experiencing the interstitial space
Final Research Document MA_Scenography 2019-2021
Zoey Benschop / Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht
Have you ever seen a film with an open end? a film you never fully understood but remember like it was yesterday?
This document is an attempt to give a voice to the words related to the research: layering, framing, observing, focus, time, empty space, perspectives, movement, body, curiosity, silence The meaning of those words intertwined with each other. While talking about space, automatically talking about time, and while talking about movement, also talking about perspectives. By investigating those elements, at the end resulting in a set of strategies to involve the spectator in a particular and set way.
To myself, Last couple weeks I experienced empty space my empty space the worlds empty space empty space to reflect to disconnect to be nothing difficulty joy curiosity and silence I have been asking myself for a while now why film, framing, layering, focus, perspectives, time and empty space is so important to me. Until last week I couldn’t figure it out. It just didn’t click. Perspectives because my dad always encouraged me to look at different sides of the story and stimulated me to form my own opinion? Framing because the world is filled with so many items to relate to? Time because I am fighting against it? During the last period I found ways to reveal, to focus and remove. To direct. To trust my eye. To trust my instinct. To find meaning and urgency in ‘the curious eye’, my curious eye, to visualize that eye and to show it to others, to you. To take you with me and explore time and space together. To listen and learn from you and create something new, something even better. Understanding the importance of focus; focus on a certain point in order to understand the empty space around. And finally, understanding that the one can’t live without the other. Understanding my work as an organizer of my brain, wanting to do so many things at all once. But while doing so forcing myself into that focus. To focus on one thing at the time. And instantly failing at that attempt. Being my own life’s voyeur and watching from a distance.
Giving a voice to myself, my 1. experience of time, my 2. experience of movement and my 3. experience of space will take me on an unexpected path. A path carefully curated and observed. And whilst on the way, allowing to let it all go again. Only when I am able to understand myself, my position to the world, I can take others, you with me on that path. I am not afraid anymore. Because when I keep growing as a person, my research grows with me. Oh.. and there it was. Finally that empty space I was looking for. Space to reflect. Space to stay curious. It turns out it isn’t about adding, focusing or highlighting after all. It is about removing. It is about letting go.
How can I direct the spectator in order to experience ‘a curious eye’?
• by using filmic strategies, slowly revealing • with a tension between what is and isn’t visible • without losing the connection with reality
1. Experience of time
Interlude: ’stealing time’ On slowing down To Andrei Tarkovsky, Experiment: Corona Films On John Smith - The Black Tower (1987) Experiment: Fort Lunet I
2. Experience of space
Interlude: ’thoughts of a snowflake’
On empty space 'Het ondoorgrondbare huis’ / 'The inscrutable house‘ On framing To Bill Viola, Experiment: 'Heen en Weer' Culemborg
3. Experience of movement
On reflecting and movement
Interlude: ’I peek you peek’
To Alfred Hitchcock, Experiment: DO NOT PEEK On Lotte van den Berg - Dying Together (2019)
To the spectator
Thank you note 87 References 89
1. Experience of time Time can be shaped, modeled and influenced but cannot exist without the body
interlude: ’stealing time’
Is it possible to ‘steal’ time? Time is very set, and at the same time very flexible. Trying to do more things in a shorter period of time in order to have more time to do fun things. In my opinion it’s somewhat different from racing against the clock. That seems like there’s the same amount of time for everything instead of taking something from another action, another task. I don’t like the word prioritizing a lot. That seems like one action is less important than the other. How does that work with stealing time? It feels like eating a candy: you know it is bad for you, but you eat it anyway because it tastes good. But where do you steal time from since there isn’t any notion of equal importance? Can you ‘create’ time then?
On slowing down
It is the middle of summer and it doesn’t fully turn dark outside. We are at the summer house, something every Finnish family owns.
July 2019, Finland, Summer house, 9.30 P.M.
Tomi: ‘We should start prepping and heat up the fire if we want to wash in a couple hours.’
Zoey: ‘Why? We just want to shower, right?’
Tomi: ‘But in order to shower, the stove needs to get warm. So first, we go and have sauna, cool down in the water. Then we pick some cold water from the lake and some warm water from the sauna stove, poor it together in a small bowl and I will pour it over your head.’
Zoey: ‘Wait, what? There’s no running water, no electricity and no internet?’
Tomi: ‘What did you expect? We are in the middle of nowhere. The things we do here, we have to work for. Being here is just a matter of living, everything takes so much time. We have to get water from a natural spring source, carry it home and heat the stove. Only then we can cook a meal.’
Zoey: ‘So if we want to have a warm shower, it takes a couple hours for the sauna to get ready?’
Tomi: ‘Yes, but you will like this type of living. It gives you a lot of space to just be, to think, to contemplate, to live. In The Netherlands the pace of life is so much faster in comparison to here. You will see.‘
Zoey: ‘it’s so quiet here. I can hear my own thoughts.’ 21
The extreme Finnish stillness, very unfamiliar for a Dutch citizen, brought me back to the core. It showed me that stepping out of your daily routine, the rush of life and being aware of the present moment are extremely powerful tools to create an embodied experience.
