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Ellen Kooi Above Rotterdam

One Glass Tower by Wiel Arets

Nine Situations by Katrien Van den Brande


Prologue

Their faces are beaming, as if they haven’t seen him for ages, and are finally being reunited today. A screen in the arrival hall of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport shows some 20 people laughing and waving at him, in groups of twos and threes, from various living rooms. He does not give in to the impulse to wave back to them. A commercial should be coming up soon. But the waving continues unabated.

Moments earlier, in the plane, a baby had screamed inconsolably in his right ear each time they had hit an air pocket. The lack of sleep makes him feel as if he is acting in a silent film, whose meaning still escapes him. He is travelling backward. He hears the hum of the train sliding through a tunnel. It flashes by: white, white, green, white, white, green. Sounds are wrapped in cotton wool. Speech is reduced to consonants: S g t st k kt t sj. He hears the voice of a woman nearby, stretching like an elastic band. The crackling sound of food packaging. A female passenger is sleeping next to him with her mouth open, her olive green bag opened in her lap. On his collapsible table there is a long sentence written with a magic marker. Is it in Dutch? ‘De stad graaft zich in als een reusachtig anker, om maar niet meegenomen te worden door de rivier naar de wijde zee.’ [‘The city digs itself in like a giant anchor, to keep from being carried away by the river to the open sea.’] He copies the message onto the back of a receipt.

Highways, shoebox style corporate buildings, shimmering wrinkly water. The first white bridges, like pens writing in the night. An orange sun is rising in a glass greenhouse. A woman contemplates the shiny trim of a pair of folded black 2


gloves, two limp mouths in a Dali painting.

For the first time he sees images of the city’s harbor on oversized LED screens, high up in the hall of Rotterdam Central Station. The cargo of the container ship Katharina is being unloaded. From behind the hairy neck of a crane operator, the containers are visible below. The cargo is being transferred to trucks by vehicles with impossibly tall wheels.

A girl is sitting next to a boy, surrounded by her luggage. She holds up her bare underarm, staring at his actions. The wound itself is invisible. All he sees is the greasy gauze that the boy is carefully unfolding on her arm, like a sheet on a bed.

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December 14th

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High above the streets of Rotterdam, on cold winter nights, during early spring evenings, and dusky autumn days; five situations were staged and captured by artist Ellen Kooi, inside the B’ Tower in Rotterdam, by architect Wiel Arets. Most of its units are identical, which lends a receded repetition to the ‘stage sets’ Kooi created, in the tradition of her renowned landscape photography. In Kooi’s ‘sets’, a sleeping young girl cuddles with whimsical Weimaraners; a lonely business man digitally pines for his distant love; a young couple saunters and seduces one another, inside and out; an informal dinner gathering morphs into an impromptu musical; a mother creates a dream world for her and her children, high above Rotterdam’s streets. Interspersed throughout Kooi's sets of imagery are separately created scenes of poetry and prose, by artist Katrien Van den Brande, which alternate with Kooi's narratives–all graphically woven together by a design from Mainstudio. This publication is a two-dimensional immersion into a parallel urban reality, that’s at once fantasy and fiction–yet remarkably familiar.

Ellen Koi Above Rotterdam  

Ellen Kooi Above Rotterdam, a new book that explores hybrid-modernity, residential repetition, and vertical urbanity, in the work of Wiel Ar...

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