media Art China 2011 is on view in Beijing, featuring several V2_related works. Here we go through the archive, looking for the connections between this exhibition and V2_.
The exhibition in Beijing features works by two Rotterdam based artists with whom V2_ has collaborated on numoruous occasions. Edwin van der Heide shows one of his most recent works Evolving Spark Network, and Marnix de Nijs is present with 15 minutes of Biometric Fame. The installation Oil Compass by Kasia Molga was produced in connection with Cesar Harada’s Protei project, co-produced by V2_ this summer. And Bernie Lubell, who had a major exhibition in 2009, is presented in Bejing with Aphasiogram.
Both Evolving Space Network and 15 Minutes of Biometric Fame are in the "Sensorium of the Extraordinary" part of the exhibition. Here we find also the installation Just Noticable Difference by Chris Salter – who in 2011 organised the expert meeting on vitalism at V2_, The Vibrancy Effect.
But there are more links to be made, in the first place to works shown in the exhibitions of the various Dutch Electronic Art Festivals. For instance, one of the most impressive works in the exhibition of the 2004 edition, DEAF04 - Affective Turbulence was Gravicells by Seiko Mikami and Sota Ichikawa. At the time this was a very technologically advanced work – imagine making a large scale environment using GPS in 2004. It is shown again in Bejing, in the 2005 version, as part of the "Sensorium of the Extraordinary".
There are two much earlier works by Seiko Mikami which, judging by the description, would have fitted in the "Sensorium of the Extraordinary" perfectly well. In 1998 V2_ showed Mikami's World, Membrane and the Dismembered Body as part of the DEAF98 Exhibition. A longer description of the work can be found in the publication The Art of the Accident (1998), and there is also an essay in the archive by Sabu Kosho: On Seiko Mikami's "World, Membrane and the Dismembered Body".
Even earlier, in 1996, the DEAF96 Exhibition of interactive artworks featured Seiko Mikami's Molecular Informatics, an installation and virtual world in which the mostly uncontrolled and unconscious eye movements of visitors "are converted into data and transformed into forms and structures in a virtual molecular world". That was certainly a sensorium of the extraordinary.
To really get into the context of DEAF96 – that's 15 years ago now – you can download and browse hi-res scans of the DEAF96 Program Booklet and the DEAF 96 Digital Territories Reader from the archive.
More on the exhibition in the NAMOC, Bejing: http://mediartchina.org
On September 29 the third Blowup event takes place at V2_. It is entitled The Era of Objects. Is there anything in the V2_archive which relates to this?
On september the 29th the designers and theorists Julian Bleecker (Nokia, Near Future Laboratory), Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Really Interesting Group), and Anab Jain (Superflux) will discuss current speculative design. The focus of their practices lies on the what used to be called – or is still called – "The Internet of Things" and the rise of 3D-printing. It is about the idea of what happens when objects are networked and can communicate, and what changes we can envision in case dirt cheap 3D-printing takes the place of buying ready made, mass-produced objects.
Though V2_ has always looked to the future and has speculated much on what will happen in future technological times, the "The Internet of Things" – an idea which has been around ever since someone thought about hooking up the fridge to the internet – nor 3D printing have ever occupied at center stage at V2_.
But there is a close connection – a very close connection – between the DIY-approach of Julian Bleecker and the way in which the V2_ lab develops some projects. Julian Bleecker loves making things, and promotes that love – and so does V2_. Just look for instance at these V2_workshops: DIY networks, DIY Ambient Intelligence, the Workshop Wearable Technology, or this cutout circuit board design.
And, though "The Internet of Things" might never have played a central role at V2_ there are many projects in which objects are furnished with communication technology, and networked to communicate. The first project which comes to mind is Thecla Schiphorst's Soft(n) – which basically consists of cushions which communicate. Another take on communicating objects is Mobile Feelings by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau – though that work is more about the boundaries between object and virtual – an issue explored by many more projects presented at V2_.
The lack of clearly related projects in the V2_archive is just one reason more to be excited about an exploration of speculative design – there might be something new to invent – a new thing, or a new behavior. Maybe to get context for this night we should not search the V2_archive for leads, but rather look at the present – and go further back, even to an updated 19th Century – and read Lars Spuybroek's new book The Sympathy of Things, Ruskin and the Ecology of Design.