'Film fixes reality in a sense of time—it’s a way of conserving time. No other art form can fix and stop time like this. Film is a mosaic made up of time.’ - Andrei Tarkovsky
To Andrei Tarkovsky, Such a pleasure it would have been to pick up the phone, call you and talk to you about cinema, film as an art form and the experience of time in your work. It would have been a pleasure to understand your sense of time in your own life. How you would have lived in this current fast and heavily paced world. A world where the pandemic puts you back on two feet, lets you rethink about your values, your insecurities and most importantly: your sense of self and time. What does it all mean? What is important? I wonder if I would have been different if you were my neighbor, having a drink in my backyard, talking about this topic. I wonder if my sense of time changed during this past year. No, I know it changed. Looking back to the time before the pandemic, I was in fifth gear, racing between three cities: Ede, where I was born and where my parents still live, Utrecht, where I study, and Zwolle, my current hometown. My days were filled with planning and organizing the shifts between these three cities. ‘What do I bring? What do I need tomorrow? What do I want to bring for lunch? What about the day after? ‘Train canceled.’ In one of the lectures during my bachelor Interior Architecture I remember my philosophy teacher Margreet explaining Heidegger’s ideas from his book Sein und Zeit. She explained his idea about Sein, Dasein - existentialism in a very simplified way which I will never forget: ‘we all remember these times when something doesn’t go as planned: you have missed your bus or your train and suddenly you stop and look around. What now? Only in this very specific moment we experience Dasein; being fully aware of the here and now, our position in the world and our experience of time. This moment only lasts for a split second and then it’s gone again. Gone with the wind.'
I wonder, is it possible to train and recognize these moments, to become even more aware of the passing of time and to the here and now? In an interview, you said you can have a film without any characters, without decor, without anything, but the inevitable duration of a piece of film moving through a projector. Perhaps this
can be such a moment I described. Film as a tool to become aware of your time and space. In your book Sculpting in Time I read: ‘The question that film-makers must ask themselves is, what distinguishes cinema from other arts? To me cinema is unique in its dimension of time. This doesn’t mean it develops in time—so do music, theatre and ballet. I mean time in the literal sense. What is a frame, the interval between ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’? Film fixes reality in a sense of time—it’s a way of conserving time. No other art form can fix and stop time like this. Film is a mosaic made up of time.’1 This quote reminded me again to a statement Wim Wenders once said: ‘What’s outside the frame is gone forever’2. I absolutely adore this statement, because it instantly implies the opposite as well: inside the frame is preserved forever. When using a combination of film and theatre, does that mean that it both conserves time and develops in time? Can conserved time develop at the same time? I wonder if my method of framing the space does exactly that thing. Let’s say Wim Wenders is right and everything outside the frame is gone forever. What happens when the spectator moves to a different position while looking to the frame? Another thing I am highly fascinated about is your view on the pace of time. You mentioned that rhythm isn’t necessarily bound to editing, but the time running through the shots creates rhythm in the picture. You also mention that it isn’t determined by the length but by the pressure of the time that runs through them, always linked to an authentic sense of reality. An authentic sense of reality. Sense of reality. Sense. Sensing film. Isn’t scenography the perfect way to create ‘sensed film’, or ‘embodied film’? By creating more awareness in the here and now or the smell and history of space. I was distracted for a moment here. Let’s go back to rhythm. In all of your movies, but especially The Mirror (1975), there’s very specific pace of time noticeable: long shots, dripping water, a breeze of wind, slow movements and traces of memories. For me as a spectator this rhythm almost feels like you allow me to be aware of my own environment, not just the one I am looking at. It creates this sense of reflection within my
own life. The film feels very sensual and very real but at the same time secretive. I am pretty sure that’s your intention; creating tension, and thus creating curiosity for the viewer. This hidden secret is a powerful tool to keep people interested, but it also gives me an opportunity to relate; relate with the character and relate to the environment. But something else about your pace of time intrigues me. In your film Nostalgia (1983) a 9-minute clip about the main character crossing an empty swimming pool is seen.3 He attempts to cross this swimming pool with a candle. Whenever the candlelight is out, he starts over. This clip of the man crossing the pool is so intriguing and as a viewer you keep watching the candle. Two times the wind blows out the candlelight and his reaction, his frustration is felt in my own body, the body of the viewer. Finally, after nine minutes of watching him cross, I notice my own environment. I took a step back from my rushed life. I noticed how many candles there are in the room. This concentrated view and the setting you created for me by a very simple yet very powerful act is something I want to cooperate in my work as well. I wonder again how your life would have looked like if you would still be walking this earth. Would this sense of time within your films also influence your life outside your creative work? Or are you, same as I am, part of your research?
March - April 2020 Experiment Corona films Andrei Tarkovsky’s passing of time heavily influenced my experience during the first pandemic lockdown (March-April 2020). Everything stopped. Everything around silenced. No traffic, no need to rush to the train, no need to change clothes. Space was created to simply be. Zoom marathons started: three or four hours non-stop behind the screen, attempting to continue the normal way of attending classes, while constantly looking to that flag.
