Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 2#3 Raf Custer 1 Jan 1988


Four video installations will be touring the cultural centers of Flanders until mid-June.

These video installations were selected from a few dozen commissioned projects - and partly financed - by the federation of these centers (FEVECC). 4x25/ sec is an unmistakable breakthrough in an environment which has been largely confined to popular entertainment and (adult) education.

However, it seems that for the time being this initiative does not yet bear repetition, partly because of the indispensability of technical means. The following installations were selected: Mentale Rotatie/ L'Age d'Or 2 by ANNEMIE VAN KERCKHOVEN, Framed I, II, III by DIRK THIJS, Drakendoder by KOEN THEYS and Radio Matonge by W ALTER VERDIN.

Golden Age

The most intriguing set-up in this respect is undoubtedly Mentale Rotatie/ l'age d'Or 2 by ANNEMIE VAN KERCKHOVEN from Antwerp. Four monitors are placed screen upwards on separate pedestals, forming the arms of an imaginary cross. The images are visible in a mirror which is set at an angle. In the centre of the mirror, two branches, attached to copper strips, indicate the real time. The installation is at rest for exactly ten minutes. Like listening to a radio broadcast, one hears fragments of a voice (LUIS BUNUEL talking about his film L 'Age d'Or).

Then the monitors start rotating around their axes, two of them clockwise, the other two in the opposite direction. We are shown four versions of hand-filmed images of a naked man (DANNY DEVOS). He is lying on a circular platform, his hands tied behind his back. His ankles have been tied to a pole. His screams -I wanna be injured- are distorted electronically. In the video picture, the image of the actual person is followed by an animated imitation; the drawings are the result of advanced investigations in the field of artificial intelligence. They have been strung together on 16-mm film.

Although the monitors rotate, from the spectator's point of view the naked man always appears to be moving around a single axis. This effect is especially noticeable in the animation sequence. Every fifteen minutes, the installation returns to its resting point, leaving the audience to reflect, with BUÑUEL, on the arrogance of every Age d'Or. According to ANNEMIE VAN KERCKHOVEN, every period sees itself as the golden age. In this installation: she comments on time as a phase in history, but also on personal experience. For instance, seven years ago she met DANNY DEVOS (they immediately started the mini-collective CLUB MORAL), who continues a seven year old performance cycle here. The references to (cabalist) symbols, such as squares, circles, centers, and crosses, stem from a consistent world view.


The components of Framed I, II, III by newcomer DIRK THIJS are. scattered over three locations, from which they derive their possible meaning. The monitor in the bar shows a manual for cocktail shaking. We see the names of four appetizing cocktails, and- in the same order -their mechanical preparation. It is a tape in the style of a slick commercial, with the continuous sound of ice cubes and sizzling spirits and not so much as a glimpse of the barman.

This tape never fails to irritate, which is why the monitor is simply switched off in the cultural centers. Another monitor should be placed in the library (if there is one), emitting a crackling fireside sound. On the screen, flames leap around the backs of books with undecipherable titles. However, the fire has no impact on literature. A mini-thriller unfolds in the cloakroom, consisting of three shots: a hand takes a wallet from a coat pocket; the cloakroom girl takes her place behind the counter; two staring eyes. Is she the thief, or did a pick-pocket take advantage of her absence? The loop on the screen allows still more solutions.

Blowing Awake

Drakendoder by KOEN THEYS consists of a pile of imaginary monitors and one real monitor. THEYS carefully stacked up 144 cardboard boxes used for packaging Trinitron-Farbfernsehgeriite. The boxes are anonymous, show no brand name, and have been printed by THEYS himself. Facing this multitude of monitors stands a confident, solitary TV-set. On the screen we see someone playing a horn (filmed in the hall of the MUNTSCHOUWBURG, Brussels). He is playing a passage from RICHARD WAGNER's Siegfried. The mythical hero blows his horn and wakes the dragon guarding the Rhine-gold. As the heavy, hollow-eyed monster wakes up, the cardboard boxes emit a tinkling sound. It is the (deliberately?) sampled sound of a student reunion.

THEYS is familiar with WAGNER's oeuvre. In Part One of the video serial Lied van miin land (Song of my country), which was produced by KOEN and his brother FRANK THEYS, he used Das Rheingold from WAGNER's Ring der Nibelungen as a metaphor for the struggle for power over the media. Part Two of this work, which altogether will take years to complete, should be finished by now. Drakendoder (Dragon slayer), again referring to a passage of the Ring, is a contemplation of a cultural climate: the place of individual man in relation to common thinking - counterculture as opposed to mainstream culture (which in Flanders is cloaked in the box-like architecture of the cultural centers).

Chinese Whispers

Finally, in WALTER VERDIN's installation, four wall panels summarize four popular gossip stories invented (or recorded?) by the author ETHEL PORTNOY. VERDIN makes five actresses and four actors re-tell these stories to each other. He called his installation Radio Matonge, after the notorious nightlife district of Kinshasa (and its Brussels surrogate), where radio trottoir broadcasts the latest gossip stories. As in the children's game called Chinese Whispers, the stories grow out of proportion and are changed as they become further and further removed from their source.

This is evident from the actors on the monitor screens that are built into pillars like show-boxes. Some improvise freely on what they have heard, others frown hard and try to repeat faithfully what they have been told. They all have numbers, and in this way the spectator knows their place in the chain of narrators. One can walk back to the wall panels to examine the veracity of what is being remembered on television of the faits divers. In earlier tapes, WALTER VERDIN performed a very stylish investigation of the rhythmised simultaneity of image and sound. In this installation, and in his preceding installation (part of the group project Alchemie) he is concerned with the free interpretation of information.