Text from the catalogue: “The Second”, Time Based Art From the Netherlands

Written by: Jorinde Seijdel, art historian and publicist, Amsterdam.



 Heaven 1995

 1 7-channel video. black & white, 11 -channel audio


 If you imagined heaven, what kind of universe would you see? Is Heaven still the exclusive dwelling place of God and the blessed and chosen few who followed him? Is it still the same enlightened higher world? The firmament? Zenith? Whatever heaven is, it must be an extra-ordinary place, governed by a different, less suffocating and heavy order of space and time...


 Peter Bogers' Heaven on Earth can be found in a small, empty three-roomed dwelling. You are free to enter it and examine it more closely. There are no furniture, nor any, perhaps divine or predestined occupants in this heavenly abode. However, what you do encounter, scattered around the rooms, are a great many video monitors. When you look at their black-and-white images and listen to the accompanying sounds, you realise that, rather than randomly, they are placed or hung very precisely and appropriately. In other words, there, where the content of these images once was perhaps in reality, and where these sounds truly rang out.

Feet being wiped, a door moving in the draught, a purring cat curtains moving in the wind, an infant drinking from its mother's breast, a hand stirring a cup of coffee, a hand caressing a body. a woman's flying hair, a double bass being played with a bow, a baby playing... Wiping, purring. Squeaking, ticking, splashing, gurgling... Each of them fragments and sounds of domestic life, which fill the room with presence, but at the same time make the absence of things and life tangible.

The images last no longer than a second, and accompanied by sound, are played forward for one second and backward for one second, in endless repetition. There is the image of a clock, which illustrates this 'standstill'. Even though the scenes are so familiar, they end up being disconcerting, perhaps because of their isolation or because of this standstill which prevails. A number of images and sounds, among which the clock, have an extra alarming effect, like signs on the wall: a hand full of maggots, a throbbing temple, a fragment of the well-known TV image of falling and sliding furniture in a studio during the earthquake in Kobe...

What have you got into? You feel like an intruder who is caught up and entangled in bewildering and alienating images and sounds. Is this heaven? Or is it science fiction? Whatever the case, it is a mysterious place, organised by an unearthly rhythm and possessed by a strange spirit. You have landed in a place where time stands still, or has collapsed into a mere second. But why, and by what? Heaven could be the moment just before a catastrophe, when things are still happening as usual, because nothing is wrong yet. Or have you perhaps stumbled upon this household just after something dramatic and fatal has happened? Like a contemporary Pompeii? Is this a beginning or an end? Your timing and calculations do not solve anything. Heaven has vanished into Heaven..


 Retorica 1992

 2-channel video. black & white. 2-channel audio


 In Peter Bogers’ work, sound and image are equivalent elements, which always determine form and content in a dynamic interplay. Many of his installations seem to examine the breaking points between sound-music-sound and sound-speech, often with the help of electronics and the human voice. When does sound become music, or vice versa? When do sounds turn into speech, into communication? When does speech falter into inarticulate sound? Bogers also displays an unremitting preoccupation with the human body, which he employs on various levels, not only on video, but also as a spatial element, as conceptual material. In his works, the unity and identity of the body, as it can be perceived from the outside, has made place for fragmentation and alienation.

In Bogers' spatial installations (for example. in Frozen Voice (1992). or Without the Word (1994). the various parts of the body appear. literally and figuratively. to be isolated from each other, and seem to be functioning almost independently from each other. as autonomous parts. Yet there is no explanatory context from outside which determines the meaning: the bodies invariably seem to be engrossed in themselves, to come back to themselves, and the impulses, movements and sounds affecting the disintegrated parts seem to come from within rather than from the outside. It is as if the body, having reached the highest level of self-reflection, obliviously but intimately exposes itself to the viewer, while the sound fills in the intermediate spaces and tries to bridge the gaps.

With Retorica, the intriguing play of image and sound invites you to linger. Two monitors are suspended in the air, one higher than the other, and at an angle to each other. The lowermost monitor alternately shows a close-up of a man's eye or mouth, while the uppermost shows the same facial fragments, but of a baby. The tapes run perfectly synchronously: when you see the man's mouth above, you see the baby's eye below, and vice versa. The images and sounds are aimed at each other: as with a dialogue, one character speaks, while the other listens and watches, observes.

Meanwhile, the images, the man and the baby together, produce the most diverse, primitive, vocal sounds and noises, with no conventional 'word' being uttered. The rhetoric of Retorica:

the sounds uttered by the baby are repeated by the man. Meanwhile, they are watching each other closely. There even comes a moment when you are no longer certain who is imitating whom: beginning and end disappear as in a 'loop'.

The sounds are not only unpolished, primitive, rudimentary, raw, and undeveloped, they also comprise the first hint of language and conventional communication. For Retorica, Bogers used video films of himself and his child, and registrations of the sounds his child made during the period just before it actually began to talk. His own seemingly perfect imitation of these sounds is simulated: in fact, only one voice was used, that of the baby, which Bogers changed by means of a voice modulator and then put into his own mouth. The heart­rending interaction between father and child is also the image of a body communicating with itself, which opens up a whole range of latent or long-concealed emotions.

Sacrifice (1994)

 Interactive sculpture: photo/video sculpture: single-channel video, black & white: single-channel audio


 The oeuvre of image and sound artist Peter Bogers includes a number of video installations, which seem to be related in form and content. Namely, Portret (1992), Survival (1992) and Sacrifice (1994). In all three of these relatively small, elusive and intimate installations, small glass show cases are incorporated, in which minute video images of parts of a face can be seen, enlarged and distorted by lenses. In Portret, you see images of a supine profile: a bent tube, which seems to extend from the mouth, ends just above the eye. You are witness to a cycle in which saliva from the mouth constantly drips into the eye. Survival provides a view from above into a wide-open mouth. a gaping hole in which the teeth are displayed menacingly and water bubbles in and out. Both works seem to be ritualised expressions of highly personal preoccupations and self-reflections, in which the viewer becomes involved as a voyeur and witness.

In Sacrifice, too, a mouth is being filled up with water. On the floor stands a small glass show case, containing a minuscule black-and-white monitor whose screen is not directed forward but straight upward’’ so that the viewer looks onto it from above. Two lenses are placed above the monitor, which enlarge or distort the video image, depending on the viewer position. What you see is a seamless image loop of an open mouth, filmed from above, and surrounded by water. First you see the water rising slowly, then the mouth filling up until it is completely immersed and subsequently the water subsiding., but the mouth remaining filled. Eventually, the pharynx collapses and the mouth is empty again. These four phases are repeated ad infinitum and. at the appropriate moments, are accompanied by soft swallowing sounds coming from a small loudspeaker at the bottom of the showcase.

Behind the showcase, on the wall, there is a large black-and-white photo showing what must have been the set where the video images were recorded. The viewer sees a man, the artist, lying naked in a grimy, dilapidated bathtub, his face almost completely under water. A microphone hangs above his open mouth, and the camera and accessories are suspended above the bath.

Together with the video, the photo represents the process and the result: the artist drinking up the bathtub. It seems to be a resigned, stoical immersion in water, in which it is the elevated and passive position, which you as viewer are forced to assume by the form of the installation, that makes this spectacle so disconcerting. The action of the lenses enhances the feeling that you are spying on the implementation of an intimate and mysterious process, a ceremony which you cannot get a grip on. Its effect is bewildering and alienating, rather than clarifying and elucidating. What is this ritual, sacrifice or self-sacrifice, and in whose honour, that we, the viewers, are the passive witnesses to in Sacrifice?


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