It's the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan's birth, and it's celebrated at V2_ on three consecutive nights with Blowup "We Are All Crew".
We Are All Crew features the Strategic Art Initiative 2.0 exhibition of re-created early telematic artworks from 1986 (with a.o. David Rokeby and Graham Smith); the worldwide premiere of Them F*ckin’ Robots, a documentary on electronic art pioneer Norman White; and a lecture by Arjen Mulder, on the things we love and love to hate about McLuhan.
Of course there are many obvious relations to make between these events and past events at V2_. Graham Smith, who was in the 1986 Stategic Arts Initiative, has since then continued to explore a physical notion of telepresence, and many of his projects have been shown at V2_. For instance MOBI, a telepresence robot which is like a more refined version of his 1986 Displaced Perspectives, was part of the DEAF07 exhibition. David Rokeby's n-Cha(n)t was on show at DEAF04. Another obvious relation is the media theory of Arjen Mulder, which has always been deeply informed by McLuhan. His Understanding Media Theory contains, amongst many other things, an inspiring account of McLuhan's thoughts. No wonder that the lectures which accompagnied the presentation of the book featured McLuhan-inspired thinkers. Derrick de Kerckhove – in many ways McLuhan's most direct heir – has also been a guest at V2_ many times, notably at Manifestation for the Unstable Media 4 and the DEAF04 symposium. He wrote an essay for DEAF96: The Digital Imperative. A last obvious connection is that between the robot art of Norman White and the many robot performances which took place at V2_. But I already mentioned some of those in earlier columns.
I wanted to go back further in time – to the 1980s and early 1990s. Only a small part of the V2_archive's documents and information of those years is publicly on view. (We're working on it). I was thinking of 1992, when the San Francisco festival took place at V2_, which included a robot performance by Chico MacMurtrie. Two hi-res scans of the poster are here and here. I guess that connects to Norman White's work in some senses.
Talking about telepresence and 1992, one cannot escape referencing Paul Sermon's groundbreaking installation Telematic Dreaming, which was shown at V2_ as part of the Body in Ruin exhibition in 1993.
And I was also thinking of the event The Art of Being Everywhere, which took place at V2_ in 1992, it was curated by Robert Adrian, one of the central figures in early telematic art. This event adressed the possibilities of electronic networking and the consequences thereof – like telepresence and the idea one is connectected to 'everywhere' by electronic signals. Adrian was the man behind ZEROnet.
Let's go back even further – and just for this time move outside of the V2_archive. Robert Adrian took also part in the by now legendary 1983 event La plissure du texte – conceived by Roy Ascott (See: http://alien.mur.at/rax/ARTEX/PLISSURE/plissure.html). This weaves another connection, as one versions of that text, was captured on disc by, yes, Norman White. It can be accessed online at http://www.normill.ca/Text/plissure.txt. 1983 telepresence, here's a snippet:
"I ALSO THINK IT IMPORTATNT THAT WE TRY IN THIS PROJECT TO AVAOID THE IMB
INBUILT ENLGLISH LANGUAGE BIAS OF THE ELECTRONIC WORLD. LETS TRY TO KEEP AT LES
PERCENT FRENCH INPUT ....
Two consecutive events at V2_ focus on money and the arts: Test_Lab: Who Wants to Be and the Blowup Show Me the Money. This column searches for connections with V2_ works and events from the past.
It's not so easy to find events and works in the V2_archive that have a clear and direct connection to the Test_Lab Who Wants to Be and the Blowup Show Me the Money. Of course, Saul Albert gave a presentation at DEAF07, as part of UbiScribe: Collocollaboracontentquery? and at Snack&Surge Brunch: Out in the Open. But reflecting on the organization, specifically the financial organization of culture and the arts, has not often been the main focus of events at V2_. To refer only to the recent successful funding of Protei through Kickstarter seems a bit too easy...
