Mediamatic Magzine vol 5#1+2 Peter Zegveld 1 Jan 1990

Venus née/ Praecox

The Artists

The Premature Annunciation


Venus Née -

Venus, Goddess of love and beauty, was born out of the foam of the sea. She is also known os Aphrodite (aphros: 'foam'-born) ond her epithet is Urania, daughter of Uranus, the personification of heaven - the oldest Master of the Universe. Urania sprang from the sea foam into which the severed testicle of Uranus had fallen. Fair enough, but how are we supposed actually to imagine such a birth? Did the lady come serenely drifting ashore on a big shell in all her voluptuous allure, or did the heaving waves simply smack her down on the beach? Was it a spectacle or a non-event?

The contemporary 'Venus-machine' Venus Née/Praecox (The Birth of Venus/Prematurely) sets the scene that shrouds the mystery of her emergence and lifts a corner of the veil. A bucket of water filled to the brim, placed on a stand; behind, on a plinth, a monitor with an image of a drum against a white background. The arrival of Venus Née is announced by o continually escalating resonance of sound, a vibration so shrill that it causes the water to become agitated, start swirling around and bubble over.

Then on the screen we witness the inevitable eruption, after which all becomes calm again...Venus rises from the waters. That's probably just about the way it went, but whether she was a blonde or a brunette, that happily remains her secret. The fusing of two natural physical effects: the agitating effect on water of escalating sound vibrations, and the effect in image and sound of an explosion in a liquid mass in slow motion became... Venus Née/Praecox.

But what is this Premature? Was she born too soon? Only in the sense that the birth as moment suprème puts paid to the 'expecting' state for ever. The pregnant time perceived as a creative condition in which the imagination is stimulated on all fronts. To be expectant means the pleasure you can have anticipating the 'announcement', and also the 'illusions' you may cherish as to how it will be from then on. In spite of her beauty, the climax of the 'emergence' brings an abrupt end to the excitement and is therefore always too soon.

Venus Née/Praecox is not only the symbolic birth of Venus but also a 'Venus-machine', a polarised love-machine in which feminine and masculine essences react with one another (the ejaculation on the screen speaks volumes). The entire installation appears to be based on a series of contradictions: the tangible presence of the bucket of water as opposed to the illusory image on the screen; the silence versus the din; a classical story presented in high tech- materials; a conceptual form for an emotional content. Apollo bridles Dionysus. An ingenious system of dualities to curb the chaos of the emotions.

The resonant sound-track in Venus Née/Praecox has a powerfully evocative effect ond largely determines the level of visual tension, increasingly so since it actually sets the images in motion, animating matter into life. Peter Zegveld is not occasionally called a 'sound-sculptor' for nothing. In another startling project Dynamica Tumultus he incorporates the Doppler effect (a physical phenomenon whereby an approaching tone changes its pitch the very moment it posses you). On o closed-off stretch of motorway a spectaculor concert was performed by an orchestra and cars and motorbikes tearing past, specially chosen for their varying resonant qualities.

Venus Née/Praecox is a work in which - as in his drawings and paintings - Zegveld's immediate, physical presence plays no role. The determining factor in his performances is undoubtedly his 'creative presence', sensed by the manner in which he manipulates sound and material ond reveals an entire process. What can you do if you want to make a work from which, at the same time, you wish to distance yourself as medium, as energy-source, but nevertheless present as a 'happening'? Exactly, you choose the medium that has plugs to push into sockets. The giants of the 20th century sometimes only need to press on a button...