Mediamatic Magzine vol 4 # 1+2 1 Jan 1989


This doesn't work outside NL

All artists working with the modern communications media regularly encounter a rather peculiar fact.


Hifi-loos Kwartje zoemt -

The medium in which they express their artistic feelings can in principle be infinitely duplicated yet in practice their work often attracts less interest than one old- fashioned painting.

Some people feel that this is due to the fixed behaviour of viewers, museums and the media, others claim that the modern communications media are simply not geared to art, rather they are better suited to the dissemination of weather reports and Workers’ Playtime. And yet the tenacious still go on trying.

One such die-hard is die artist and organizer Heiner Holtappels. He’s been working for quite some time on projects directed at freeing art from its twin sanctuaries of subsidy and museum and presenting it to the private consumer. An art which attacks Part pour Part by including daily life in the work itself or, as the tide of a 1986 installation announces: Kunst in uns und tins herum (Art in us and around us).

Nederland 4 is one of Holtappels’ organization projects. It is not a TV channel, simply a channel as oudet along which video art is direedy sold or hired to various institutions. At the beginning of October Holtappels opened a new channel, this time for audio art: a sound gallery that can only be visited by means of the telephone, by dialling 06 - 320 328 99 (only in The Netherlands). Holtappels views this audio gallery as something of an experiment. He wants to find out if it will work, whether there’s a demand for it, whether it can command an audience and - as we’re living in a material world - whether it can survive financially without die subsidy from Amsterdam City Council which is at present essential.

Of course, the telephone has some major draw-backs as a medium: its sound quality' is execrable and only the most artful of D.I.Y. fanatics can succeed in making that sound bearable by listening to it through his sound system rather than cringing over the receiver. Yet this primitive piece of equipment has attracted artists as varied as Fluxus member George Brecht with his 1961 telephone events (When the telephone rings, it is answered) to the telephone performances of the Dutch Franklin Aalders. The gallery idea has even already been tried out in Switzerland some nine or ten years ago when the one means of reaching line Espace Parlée was by phone.

Heiner Holtappels wants to fill his gallery with work that has been especially made for the 06 context and apart from himself he has invited Cas de Marez, Peter Zegveld, Peter Borgers and Toine Horvers. The line is made available to each artist for a month and each art work is presented at the beginning of that month in a private view.

The first work on the 06 line was made by the voice artist Cas de Marez. At a previous voice performance she commented: I respond to a spatial, physical context through sound. In principle my voice is the same but the circumstances, the surroundings differ. De Marez’ work was still not ready at the time of this issue’s going to press but it seems likely' that she will explore the telephone as space through a voice performance.

Although their work has no special affinity' with the telephone, Holtappels has made his colleagues well aware of the need to take the medium’s technical limitations into account . How'ever, he regrets that the telephone has remained at such a primitive stage. Technically ifs indeed possible to phone with hifi sound but the technology has not yet been made available. It’s certainly an exciting development; with a computer and a digital phone you could send audio works of an extremely high quality! That’s the kind of development that results in innovation in art not some eternal variation on painting. He considers museum art to be a closed book: It’s not developing, it can’t be doubted. Museums are mausoleums.

For the time being the 06 line experiment will last for six months. Even Holtappels feels a certain scepticism in view of the medium’s limitations: in fact it’s only really of interest to artists who actually want to exploit those limitations. In any case the audio gallery does have one advantage over every other distribution channel: it remains open 24 hours a day.

translation Annie Wright