That flag. Dommerholt it said. Everyday that flag was waving, sometimes facing east, sometimes facing west, sometimes in-between. From my studio at the 8th floor I was imagining how that flag must feel like. Does it feel more freedom than I do? Can something without a soul travel? And if the flag would have a soul, how will it speak? I was longing for freedom, longing for walks outside, longing for leaving the screen:
I want to decide tomorrow to go to France take a bike a train a car leave towards the wind no one holding me back to live not to be lived towards the wind the silence the slowing down like a flag waving in the wind
It resulted in a series of one-minute shots, trying to grasp this slow passing of time during lockdown. It also resulted in the start of a specific way of looking; my way of looking. The slowing down of the pace of time gave me opportunity, an opening and space to look differently to my surroundings, to the ordinary and to what is already there which I will take with me in further projects. 31
On John Smith - The Black Tower (1987) That specific way of looking at space and time reminded me of John Smith. He made a short film called The Black Tower (1987) about a black tower being spotted in the streets of London. The main character feels he is being followed by this tower. Everywhere he looks, this black tower pops up and ‘walks’ with him. In an interview with John Smith he explained while moving to another place he sees this tower from his bedroom window.4 The tower was painted with such a dark and unreflective dark paint that, especially on a sunny day, it looked like a hole was cut out of the sky. Like there was an absence of image on top of a plinth. He mentions that accidents are big parts of his work and that he usually doesn’t start with an idea. Rather, he sees something interesting and an idea emerges out of that. Not just his way of looking at space and time are similar to mine, but also his artistic system: carefully curating and observing existing space in a way that emergence can occur. And by his typical way of observing, being able to create a certain setting for the viewer to become aware of both the filmed environment and their own environment. score Imagine your six-year-old self in a car, driving through the night with a clear sky, asking your dad: “can the moon follow us?” What if it can? How would the world be different? Secondly, by creating this ‘black hole in space’, he creates a certain tension between the viewed and not viewed, between the seen and not seen. That play gives you an opportunity to wonder. He doesn’t give you all the answers but just enough to keep you interested. This idea of absence in space, like a hole in the sky, is also a big fascination and working method of mine.
May - June 2020 Experiment Fort Lunet I The absence in space and the passing of time resulted in a work in Fort Lunet I (May-June 2020), which I digitally presented in a form of a floor-plan. During the weeks working at the Fort, my gathered collection from the second semester (one-minute films, cut-outs and handcrafted material as a result of not wanting to sit behind the screen anymore) found a way in space. Next to that, observing the quality of the space became an important factor. While walking to the Fort you had to cross a bridge. While waiting on that bridge, a typical reflection on the water emerged. While crossing the water towards the Kazemat, two chickens were walking along with you. Those specific moments, which defined my experience of time at the Fort, those I tried to grasp and collect. Sounds of a large pumps and footsteps through the long corridors, movements of the body between the spaces, connected with a tiny open window.
I allowed the spectator to wonder off and follow the floor-plan. They could follow the words Bunker, road to Onderbuik, parking lot, water, Kazemat, passage from kazemat, room one to five, passage, shoot hole, then finding fragments of experiments in different areas in space. As a result of the corona film outcomes, those fragments were carefully picked and curated after observing the quality of the space and enhancing those by the made interventions in space; slowly tearing open a view, creating movement by using the body and placing objects on places created this collection.
The restriction of the pandemic and therefore presenting the work online, gave me an opportunity which I never expected to have. It created room for the exploration of the frame. Without those restrictions I never would have explored the powerful field of the frame as much as I did during this time. I created new tools for directing the spectator's eye; framing as a tool for dissecting the space and give importance to the viewed pieces. Secondly, using framing as a tool to guide people through the space by a set route, a route carefully curated. And lastly, framing using as a tool to create a focused and concentrated setting to which to look through.
2. Experience of space The world would be so much more interesting if everything isn’t visible all at once,
piece by piece
interlude: ‘thoughts of a snowflake’
The weather is cold. It means that I am not so heavy today. Peacefully I dwell to the surface, connecting to my peers again, connecting as a whole. Slowly building a shell around the wooden structure I fell on, covering it with more warmth, more isolation for the outside dangers. Funnily enough, I notice this paradox. Because there’s cold, I exist, and therefore I stay warm. It’s not just me anymore. I am connected to everything in this world. Me and my peers cover everything in this widespread environment. I work together. I surround everything. I don’t feel the cold. Is there even cold? Maybe I am this warm blanket covering the world? Can someone pick me up and transfer me to another place? Can I disconnect from my fellow snowflakes? How long do I last? Can I suffocate from the next blanket being laid out over the surface? Can I greet my neighbor snowflake? Or do we have this connected conscious once we are connected? Can I duplicate? Or is there just one ‘me’? Someone picked me up. I am going on a journey. *laying on the same spot until I transfer to another self, another being* I drift away through the surface into the ground
On empty space
(emptiness) body (emptiness) object (emptiness)
(emptiness) space (emptiness) body (emptiness)
Emptiness is all around us
In an interview with Bill Viola, I stumbled across this essential idea about emptiness. He says that we as human beings really live between the empty spaces and is everywhere around us.
and we are the gaps in between
‘There is a gap between every single little neuron in our brain, a gap of empty space. So I think that is really important to realize and the buddhist masters have known this for a very long time. They talk a lot about empty space. When I was living in Japan my teacher was always talking about emptiness and I did not understand really what he was saying. And then I realized they were talking about a real thing that exists that is the space between all the physical objects. And that is where we exist really. We do not exist in the physical object, we look at them and see what they are, but we exist in between the empty spaces in reality.’5
I look around in my room. Objects are situated around me. I am writing at a table, sitting on a chair. I type on my computer and my table is gathered with papers. I change my position again and look to the other side of my room. What is most prominent are the spaces which are not filled. I can see my kitchen from where I am sitting because of this emptiness. I can look out of the window from my 8th floor and have a beautiful view over Zwolle because there is emptiness. My hand rests on my computer and underneath my wrists there is a tiny bit of empty space left. Every time I write another letter, this space changes. I lift one leg and let it rest on the other one. This empty space changes all the time and how we relate to it as humans changes with it. Learning from Bill Viola’s view on empty space, the body can change those empty spaces.
