Every blade has two edges; he who wounds with one, wounds himself with the other.
History repeats itself. Past pandemic times became our present reality. First it was the reality of “the others” out there. Then it became the reality of “the others” here. And then, finally, it became our reality. Everywhere. Susan Sontag wrote a very interesting book Regarding the Pain of Others where she explores the distance between us and the pain of others. She writes that in front of an image of atrocity, you are often either in the position of the "spectator" or of the "coward." Both positions are uncomfortable. In the case of “our” pandemic story, the spectators became witnesses.
Some even victims. Amidst all the climate change waves, energy resource battles, religious and class tensions, educational and political dysfunctionalities, covid19 came as a warning that turned into a full-blown battlefield.
Death Becomes US is my interpretation of this battlefield. A field of green decapitated tulips whose massacre was documented and presented to the fellow red tulip spectators who are in the same time the witnesses. And maybe in the near future these witnesses will become the victims.
The Death Becomes Us installation is dedicated to all Covid-19 victims and their loved ones.
Full wall video projection of a red tulip field as far as the eye can see. The image shows a sunny spring day, a gentle breeze plays with the blossomed flowers. The sound and the view are calm and soothing. After few minutes, we hear a vague noise which with each second gets closer
and gradually becomes harder. Eventually from the left side of the screen a big dark shadow appears, along with overwhelming sound. We see a close up of a wheel and some kind of machinery passing through the screen. As it moves out of the screen, it leaves behind a lane of headless tulips.
This motion repeats approximately each several minutes, with the tractor-mounted mowing back and forth (in and out of screen), each time creating extra green lane of headless tulips.
Slowly but surely the red tulip field turns all green. Green as far as the eye can see, with here and there few surviving tulips, whose damaged leaves are making their best effort to play with the breeze. The sound is calm and soothing again. The view is one of a battlefield.
Few meters away from the projection, the audience are red tulips in flowerpots. The distance between the flowerpots is 1,5 meter.
The installation, while being exhibited, is going to be filmed and streamed live online.
In that way the online audience observes the physical audience (and the tulips) observing the video projection.
Intention and relevance
Senses play an important role in my work. In my last installation project EITHER / OR, in collaboration with Eye Filmmuseum, I wanted to offer people an opportunity to experience the world around them in a different way, by excluding all the sound from the immediate environment and focusing on the sound through the installation. This offered a short, temporary escape from the urban noise pollution and scattered attention.
With the follow up installation Death becomes Us; I want to enable the viewer to feel and reflect. Due to the recognisable visual experience, the audience undergoes different emotions, from aesthetic enjoyment to the feeling of emptiness and destruction. This is achieved without drastic artistic intervention. Objectively, it is a simple registration of what happens in real time. A tulip field transforms from red to green.
By standing still and experiencing images and sound (physically and/or online), I enable people to first experience the tangible love for life and nature - and then to be confronted with the disruptive and destructive human intervention. We have known for decades, and are very aware that the earth is suffering from the expanding world population and our need for "more". Covid-19 once more holds up a mirror to us. Can we put our actions in the service of the common good? Or are we witnessing that in the end there will be no one left to pass on the story of our planet?
The presence of the "tulip public" watching the decapitation of the tulips on screen, among other, symbolises the thought "we are next". A frightening effect. At the same time, the process that the installation shows can also be interpreted in a positive way. Because of the so-called beheading of the tulips, all the energy of the flower goes to the bulb, and new bulbs grow between the bulb skirts of the old bulb.
Do we, humans, still have that chance to re-connect (with nature, our self and others) and keep on growing?
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