Oh! it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.
— Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1
— Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1
—Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Part 1, chapter 3, p 32.
Image: Hannah Hurtzig, The Flight Case Archive, 2003-2010. Installation view Van Abbe Museum 2010, photo: Van Abbe Museum
Boris Groys wrote in his article On the New (2008) that video installations bring the “great night” into the museum. With this the museum space loses its “institutional” light, which traditionally functioned as a symbolic property of the viewer, the collector and the curator. The museum becomes dark and dependent on the light emanating from the video image. It is not the art object that is exhibited in the museum which should be enlightened and examined, rather the technologically produced image brings its own light into the darkness. Not only this control over light, but also the control over time necessary for contemplation is passed from the visitor to the artwork. In the classical museum, the visitor exercises almost complete control over the duration of contemplation. The audience can interrupt contemplation at any time, return and go away again; the picture stays were it is. With video art (moving pictures) this is no longer the case, the art escape the viewers control. When the visitor turns away from the video, he usually misses something. So now the museum becomes a place where the visitor cannot compensate for a missed opportunity to contemplate. In most of the cases the spectator is also physically unable to watch all the videos on display, their cumulative length exceeding the time of a museum visit.
In the exhibition Play Van Abbe 3; The Politics of collecting – The Collecting of politics, at the Van Abbemuseum there are also lots of video installations. Opposed to the traditional museum Groys describes, this contemporary museum does not let the “great night” into its walls, but exhibits the video’s in its “institutional” light. There are no dark boxes which the viewer has to enter to see the art. The visitor just comes upon the video art while walking through the exhibition. Although, the viewers’ control over the duration of contemplation is the same as Groys illustrates. The video installations of the exhibition all contain many hours of video material, the length of all this film is longer than the average time of a museum visit.
Play Van Abbe includes more than just video art, it exists of exhibitions, projects, performances, lectures and discussions. With Play van Abbe, which consist of four parts each with its own theme, the Van Abbemuseum forms new ways to make a critical reflection on the relation between art and society possible. The museum asks questions about identity and the role of the museum in contemporary time. In this research I want to concentrate on this new role of the Van Abbemuseum; as an institute that shows art but lets its public contribute in the exhibitions. I want to research how the museum can stimulate this participation even more than it does now. With doing this I don’t want to look at the projects and the lectures or the performances the museum initiates, but at the exhibition Play Van Abbe 3 itself. And to be more specific I will focus on the video art that is on display in the exhibition. I want to discover how the viewers’ control over contemplation Groys writes about, can be given back to the visitor with watching video art. This can only be done if the viewer controls what he sees; controls the duration of the film and controls the point where he steps into the film – instead of walking in at a random moment.
If we want to give the viewer this control, we have to display the video art in different ways. A new way where the visitor can play with the material and becomes an emancipated spectator instead of a non active viewer. Ways in which the public can participate, where it can partake and get itself involved in the art. I want to look at the possibility to take the video art from its specific site and exhibit it in an more playful installation. I want to study if it is achievable to share the art on the Internet so the public can watch it from other places; from home, from the class room or the library. But with this research more questions pop up. Questions like who will own the art as it is put up on the Internet, what will the reception be, would it still be considered as art, how will you document what people do with the video art? And maybe the most important questions is if it is the intention of the art work to be seen fully, or that just a fragment of it will be enough to get the clue
 Groys, 2008. p. 40
 Emancipated spectator is a term by Jacques Rancière, first used in The Emancipated Spectator. London: Verso, 2009
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Een pluizig houtbruin vosje ligt naast de witte bank
Scherpe piepjes weergalmen op het marmeren tapijt en
Het marmeren tapijt weergalmt in de doorzichtige spiegels aan de muur
De groenblauwe bubbels van haar adem stijgen op en knappen uit elkaar
Het vosje schrikt wakker en het meisje valt in slaap
Poem by Kim Ouweleen November 2007
Dreams will only last a lie..
Heavy hangs the head, that last night wore the crown