How would it change if I block the view to the kitchen? A sequential space starts to appear. By using the body moving through that space, a curiosity starts to occur. Do you know that feeling whenever you look around the corner, not knowing what you will see? 47
Het ondoorgrondbare huis Elke week vertrek ik op mijn fiets naar werk. Als ik hard fiets, doe ik daar vijf minuten over. Als ik wil genieten van de omgeving, dan misschien tien. Vaak maak ik het mijzelf wat leuker om wat langer in de wijk te fietsen voordat ik de saaie weg op ga. Deze keer fiets ik langs een rij bomen. Ze zijn in de war. Inmiddels is het bijna eind november, maar het lijkt als lente. De hele straat fleurt op door deze witte bloemen. Door deze gebeurtenis staan mijn zintuigen wagenwijd open. Op weg naar mijn werk neem ik nog een omweg. Op mijn fiets passeer ik een stadspark. Aan dit park staan statige, grote huizen. De achtertuinen grenzen aan dit park. Opeens valt het mij op: een klein, hoog huisje. Op de eerste verdieping is een erker aangebouwd. Ik vermoed dat er een vlizotrap naar de zolder gaat. Het lijkt namelijk niet alsof je er kunt staan, geen ‘volwaardige’ verdieping. Om het huis staat wel een hek, net te hoog om goed te zien hoe de benedenverdieping is ingedeeld. Ik vang wel een glimp op van de keuken en de eettafel. Gedurende de dag denk ik nog aan dat huis. Op de terugweg zal ik beter kijken. Zoveel vragen roept het op. Waar slapen ze? Waar is de woonkamer? Op de eerste verdieping of beneden? Slapen ze nou boven of In de 1,5meter uitbouw op de begane grond waar net geen ramen zitten? Ik snap het niet, ik snap het niet. Is er een aanbouw die ik heb gemist? Door de grote raampartijen lijkt het niet alsof er wat is achtergehouden, alsof ik iets heb gemist. Elke week passeer ik dit huis. Het intrigeert mij dat ik nog steeds niet heb uitgedokterd hoe de plattegrond eruit ziet. Er is iets mysterieus aan. Meerdere malen ben ik erlangs gelopen, denkend of ik toch niet eens moet aanbellen. Toen ik bijna zo ver was om aan te bellen, klikte er opeens iets. Misschien wil ik het niet weten. Deze nieuwsgierigheid, de obsessie, ultieme interesse en spanning is dan weg. Ik hou ervan om mij te verwonderen over het huis. Wat zegt dit nou over mij? Of over mijn werk? Deze intense prikkeling om altijd dat onbekende te zoeken. Structureel een laagje meer te weten te komen, maar nooit tot het volledige plaatje te komen. Deze ontdekkingstocht is voor mij zo belangrijk; wat je niet ziet. Het lokt uit tot nadenken, tot contemplatie. Het gaat opeens niet meer over het huis. Het gaat over mij, jou, de persoon en de verhouding tot het huis.
The inscrutable house Every week I ride on my bike to work. When I bike fast, it takes me about five minutes. Whenever I want to enjoy the ride, it takes me maybe ten. This time, I bike past a long tree lane. They are confused. Even though it’s almost the end of November, they blossom. It reminds me of spring. The whole street seems more happy with those white blossoming flowers. Because of this weird happening, my senses are hyper-stimulated. I decide to take a detour. I on my way to the city centre, I bike through the city. Big, 1930s houses with perfect gardens are facing this park. And suddenly there it is: this tiny house. It looks from the same era as the adjoining houses but not as tall and definitely not as wide. At the second floor a bay window is built on top of a one meter extension. It doesn’t seem like you’re able to stand up at the attic. And you will probably need a ladder to get there. The fence surrounding the house is slightly too high to see the first floor. I do see a glimpse of the kitchen and dining table. Throughout the day I keep thinking about the house. I promise myself that I will have another peek on my way back home. So many questions arise. Where do they sleep? Where’s the living room? Upstairs perhaps? Are they sleeping at the attic or in the extension downstairs? I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Did I miss something? Because of the large amount of windows it doesn’t seem like I missed a crucial part. Every week I ride past this house. It intrigues me I still haven’t managed to uncover the secret of the house. The floor plan stays a mystery to me. Multiple times I was about ready to ring the bell. And one time, I stopped and walked in. Finally. But then something clicked. Perhaps I don’t want to know. This curiosity, this obsession, extreme interest and excitement will leave me. I like this wondering about the unknown. What does it say about me and my work? Always looking for ways to peel off the (metaphorical) union, except for the last part; never fully able to grasp the whole image. The tension between the things you see and don't see. It provokes reflection and contemplation. This search is so important to me but never realized it before. Suddenly, it is not about the house anymore but about me, the resident and the embodied relationship to the house.
The intense curiosity of the inscrutable house caught me thinking about the play of the seen and not seen. It got me thinking of my intense fascination towards film, montage and most importantly: the frame. It is a way of guiding the spectator through a carefully set environment. A frame is used by film directors to create associations and that put you intentionally on a wrong path. It creates tension between the adding and removing. But for me, there’s also a huge power of the act of framing and your bodily presence in space. As discovered during my time at Fort Lunet the filmic tool of framing can be used as a guidance for the spectator through space by a set route; a route carefully curated. And secondly, by using framing as a tool to create a focused and concentrated setting through which to look.
We protect ourselves, we barricade ourselves in. Doors stop and separate. The door breaks space into two, splits it, prevents osmosis, imposes a partition. On one side, me and my place, the private, the domestic (a space overfilled with my possessions: my bed, my carpet, my table, my typewriter, my books, my odd copies of the ‘Nouvelle Revue Francaise’); on the other side, other people the world, the public, politics. You can’t simply let yourself slide from one into the other, can’t pass from one to the other, neither in one direction nor in the other. You have to have the password, have to cross the threshold, have to show your credentials, have to communicate, just as the prisoner communicates with the world outside.”