One could maybe point to the early days of netart, when there was a lot of discussion on the specific position of netart in the world of the arts, which also came with ideas on money and how to financially sustain such a culture. Also various projects which posited alternatives to cultural production, or were experiments in the organization of cultural production are a possible connection. Marko Peljhan's Makrolab might be an example. More radical and subversive: the various projects which Hans Bernhard (Ubermorgen.com) was involved in implicitly pose very interesting questions regarding the financial aspects of cultural production. The well-known They Rule (2001) by Josh On and Futurefarmers provides a platform to map power relations in the contemporary corporate world.
Games as another point of entry then? There is the famous (commercial) Civilization, a simulation-game. Civilization IV, Age of Empire, is an art game by the Serbian collective Eastwood, which was exhibited at DEAF04. Read this: "Civilization IV - Age of Empire is a game that creates a socio-economical model, mapping the processes, flows, comparativeness and differentiation in the market. This model simulates activities of some of the world's top IT corporations. The game displays the functioning of today's IT complex machine in a most transparent way, including the role of military-entertaining complex, immaterial labor, pharmaceutical industry, net.economy, business espionage, surveillance mechanisms, sex/porn industry, terrorism, governmentality, schizophrenia."
Implicitly the theme fo money and cultural production has probably been touched upon many times at V2_, certainly with regard to alternative cultural production. Should be mention the discussions on the internet and media art in Eastern Europe, for instance the Deep Europe project, and its funding connections with the Soros Foundation?
As V2_ finds its roots in the alternative scene, and started in squatted buildings in Den Bosch, there should also be quite a few examples of political inspired art from the early days. Stephen Wilson's Street Voice Space from 1990 used a computer who asked the public to vent their opinions on social, political or psychological subjects through a microphone in the middle of the square. That's somehow comparable to what will happen in the Test_Lab: Who Wants to Be and the Blowup Show Me the Money...
A look at the V2_archive on occasion of the premiere of the interactive film 'Order' at V2_.
On January 27th the interactive feature film Order by Oliver Otten will be premiered at V2_. This made me think of some of the earlier 'attempts' at making interactive film.
Quite recently I put up a couple of descriptions of 'interactive' CD-roms from the 1990s which I found more or less 'hidden' in the archive database. They were there because they had been presented at events like Wiretap 1.04 - The Electric Book and Wiretap 5.13 - Story-boards for Interactive Media. Others had been 'on show' at a Digital Dive at DEAF, or been part of a workshop like CD foROM, in a time when playing a CD-rom was something most people could not do at home. (There was certainly no easy possibility to copy the CD-rom and burn a copy for yourself).
At the time a lot was made of the possibilities of this new medium, and a host of innovative-minded designers and young talents turned their attention to it. This was the time of Bob Stein's Voyager disks (only for the Mac) – like Laurie Anderson's Puppet Motel. Voyager published their first CD-Rom in 1989 and went bankrupt in 1997. Their demise was something like the end of the 'interactive CD-rom' as follow-up to the illustrated book. Nevertheless interesting work was produced in those years. Two examples that I imagine still stand the test of time are Scrutiny in the Great Round and Blam!. Whereas WAXweb, the 'hypermedia'-version of David Blair's WAX or the discovery of television among the bees, simply deservers mentioning because it has been online since 1994. It is not a CD-rom, but for years was considered one of the prime examples of interactive non-linear narrative.
The growing possibilities of the World Wide Web took away a lot of the energy from the 'medium' of the interactive CD-rom, which in retrospect almost seems a stillborn medium. Interactive narrative became the domain of games. Art never took well to the CD-rom, and for the rest the CD became an 'extra', just a storage disk with interative features that in principle could also be found online. A third area in which some of the 'artistic energy' that was invested in interactive CD-roms was played out, is interactive Flash movies.
Though the CD-roms from the 1990s are on the shelves in a cupboard at V2_ – unplayable on new computers, you'll have to fire up one of those old Mac Performa's – the first thing I did when checking the information, was a quick google-search. In many cases not much came up – sometimes not more than an orphaned entry at Amazon. I also found pages that looked like parts of forgotten websites on the VPRO-server, looking for information on Virtual Conversation. (Amongst the people who worked on that were Taco Stolk, Bert Mulder, and a very young Gideon Kiers).
