Anecdote –                                                 

#1 Ecology of art

Based on a true story.

As if it was being announced, as at the start of a movie.

Image by Lotte van Geijn ©

She is visiting Amsterdam. A friend has told her to go to the nine streets: the so-called ‘Jordaan’. This is the heart of the city. She is impressed with the 17th century houses, and by the water. The canals, in particular, are unique. Seeing all of this, she can understand why they call it ‘The Venice of the North’. The weather is overcast, and the sky cloudy, but as the sun starts to appear, she feels warmth on her face. She crosses over a bridge and gets to a small street. She decides to wander around for the afternoon. But suddenly she has to pee! She decides she’ll walk in the direction of the cafés, or somewhere with a toilet. But out of the corner of her eye she notices a gallery on the other side of the street. She catches sight of a small work of art there hanging on the wall. It’s created of neon-light. She is intrigued, but her bladder wins out and she keeps on walking.

After finding a nice looking café, she goes to the bathroom and immediately relieves herself Feeling much better, she orders a small beer (apple juice). It’s noon, but she is on vacation, so why not? Outside the cafe are a few chairs and she’s in luck – a couple are just leaving. Suddenly she remembers the neon-light artwork. Wasn’t that interesting? Maybe it’s worth going back for…

On leaving the cafe, it takes her a while to find the gallery again. She almost gives up, but turning around one last corner, she walks into the right street. As she approaches the gallery window again, she decides to enter, to take a better and more careful look at the artwork. At the Martin van Zomeren Gallery there is a special showing as part of the spring exhibition, called ‘Fa Fa Fa’. It’s not a usual event at the gallery, but on this occasion Martin van Zomeren, the owner, has decided to create an exhibition with ceramics as the starting point. She asks him why. “Because ceramics are hot nowadays” he explains. The artwork in the window looks like the word ‘FA’ has been written three times, one on top of the other, in green, light blue and darker blue. It’s a piece by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Maitre. Her heart gives a small jump… It’s not made of neon-light – it’s made of ceramics, but the glaze is so shiny that it almost looks like lightning.

Image by Lotte van Geijn ©

So, she made a mistake, when she walked by and glanced at the artwork from the corner of her eye. The colour and the form she related to other neon-light artworks she’d seen – for example, ‘My Name as Though It Were Written on the Surface of the Moon’(1968) by Bruce Nauman, which she saw a few years previous at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. She whispers to herself: “bbbbbbrrrrrruuuuuucccccceeeeee”. She is curious about the artwork, and Martin van Zomeren hands her a leaflet with information on it, telling her he’s available, if she has any questions.

Image by Lotte van Geijn ©

When you experience a hallucination, the brain creates an image and ‘submits’ it, giving it precedence over reality; you experience this as if it actually is reality.

Jean-Baptiste Maitre creates, in his work, relationships between cinema, paintings and sculptures, reinventing ideas on how we deal with new information. He refers to the effect of hallucinations. When you experience a hallucination, the brain creates an image and ‘submits’ it, giving it precedence over reality; you experience this as if it actually is reality. That makes sense, she realises. This is kind of what happened when she first saw the artwork ‘Fa Fa Fa’; she thought she was seeing neon-light, but the reality revealed ceramics. Maitre re-uses the form-language of neon-light, and plays with the original artwork, which is constantly re-used and transformed in this so-called ‘ecology of art’. By writing and talking about them, by taking pictures of the artworks, we can change them – and change too, in how we perceive a piece, and how we remember it. But why the words ‘fa fa fa’? What do they mean?

…the original artwork, which is constantly re-used and transformed in this so-called ‘ecology of art’,

by writing and talking about them, by taking pictures of the artworks,

we can change them – and change too, in how we perceive a piece, and how we remember it.

 

Back in her cosy hotel room, she searches the Internet to find out more. Eventually, she finds herself on the blog of someone who’s living in Taiwan. “Fa fa fa” is a Taiwanese expression, which you use when you encounter a sign of either good or bad luck; such signs can tell you if your life is about to go up- or downhill. But it’s important that, if you see a sign of good luck, you share it with others, otherwise it will bring you bad luck. So when you see a good sign you shout: “fa fa fa”! It’s about recognising and including others. She is not superstitious, but maybe it’s the same as with a hallucination… Maybe this artwork of Jean-Baptiste, ‘Fa Fa Fa’, is a sign of good luck in itself. She decides to call a friend to tell her about today’s experience. To be sure, she really doesn’t believe init, that the sign for good luck, if not shared, turns into a sign for bad luck…