According to George Perec, a closed door prevents osmosis, but what about an open door?
I stumbled across a passage of George Perec wrote in his Book Species of Spaces on the function of doors:6
‘osmosis’ os·mo·sis | /ɒz'məʊsɪs / 1: a process by which molecules of a solvent tend to pass through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one. 2: the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.
When looking up the meaning of osmosis I got triggered by this idea of a semipermeable membrane. Molecules can pass from one solution to another one. What if space does the same? In my opinion it is possible to create a threshold in such a way that both dissected spaces can influence each other. Let’s say this semipermeable membrane is called a porous border; a porous border between the here and there, right and left, up and down, front and back, in and out, adding and removing, thinking and doing, body and mind, past and future, you and me, watching and being watched, seen and not seen.
are all physical and spatial frames already existing in the set environment. Framing used as a filmic tool is often a cut-out from the existing space. When using this idea of framing as a scenographic tool, something else starts to appear. The filmic frame freezes time in a way the scenographic frame cannot do. It preserves a chosen time. The scenographic way on the other hand, develops in time. To be bodily present in a framed space, slowly revealing themselves to you, is a strength the filmic frame cannot. So, when combining these two, scenograph(film)ic framing both develops and conserves time. And by doing so, a pictorial sense of space appears; an illusion between two-dimensionally and three-dimensionally; a play of the seen and not seen; a curiosity to the ‘left out’, to quote Wim Wenders once again: ’outside the frame is gone forever’.
For me the strength of the frame is exactly imbedded in this interstitial space; a space of wonder and curiosity, but also a space of uncertainty and vulnerability. Because when you cannot fully grasp what is happening, or why something is happening, I believe you can turn inwards and connect to your feelings. You are allowed to fill that in-between space with your own interpretation. An interpretation what is right and true just for you and you alone. It is an opportunity to open up and connect with your senses.
a door, a window, a screen, a sheet, a mirror, a passage, a double wall, a hallway, a hole, an opening,
’threshold’ thresh·old | \ 'thresh-hōld , 'thre-shōld \ 1: the place or point of entering or beginning: END, BOUNDARY 2: the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced 55
October 2020 Experiment 'Heen en Weer' - Gelderlandfabriek Culemborg During the exhibition ‘Heen en Weer’ at the Gelderlandfabriek, Culemborg this idea of framing as both conserving and developing in time, became more present. How to combine both the filmic as well as the scenographic tool of framing? An old furniture factory next to the train station. A big space with beautiful indirect light. Doors, windows, a space in space, framed space everywhere. The big space being divided in two by a frame. Watching the train go by while washing your hands. To understand the quality of the space, I explored the existing frames within the building: The space in space intrigued me: a big wooden structure in the metal and concrete space. Windows are positioned on three sides, looking over the space. While my fellow peers were working in the bigger space, I observed them through the window. It became a theatre play; watching from a distance while they were exploring the space themselves.
I wondered how the space would change if only the view would be left. What if, opposite to John Smith, everything else surrounding that play, the view, was silenced? While slowly revealing parts by tearing off the paper, the theatre play was revealed. Suddenly the space behind became the co-performer. And while doing so, the spectators also became the co-performer.
every window, every passage, every door, open door, every threshold, window in window
During my performance something else emerged, a happenstance, something unexpected: ‘My knife cuts smoothly through the surface. I need to help a bit though, since the whole wall is covered in this white, thin paper. Cutting this paper requires some concentration. It feels quite exciting to demolish this fresh and clean space, but at the same time fear also hits me. What if it doesn’t work the way I am imagining it? What kind of world is behind there? The ladder I am standing on starts to tremble. The eyes in my back are getting on my nerves. I cut the paper a bit further, just slightly too far. Not just the cutout falls down, but the whole beam of paper is falling three meters down, laying broken on the floor. It failed. All this hard work, all for nothing. While climbing down the stairs, I start to notice something. This beam of paper on the floor draws your eye even more to the cutout place. Fear made place for excitement. After all, wasn’t that my actual goal?’
During Culemborg 'Heen en Weer', I noticed that the act of cutting the frames by me as a moderator of the performance, gave me very strong tools to develop further. It created both a tension between the irreversible act of cutting and the surprise to what's behind the frame. But also, during this experiment I explored the field of improvisation and a typical sensibility of responding to the space and spectators. 59
To Bill Viola, Your work influences my work not in such a way I can express in words. Words only define parts of the experience you gave me while watching Catherine’s Room (2001), your video installation in museum The Pont, Tilburg. Experiencing a lady, simultaneously in five different stages of the day; a very ordinary scene. It could have been me in there, but in a different environment than this perfectly set stage, framed environment and almost alienated from the ordinary world. Watching a process of time. Watching somebody in their home, their safe space, their bubble. It feels like I am peeking without her knowing I can peek. Without her knowing that she is being watched at all. In our current times, COVID-19, the world in lockdown, the work gives a whole new meaning to me. Being stuck at home, set to one place, watching the time go by in my own house. I can fully relate to her. Your intention for this piece, as part of The Passion series comes from a different intention: exploring the human emotions by referencing European Renaissance paintings. While watching an interview, you mentioned the painting Dream of Pope Sergius by Rogier van der Weyden (1437-1440). You said: “we lost the idea of the possibility of being at two places at the same time. In this example both asleep and in the actual dream, but it being in the same space, the same world.”7 This idea of simultaneity in space; space as a framework and being able to coexist next to each-other. Being able to see inside the space and outside in the same image, the same landscape. Wow. Imagine that. Later on in the interview, you say that simultaneity and sequentiality are two different ways of viewing the space. But what if they aren’t? Our eye is drawn first to the Dream, seen left in the painting. We can look inside the house as if being there, being inside with them. We as part of the space but watching from a distance. Then our mind wanders through the space, past the bed en through the door. And then, on the stairs in the distance seeing the ‘dream’ just outside the inside space. 60
As a viewer of the painting I am fully aware of the sequence inside the painting. The artist guides my eye through the painting and simultaneously I am fully aware of the non-existing power of being able to be in two places at the time. Imagine if that was actually possible. Or can we exist in the same space at the same time? Being in a space and imagine being in another. Maybe we already are in two spaces at the time constantly.