I wonder if we have a good account of those years. In the Netherlands we had the first websites of V2_ and Mediamatic, and all the activity a the digital 'attic' of the VPRO. My guess is that people have the remains of it on old harddisks: saved copies of simple websites, Director-files, maybe even Hypercard-stacks. Some of the organizations Sometimes pages are even still online, but hard to find, and only partly functional. (There are some such 'forgotten' things at v2.nl as well).
I did not do an awful lot of research into this area. It might be that I simply missed the website of the researcher or enthusiast of early interactive CD-roms, which gives a full account of these times, still I was surprised at the small amount of information that I (quickly) found, and how scattered it is.
Btw: I think it's great to find pages like this one: web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/Voyager.html.
A look at the V2_archive on occasion of the Museumnight 2012 and Test_Lab Smell This.
Both the Museumnight on March 10th and the Test_Lab Smell This! on March 15th focus on 'smell', still probably the most underestimated of our senses, and certainly underrepresented in the art of the Information Age. The Norwegian smell artist Sissel Tolaas is a guest on both occasions, she also was one of the speakers of Test_Lab Multi_modal in 2008 (with archived live stream). Maki Ueda will 'decompose' Chanel 5 at Test_Lab Smell This!, she was also the curator of the Palmtop Theater exhibition. In 2001 she developed the word Hole in the Earth at V2_lab.
The fact that smell is not present our network communications, has attracted some attention of artists who worked on virtual spaces and communication – at least it is mentioned time and again in the description of installations and other works. Of course, again, Mignonneau & Sommerer's Mobile Feelings (includes video) comes to mind – as a device which transmits smell, sweatiness and tactile 'information' instead of sound and image.
'Smell' is also mentioned in the description of Masaki Fujihata's Global Interior Project, a multi-user virtual environment which was part of the 1996 Dutch Electronic Art Festival. Smell was one of the 18 categories in the work, or rather one of the 'rooms' in the virtual environment. One can imagine that there was no real smell in this probably in retrospect technologically rather primitive 'chat room'.
Real smell was part of The Gyroscope by Just Merit, which emitted – on purpose – the smell of ether. This installation was shown in 1993 during the Synesthetics-project. Erik Hobijn, famous for his fire-installations, made Olfactoric Nervous System, which was shown at V2_ in 1995, and apparently it was a 'smell-installation' – though the available description is quite minimal.
If smell was intentionally part in the installation Headspace Boxes by Laura Kikauka, also shown at V2_ in Den Bosch in 1993 at an event entitled Four Corners Get Obtuse, is a bit unclear. This work alluded to the idea of Virtual Reality, and consisted of head mounts that the viewer could wear to hear sounds which reacted to the movements of the head. The Dutch description makes no mention of smell, and neither of light, but the English description states "The audience can stand under these objects, and put its heads into them. Then, sounds, smells and light effects are generated." Certainly the work did not make use of any type of electronic transmission of smell – no smelling interface for VR or Internet, but it is possible that Laura Kikauka, who at the time collaborated with Norman White, included 'smelly' parts in the installation which helped to stimulate the imagination of the viewer. Yet it could just as well be a mistake copied from a PR-text. Googling does not provide an answer to this question, we'll have to ask the artist, or the curators of the exhibition (assuming they will remember it correctly) ...
About the early history of V2_.
Over the past few years there is a growing interest in the alternative culture and music of the early 1980s. Examples of this are blogs like Mutant-Sound and No Longer Forgotten Music that have unearthed even the most obscure of the cassette-releases from that period. Recently no less than three books were published in the Netherlands about the the Dutch scene of alternative music, art and culture between roughly 1979 – 1984. The publication of these books coincided with an exhibition about punk at the Centraal Museum Utrecht, God Save the Queen, which featured, amongst many other things, the work of the Amsterdam pirate television station Rabotnik.
The history of V2_ goes back to 1981, when a group of artists squatted a building in Den Bosch and started to use it for exhibitions an concerts. Amongst them were Joke Brouwer and Alex Adriaansens. So it is no surprise that each of these three books cover some of the early history of V2_.
