Artificial Amsterdam

By Floor Kortman

Amsterdam is far more orderly than Fox News would have you believe. We preview de Appel Arts Centre’s thematic exploration of the artificiality of our picturesque city of contrasts.

The new exhibition at de Appel Arts Centre is a collection of works built around the theme of artificiality in our picturesque and slightly overcrowded capital. Amsterdam is portrayed as a city in continuous construction as some artists try to incorporate personal elements into the urban environment while others observe the absurdity that ensues in the city of contrasts.

Linda Bannink - Dood

Linda Bannink – De Dood, 1998-2008

The video installation of artist Linda Bannink Portrait of a city in 8 places shows eight short videos of small moments of isolation within the everyday life. She invokes a sense of absurdity while focusing on characters that seem to be burdened by the tediousness of life, the inevitability and boredom of death and the ignorance of the passers-by. Just as the photos of Cuban Inti Hernandez’s performance Shared Experience (Amsterdam version) show, the Amsterdam passers-by are not easily impressed. Hernandez tried to create a personal space in a public place by stamping his kitchen floor pattern in the bare sand of the city pavements under repair. The temporary installation opposes the carefully applied pattern in the sand to the heavy machineries of the street construction.

Inti Hernandez - Shared Experience

Inti Hernandez – Shared Experience (Amsterdam Version), 2005

The smaller works in the exhibition contrast with grand gestures such as the work of artist Jan Rothuizen, who rendered his personal observations of de Appel Arts Centre into an almost 30 feet high drawing in the general hall. One of the more intimate displays on the theme is Roderick Hietbrink’s video, My father’s nature, an endearing portrait of the artist’s father, a taxidermist who takes the art of carefully preparing and skinning animals to a new level. The intimate video takes a turn into the weird when the collection of small mounted creatures is placed back into the woods in what seems like an attempt at returning them into their natural habitat, but instead creates an inevitable disorientation.

Roderick Hietbrink - My Father's Nature

Roderick Hietbrink – My Father’s Nature, 2011

The absurd video of Taiwanese artist Kuang-Yu Tsui Invisible City: Sea Level Leaker is a reaction to the artificial and lets be fair, often ridiculous city planning of Amsterdam. The video shows him walking through the city wearing a not so conventional wet suit; when he walks into an area that is below sea level, his jacket begins to spray water. Mocking that little boy who put his finger in the dike to stop a flood, Tsui brings the water right back to where it belongs.

Tsui Kuang-Yu - InvisibleC ities Sea Level-Leaker

Kuang-Yu Tsui – Invisible City: Sea Level Leaker, 2006

Artificial Amsterdam will be at de Appel Arts Centre until 13 October, and is free for members from 6 to 13 July.