Catherine’s Room has been one of the works that has been heavily resonating with my personal work that has been giving words to my experience of time and space. The work opened my eyes to give a voice to the multiplicity of spaces. Being in and out. Being there with you, giving a tap on your shoulder and watching from a distance.
score stand up and look around you where are you now? stand in front of a window what do you see? close your eyes and now imagine you are over there where are you now?
None of The Passion series really have a concrete narrative. Each piece is a motive and sometimes emotionally quite gripping but for reasons that are quite mysterious. It plays with your senses and emotions. It becomes an embodied experience; an experience you can only achieve while watching the video piece in a certain setting and space. A space for the spectator to feel involved and taken care of. To get ripped out of your own environment and fully involve in this new space, carefully set for you. While experiencing the video work Catherine’s Room (2001), I felt on one hand a certain closeness and on the other hand distanced from the piece. As it were both inside and outside the piece itself. Perhaps that’s the beauty of framing; being able to show something happening inside from the outside. But what exists in-between this inside-outside space? The in-between space. The space the spectator, I, experience the work. The space you let us experience feels almost spiritual. By influencing our sense of space and time. And specifically slowing down and stretching out that sense of space and time. You allow me to reflect on my own life. To have an opening, space to interpret your work and allowing it to exist as a place in my own life. Where does that come from? Perhaps because the image is such a relatable scene but still very carefully curated, set in a specific space in a specific (sequence of) time.
3. Experience of movement Space in-between creates room to reflect
‘There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.’ 8
- Milan Kundera
On reflecting and movement
I believe silence and movement are inextricably linked to one another. That sounds like a paradox, but if you start to think about it, standing still and silence are not the same. Standing still implies a position of pause and not going forward. It implies that you are stuck in a certain moment. Silence on the other hand, implies to take a break. It allows you to take some distance and to reflect on what you are doing and/or have done. Like Bill Viola’s Catherine’s Room did to me: it reflects on my personal life. It is a state of a reflection rather than being stuck. Haemin Sunim, a South-Korean born Buddhist monk wrote something beautiful about this idea. He connects silence, awareness and observing to a joint center: of slowing down.
‘When you are so busy that you feel perpetually chased, when worrying thoughts circle your head, when the future seems dark and uncertain, slow down, even if only for a moment. Bring all of your awareness into the present and take a deep breath. What do you hear? What does your body feel? What does the sky look like? Only when we slow down can we finally see can step out and appreciate them for what they are.’
‘As we notice more and more the present moment, we come to a deeper realization that a silent observer is within us. In the primordial stillness, the silent observer witnesses everything inside and outside.’ 9 - Haemin Sunim
Movement can refer to two different states: the physical act of movement (and therefore clearing your head), or ‘going forward’ by which I mean personal growth and development. Moving creates the opportunity to slow down. Haemin Sunim also connects slowing down with stepping out. I want to make another connection, even one step further: slowing down creates a curious eye. 67
interlude: ‘I peek you peek’
My mother borrowed my uncle’s binoculars, what an amazing device. I can finally see what my neighbor is doing. He has been living there for years already, sitting in the same chair all day, every day. I believe he doesn’t even have an extra chair. In the morning he doesn’t prepare his bread in the kitchen. Instead, he uses some pop-up camping kitchen to cook his meals. Does he know he is being watched? Maybe I am being watched as well. By the same neighbor, or someone else? Is it a bad thing that I am ‘peeking’? Those binoculars are amazing. You can zoom in to something, move your head and zoom in to somewhere you haven’t seen properly. It feels the same like a peephole in a shoebox. Once your eye is a bit distanced from the hole, the area you actually see becomes narrower.
To Alfred Hitchcock, I am curious how your house would have looked like. Have you ever lived in an apartment building yourself, spying on your neighbors? Did you have a favorite neighbor to spy on? Well, I did and still have. But do they also spy on me? Every evening, when the lights in my apartment are on, I find the most secluded place to change to my pyjama’s. I don’t have any curtains. Even my bathroom has a window to my bedroom and my bedroom has a window to my garden. So, it is fair to say that I can shower with a view. This tension of being seen also excites and allows me to be vulnerable. But on the other hand: do my neighbors shower with a view? Do they see me showering? Will I ever know? Voyeurism, the first word that comes to mind when thinking about your film Rear Window (1954), one of the most influenced works concerning my own artistic research. It is such a strong way of directing the spectator by using a one-point perspective: Jeff suffering from a broken leg and thus is forced to stay in his apartment while spying on his neighbors in the opposite flat. The other reason for my enthusiasm is the play with the tension; between the knowing, believing what to know and the actual knowing.10 It reminded me of a TV show called: 30 Minuten. During the episode ‘Daarom’, the audience follows a woman (played by Arjan Ederveen) in a flat, doing her daily chores around the house. We see her waking up, cooking dinner, having an argument with her husband, receiving visitors and talking with her next-door neighbor. Everything is filmed from outside, like I am her neighbor across the street. Throughout the whole episode we only hear a phone call with the woman and her friend. The way it is portrayed is immensely fascinating. It creates a distance which gives the opportunity for the audience not just to watch and understand, but to raise questions about the play and what is actually happening. During a light workshop with Alaa Minawi, scenographer and visual designer, he gave us a score:
score listen to a piece of music what memory or situation comes to mind? where are you now? can you define the light? how does the room look like? where are you situated in the room? While doing Alaa’s this assignment, I noticed my position in the space didn’t change. I was in a corridor, between a window and a door, between two houses, between water and air and between two people. I noticed I was between two perspectives, changing from one to the other: watching the same situation from my dad’s perspective and later on from my sister’s. I could walk to the door and to the window. I could walk to the other end of the corridor and back. But between the in-between, what’s the name of that space? You are in the in-between. Walking from one edge to the other, tipping your toe in the water and pulling it back instantly. Do you remember, when swimming as a child you tried to grasp the moment of experiencing the underwater-world and above-the-water-world at the same time? I never managed to create that moment perfectly. Exactly the not knowing everything perfectly creates this dramatic tension. Can you imagine a film, where after just 10 minutes, you would know everything that is about to happen? How boring it would be. I wonder where you would stand in a space while doing Alaa’s score. I wonder if you would feel the same in-between space I experienced.