No Future Nu by Leonor Jonker is a history of punk and the post-punk DIY-scene in the Netherlands. As part of that it traces the development of V2_ from artist squat to an institute for ‘unstable media’ of international renown, and shows how the DIY-attitude still informs the activities of V2_.
Marijn Haas wrote a biography of Mike von Bibikov, a strange and hard to classify ads-writer, poet, performance artist, and spokesperson of the fake political party De Reagering (a pun on the Dutch word for government, ‘regering’, regeren means to govern, reageren means to react). Previously Haas had already written biographies of Dr. Rat – the now legendary original Dutch graffitti artist – and the Stadskunstguerrilla (SKG, City Art Guerrilla), a group of nihilistic intervention artists around Erik Hobijn. Von Bibikov, who seemingly was hard to miss in the early 1980s, also performed at V2_, for instance on Saturday 18 September 1982. One of his notorious actions took place in 1982 when artists connected to V2_ staged the occupation of the university of Nijmegen as part of a small exhibition, and declared Mike von Bibikov the new rector magnificus. The artists had put up posters with the texts like “Good Morning, this is a coup d’etat”. The atmosphere quickly became unfriendly, the immediate take-down of the exhibition was ordered, and some of the artworks were destroyed. (Later apologies were made by the university).
The third book is Ultra, in which Harold Schellinx minutely reconstructs the Ultra-movement, a kind of Dutch no wave, of which many visual artists (Rob Scholte, Ad de Jong), writers (Dirk van Weelden) and others who were to become important in the Dutch scene, were part. Joke Brouwer features in Ultra, as she was the drummer of one of the most interesting Ultra-bands, Minioon. Schellinx quotes extensively from a 1980 interview with her, in which she, surprisingly, mainly talks about biology and evolution – another ‘seed’ of V2_’s later activities.
The early years of V2_ (then in fact without the underscore) were partly well documented. There are many photographs, folders with press material, year reports and photocopies. A video camera was amongst the first acquisitions of V2_, and some good video footage of concerts and exhibitions survives. As an important hub in the cassette-world, V2_ released sound recordings of events on cassette. The quality of all this material varies (in all respects), and not all events were covered. And yes, at that time there was still a lot of painting going on, also at V2_, and there were many concerts, culminating maybe in 1985 when Einstürzende Neubauten, Laibach and Sonic Youth played at V2_. All of this was before the Manifesto for the Unstable Media – of which a proto-version was published on 31 December 1986.
Though the photographs were already digitized years ago, hardly any of this material was ever published on the archive website of V2_. Over the past few months we have ordered (again) more than 15.000 digitized photographs, scanned the print materials, and digitized old VHS-tapes. A choice from this is accessible on the website. So if you are interested in the Dutch alternative scene, the beginnings of V2_ or the alternative new media 'scene' from the 1980s, take a look at V2_events from 1983, 1984, 1985 – and later.
On July 9th you can experience some of the best projects by students graduating from European arts academies at V2_, during the Test_Lab Graduation Edition 2015. It's a tradition by now.
Test_Labs is a series of V2_programmes, running since 2006, where developments in the field of artistic research and development are demonstrated, tested, presented and discussed. Test_Labs bring together specialists from a wide range of scientific and artistic disciplines, young creators, students, and theorists in an informal setting. Since 2011 we've been using the name 'Graduation Edition' for the evenings on which the most promising work of freshly graduated artists and designers is shown and discussed. Actually it's a format that we started to use in 2007 with the Test_Lab PLAY – in the first years we used a theme also for each 'graduation edition'.
In the 8 previous editions about 40 artists showed work. It would be interesting to see if there are any trends – or maybe there are no recognizable trends. Let's just take a quick look at some artists who showed work through the years.
Gordan Savicic was invited to show his graduation work in 2007. A couple of years later he created the now legendary Web2.0 Suicide Machine (2009) – a programme to facilitate deleting one's social media accounts. It went viral and was banned eventually by Facebook.
In 2008 Gordan Savicic was present again (I'm not sure if he graduated again...). Danja Vasiliev was also there. I remember that he had made a large sculpture with harddrives. He collaborated with Gordan Savicic on the Web2.0 Suicide Machine, and went on to collaborate as well with Julian Oliver. Also presenting on that night was Ricardo O'Nascimento, graduating at the Kunstuniversität Linz. He would be back several times at V2_, and will very soon lead the Open Set wearables workshop at V2_ (on 31 July).
