Artists’ web talk session with General director KITAGAWA Fram vol.2 ‘Communication between two distant places’
In the last edition of Artists’ web talk session with General Director Fram Kitagawa, we have talked with four artists from Russia, where the number of Coronavirus cases is still increasing. Today’s guest is Marnix de Nijs from the Netherlands. In Ichihara, he will exhibit the work that allows people to explore virtually reconstructed Yorokeikoku area with scanned images and sound. At the time when face-to-face communication needs to be avoided, he shared his thoughts and ideas as an artist whose works often incorporate digital elements.
Marnix de Nijs, General Director KITAGAWA Fram
General Director KITAGAWA Fram (Hereafter Director):
First of all, could you tell us about the situation in the Netherlands and how your activities are affected?
Marnix de Nijs (Hereafter Marnix):
In the Netherlands, things are gradually restarting. Schools are now open and shops such as barbers also resumed their business.
I was lucky enough to be able to go back and forth between my house in Rotterdam and my studio in the industrial area close to the harbor, and spend most of my time working alone.
In these days, I have been sorting out computer software and hardware machines, and working on projects every day.
In Japan, we are requested to refrain from going outside and it seems to continue until the end of this month [as in May].
In the Netherlands, we are also advised to stay home. However, since there is no police check or anything, we can go outside if we feel like doing so.
The same is the case in Japan. While we spoked with four Russian artists two weeks ago, the situation seems to have become a lot worse since then.
I have also heard of the situation in Russia.
There is no lockdown order in the Netherlands. We can go out for a walk in a park. Yesterday, it was reported that the IC of the hospital received no new Coronavirus-related patient.
What do you think about the recent situation in general?
First of all, recently I have been enjoying reading books and watching films as a consumer of art and culture, besides being an artist myself.
Artists are used to working alone. We develop ideas and create works in isolated places. I think we all have something to learn from the way artists work. This situation has made us reflect on the world around and work on something intensively.
In Japan as well, most of us work at home. I am also enjoying watching films and TV, which I had not for a long time.
Many museums offer virtual-exhibitions, but I don’t really watch them. For me, books and movies are more fascinating.
One thing that caught my attention was a virtual-exhibition of famous paintings. Those uploaded images are in high-resolutions, and you can see small cracks and strokes of the brush with close-up. I found it interesting since even in a museum you don’t observe it that precisely.
Could you share your ideas on what should we do under the current circumstances?
We are spending most of the time watching screens, deprived of a great part of physical contacts. However, I’m lucky enough to work on the project of tactile communication over a network during the quarantine.
For this project, I was greatly re-inspired by the work 'Telephonic Arm-Wrestling' by Norman White and Doug Back. 'Telephonic Arm-Wrestling' is a work that allows contestants in two different cities to arm-wrestle, using motorized force-transmitting systems interconnected by a telephone data link.
It was one of the works that inspired me in the early two thousand when I was developing the installations 'Push Pull' and 'Cross-Connected'. Just as the arm-wresting interface, both of these works investigate the possibilities of physical communication over a network.
The internet is very well equipped to communicate text, image and sound, but the communication of touch over a network has not been explored much outside the academic world.
It is very difficult for us to see in person and communicate face-to-face right now. Therefore, I will try to develop a new device which enables us to touch over a network, making the most of this situation.
Of course, there will be no point in making the exact same thing as 'Telephonic Arm-Wrestling', but I think that work could give me a good hint. I would like to make this situation more bearable by adding a sense of humor to this work.
Maybe in Japan you are not accustomed to have physical contact, but it is very usual in Europe. We feel very strange that we are not suggested to do that now.
Are you going to finish the project within this year?
It will be officially presented at the end of the year, but hopefully I can release what I found through the research in a month. I would like to share my research process with the public. That’s also because we don’t really know what the situation will be like in a year.
If you managed to develop the device, please let me know. I would like to try it with other places.
I’m thinking of making it small so that I can easily distribute it to cultural institutions. It will be really interesting if we can feel slight touches of one another in a remoted place.
I think sticker-type would be smart too. Anyway, I must say I have just started working on this project…
I understand that compared to the rest of the world you have generous supports to young artists in the Netherlands. Is there any special supporting program in response to this situation?
While Germany, our neighbor, has good support to all types of the art, individual artists in the Netherlands have no support from the government at all,which is quite shocking to me.
There are programs for self-employed companies, but I’m falling in-between all the categories. The regulations are not applied to me, as I am an artist. Artists are self-employed company as well though…
However, on the city level, some supports are available to young artists. For example, Rotterdam, my city, gives more commissions these days to create artworks or suspends the rents for studios and so on.
It was a great pleasure to talk with you today. Thank you very much.
Artists’ web talk session with General director KITAGAWA Fram
vol.1 ‘Hope artists have in the midst of the coronavirus disease outbreak’
vol.2 ‘Communication between two distant places’
vol.3 ‘Beyond borders’
vol.4 ‘Small changes in the daily life of the artist’