‘you are going to graduate now and there’s only one advice I will give you; go walk, walk, walk.’ In my opinion, the strength of Rear Window (1954) is precisely the ability for the spectator to allow this distance and therefore it gives people space to fill by themselves. It plays with a suspense and dramatic tension of knowing and not knowing, seeing and being seen. Playing with those perspectives are connected to the core of my work. This rather uncomfortable feeling pulling you towards the present and an embodied experience. Am I being watched?
In the current society our privacy is being constantly invaded. This is thanks to growing cities, shared apartments, and the pressure to be constantly ‘online’. Back to the beginning of my letter: am I allowed to peek in someone’s house, while sitting in my own house? I believe the topic of voyeurism is more pressing than ever. How do we relate to one another? It may sound contradictory to put this letter and your film Rear Window (1954) in chapter 3. Experience of movement if you consider that Jeff doesn’t leave his house at all. But in my point of view it makes perfect sense. The ability to take a distance and therefore keep your head above the water needs movement. Eric de Leeuw, a teacher at my Bachelor’s study once said to me: 71
December 2020 Experiment DO NOT PEEK These mentioned characters placed in different positions in space represents my embodied research. It was an attempt to involve the spectators in my work: how can I direct the spectator in order to experience my ‘eye’, my way of looking? This idea of directing the spectator came after I visited a Lotte van den Bergs performance Dying Together. In DO NOT PEEK, all the spectators were asked to sit on a chair, carefully positioned in space. Some people were sitting on the sideline and some on a pedestal. Some people were watching each other, and some were being watched. While me, the performer brought two big white frames into the space. One was overlapping the other. Then a video was projected: do not peek, the video filmed as a voyeur peeking from outside to inside. On the film, two people were doing ordinary things, cooking, cleaning, talking, but you couldn’t hear them. Because of the outside frame, the spectators took some distance, to observe what was happening. I brought the voyeur closer to the screens, in a way that a person’s silhouette was projected on the film. Another person, representing The empty space was guided through space, passing the other representatives. After this, I
drew one window frame on the white screen and for a short while later started to cut that in pieces, creating a tension between the act of cutting and revealing what’s behind. The screen with the cut-out frame travelled through the space again, allowing the spectators to view the others trough this cut-out. I wondered if the relationship between these people changed after I used the screens as a threshold between inside and outside, between peeking and not-peeking. After the Culemborg experiment 'Heen en Weer' I learned to trust my work. Thanks to my detailed observing, I allowed myself to improvise during the performance. The pace of time was created by me, the performer slowly moving through the space, creating alterations by moving people, moving the screens, and cutting the window.
The performer As moderator of the play
The curious one The tension The destroyer
The zoomer The improviser The explorer In the middle of the space
The helicopter The director of time The director of space The director of movement On a higher platform
The doubter The observer Watching from the sideline
The explorer The pace of time The empty space In-between all roles
The voyeur Changing from observer
On Lotte van den Berg - Dying Together (2019) Lotte van den Berg experiments with the relationship between performer, spectator, and space. In her recent work Dying Together she created constellations where spectators were asked to participate. She asked us, the spectators, to be a part of the act. We could have been asked to be a tree in the Amazon rainforest, a fast-growing plant, a cockroach living in the jungle or a farmer who burns parts of the Amazon to create fertile soil to grow fruit. Every time, the situation in this constellation changed. Everybody who participated could change their position in a relation to the others. This way, Lotte hoped to gain understanding about how we humans react to certain situations. The relationship between the constellation, the space and the humans inside this space was very inspiring. The space itself was one big floor where people could find their own position to sit. The performers were not just performers, but also participants in the constellations. Further in the experiment, performers were hardly any different from the spectators. A certain equality started to erupt. All people could move in the space therefore the empty space in-between people changed all the time.
DO NOT PEEK experiment outcome (until now) fits the idea of embodied film the most: all people getting a certain role to which to look through and not just highlighting what is showed on the screen, but also take in account the set environment and framing that. 75
To the spectator
Hey, there you are. Perhaps you have been wondering what your position in my research is.
In this document, I shifted from talking about my experiences as a spectator, to you as my spectator. Along the way I was looking for ways to direct you in order for you to experience a ‘curious eye’. Only focussing on the filmic aspects such as framing, focus or perspectives wouldn’t have been sufficient enough. After all, without spectators, my work wouldn’t exist; a very typical scenographic attitude. I wanted to include both the filmic aspects and the surrounding environment to create an embodied filmic experience, slowly revealing themselves to you.