In 2009 we invited Cesar Harada's Open Sailing project to the Test_Lab What Crisis. His story is well known. He went on to work on Protei at V2_, and has since then enjoyed international success. But on that very evening there was also a presentation by Sander Veenhof, graduating from the Rietveld Academy. He is now one of the artists at the forefront of Augmented Reality.
David Benqué graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010, and showed work at the Test_Lab Invisible Cities. He was back at V2_ with the exhibition Blueprints for the Unknown in 2014.
Nicky Assmann was part of the Test_Lab Graduation Edition in 2011, showing her stunning 'soap film apparatus' Solace, which was shown internationally afterwards, travelling as far as Taiwan and Pittsburgh, and was reviewed in a.o. The Creator's Project (of Vice) and Huffington Post.
A high point of the Graduation Edition in 2012 was a live performance of Lightscape by Matthijs Munnik, graduating from the Royal Academy in the Hague. He would go on to show work in a.o. the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Kontraste Festival in Krems, Austria.
The 2013 edition featured amongst others Jonas Lund. He already had a solo at Showroom MAMA, Rotterdam (2013) and Steve Turner (2014) and has shown work in New York, Paris, Haarlem, and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.
Maybe 2014 is too close to the present to already feature one of the five graduates... I will look back on that one at a later stage.
By the way, most Test_Lab events were video taped. Just go to the webpage of the event, and you'll find the associated video's embedded. If you like to revisit the past: you can.
Just a random entry into the archive by way of an upcoming concert...
Tonight (14 March 2019) I was browsing through the program of the upcoming Minimal Music Festival at the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ in Amsterdam (April 2019). I clicked on 'Massive Trance' by Driftmachine + Ron van de Kerkhof. 'The legendary trance-inducing cassette of Marien van Oers interpreted by sound artist Jeroen Vermandere'. It's one of the free events. (That's why I clicked). None of the names are familiar to me. Then I read: 'Massive Trance is a legendary cassette by Marien van Oers (alias Het Zweet), who made intense and repetitive music in the 1980s.')
Het Zweet? But as archivist of V2_ I do know Het Zweet. He performed at V2_ back in 1986 as part of the two day Romantic Aesthetics-event. The page about his performance mentions 14 June 1986 as the date, but judging from the program that should probably be 13 June. There's two photo's online, and more specific information is lacking.
Actually he also performed also at V2_ a year earlier. It's mentioned as a peformance of the piece Topsy-Turvy. It took place on the 22nd of March 1985 – most probably after midnight, at the end of a night with film and video. It was a performance together with Marina van den Tweel. Acccording to the poster the evening featured the screening of video's and films by Alex Adriaansens (Z.T.), Tödliche Doris (Band III and Band 4) and Wikke 't Hooft (Sterf Golf). The description online mentions that Het Zweet was a 'group from Breda'. Though Het Zweet was Marien van Oers, I will leave this description as it might come from an old source, and it might be that Het Zweet at that moment was considered a 'group'.
I had no idea that Het Zweet had become somewhat legendary. It appears that his performances included using contact mikes on shopping cart and other bits of metal. There is a number of videos – some digitised – in the archive of V2_ that are just registrations of concerts of punk/post-punk/noise-groups. Maybe, when I have time, I will look if we have any by Het Zweet. To be honest, I doubt it, as the offline index to the video archive only mentions one compilation tape with 5 minutes of Het Zweet, the original is a VHS, and it was transferred to DV years ago.
As always it's kinda nice to quickly do a bit of pseudo research by just feeding names into a search engine. But one can easily become lost in it. There is so much... Of course you can find Massive Trance on Youtube, and probably much more on websites specialized in obscure underground and industrial music.
The young artists Jeroen Vermandere has a whole project about the scene of 1980s DIY-music.
Marien van Oers died in 2013.
These texts were published on the website of V2_; you can find them in at v2.nl/archive/archive/articles/a-look-at-whats-in-the-archive.
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Arie Altena / V2_