And then COVID-19 came. And you know, it hit me hard. But when one door closes, another one opens. These past two years were definitely harder and more difficult than I ever imagined. Imagine how different this research document would have turned out to be without pandemic, zoom marathons, social distancing, closed museums, closed schools, no work, no friends, no family. But despite the tough time, it also gave me an opportunity to take a step back and watch from a distance. It gave me the opportunity to find the silence. The silence in cities, silence in work and silence within myself. It enhanced my interest in filmic strategies, especially the role of framed spaces and voyeurism. It made me aware of my daily rush, shifting between three cities, never able to be satisfied, always wanting more. It made me realize that the silence and the removing, pulling out of context was part of a strategy to allow myself to be more present and more aware of my environment. Home became more important. Handcrafting became more important. Contacts became more important.
filmic aspects Embodied film performative
(spectator as performer) objects as performer me as performer
I wrote a letter to Andrei Tarkovsky, about his experience of time, noticing how very similar my experience with time and focus was during the pandemic. I wrote a letter to Bill Viola, my biggest inspiration about how to use space in combination with film for creating an embodied experience. I wrote a letter to Hitchcock about playing with the tension of knowing and not knowing, seeing and being seen as a vital aspect of my work. But most of all, finding this silence, empty space or in-between space to pause, to take a step back and to reflect; experiencing this interstitial space. An uncertain space, a tension between both the seen and not yet seen, between the visible and invisible, a moment of silence. This experience of the interstitial space is very much imbedded in the role of a spectator (you) and the work and as well between the performer, or moderator of the work (me). For example, in Bill Viola’s Catherine’s Room there’s a very specific type of spectatorship. You are allowed to watch from a distance, but you can still emotionally engage with the performance. As if being both inside; looking over your shoulder, and outside; room to reflect, like there’s a porous border. To explain this idea of the porous border, I immediately had to think about a metaphor Janwillem Schrofer, former director (1985-2010) of the Amsterdam Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten once gave me: ‘Imagine a space with a double glass wall. Between the double glass, a specific gas is inserted. Once you turn the dimmer, the gas reacts and creates a fog wall, impossible to see through. But when the dimmer is halfway, the most interesting part starts to appear: just enough to keep looking, keep exploring, create curiosity and engage with the work.’ This porous border implies that there’s an in-between space between the outside and the inside; like the term osmosis I have been using for explaining the strength of the frame: both a biological and psychological term for perpetuating through a membrane and therefore influencing of both the spaces, inside and outside. It implies that there’s a tension between those two spaces.
in·ter·sti·tial | \ 'in-tər-'sti-shəl \
1: occurring in or being an interval or intervening space or segment : of, relating to, or forming an interstice, an interstitial space
How to approach space:
by using framing, layering and perspectives
from within, from inside use this idea of spaces compartmentalized Inside-outside first-witness second-witness seen being seen look at people let people look at me look into peoples houses let people look into my house things I don’t see let things I don’t see look at me
Analyzing space pictures
During my master’s, I also created a very specific way of approaching and analyzing the existing environment: an almost collage and filmiclike approach by using framing, layering and perspectives, dissecting in both space and time.
By using this filmic way of looking at a space, in combination with my fascination about the interstitial space, I hope to create a very specific setting for the spectator to create a curious eye: evoke a wondering about the existing environment from a different perspective. I have found a very specific way of spectatorship being used in my work. But I haven’t found all the answers yet during the past two years. However, I am confident when I open up and embrace the sensibility and vulnerability towards the set environment and feed ‘the curious eye’, the answers will come to me. Because, my research will continue far beyond this master’s course. After all: when I keep growing as a person, my research will grow with me.
Thank you note
Dad, for encouraging me to look from different perspectives Mom, for the endless support towards myself and my work Sister, for the spirited discussions during dinner Friends, for being there for me when I needed it the most Nirav, Henny and Tjallien for always inspiring me to develop work
Reader, for opening up to me and find urgency and excitement towards my research
And lastly, thank you
My persistence My stubbornness And my curious eye, for transferring my feelings towards creating new work over and over again
Movies The Mirror (1975) by Andrei Tarkovsky Nostalghia (1983) by Andrei Tarkovsky The Black Tower (1987) by John Smith Rear Window (1954) by Alfred Hitchcock Works Catherine’s Room (2001) by Bill Viola Dying Together (2019) by Lotte van den Berg
1 Koopman, P. (red.) (1991) De verzegelde tijd: beschouwingen over de filmkunst/ Andrei Tarkovski, Groningen (p. 59) 2 Wim Wenders Interview: Painter, Filmmaker, Photographer https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=XrCUFfM7wEQ (accessed: 05/06/20)
Time, Tarkovsky And The Pandemic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cztCmNSVS3Q (accessed:14/04/21) 4 John Smith - The Black Tower interview https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=2W5Wsh-FOMk&t=1s (accessed:12/12/20) 5 Viola, B. interview: Camera’s are Keepers of the Souls https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=w3VfWLlkuRI&t=312s (accessed 21/11/19) 6
Perec, G. (1978) Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (p.37)
7 Bill Viola at Work: Making The Passion Videos https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=GQuSYsFMMt4 (accessed 01/03/21) 8
Aliabadi, R. (2020) The Empty Room (p. 41)
Sunim, H. (2018) The Things You See Only When You Slow Down (p. 263 - 265)
10 Rear Window - Hitchcock's Manipulation https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=e4Yw8hz3tG8 (accessed 01/02/21)
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