ArtEZ Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Arnhem
Described as a ‘love doctor’ of unholy alliances and known for his bizarre and singular marriages between miscellaneous objects, Domas Anne van Wijk builds installations consisting of even the most mundane objects, machines and situations. The newly assembled combinations of situations allow them to adopt a new function or meaning carried out by van Wijk’s editing. Just like contemporary technology, it remains unclear how the work is mechanically designed. However, these invisible mechanics and electronic connections become revealed and almost tangible once the machines are operated and different noises are made between different hinges and joint structures. While van Wijk’s authorship is undoubtedly evident in the intertwining of all these different elements, it feels as if they embark on a journey on their own.
You can take a look at his website.
His residency period is devoted to developing varying ways of presenting his current research, which links the movie Free Willy (1993) to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s persona in Downtown 81 (2000). Despite their distinctive historical contexts and impact on art, van Wijk reunites them. In a meshwork of different interrelated meaning and constructions, the lives of Keiko (the whale impersonating Willy) and Basquiat not only share common ground like freedom and fame, their celebrity status also meant their tragic downfall at the age of 27 – making them part of the mythical 27 club.
Domas van Wijk builds large networks of installations by combining different materials which are withdrawn from their original state of being or context. Via this fusion he inflames multiple dialogues which activate that confined circuit repeatedly. In that process, the aesthetic assemblage gains new meanings, references and associations necessary for researching and understanding the connections between all the different parts. Regardless of this seemingly self-operational system, Van Wijk’s interference authorizes its independence. A certain animism is therefore suggested for each component, adopting a lively instead of lifeless feature with each activation.
That merging of different elements is apparent in the following three illusively separate installations. Looking at *24-09-1976 †12-12-2003, we witness a long tape running out of its original carrier into the room and flirting with an upright guitar. The ONE-sided magnetic tape has two effects: the screening of the infamous jump to freedom in Free Willy, and the vibration of the strings. Willy’s escape from captivity on screen and in real life composes its personal drone soundtrack. Also, both Willy and Keiko were left no choice regarding their release into the wild – his forced freedom caused Keiko’s departing at the age of 27, legitimizing his membership of the mythical 27 Club of rock ‘n roll stars like Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix. The installation evokes a feeling of loneliness and abandonment, perhaps similar to what Keiko must’ve felt after his release. Bearing in mind the self-operational features of van Wijk’s works, the installation resembles an archaeology of modern media: we’re left behind with a landscape of human remnants, a world controlled by objects functioning within that confined system of things.
A similar mechanism with different aesthetics is represented in *22-12-1960 †12-08-1988: high-tech ventilators initiate the hovering of a videotape. While gracefully dancing in the air, the videotape is at the same time processed in a recorder which is connected to a flat screen. Through a headphone we hear a distorted song from Downtown 81’s soundtrack: ‘So far so real’ (by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s band Gray) proclaims neither truth nor falsehood. The song’s story fits the movie’s bottom line: starring the young Basquiat years before starting his art practice, Downtown 81 follows the life of Jean, a poor painter suddenly rising to stardom and becoming rich. Basquiat anticipates not only his artistic career but also his forlorn departing (again, at the age of 27). Besides this “fictional” autobiography, we notice an analogous overlapping of different realities identical to Keiko’s. Their shared 27 Club-membership subtly creates a certain affinity between the two works, in spite of their historical differences and impact on popular culture.
The third one, Leaving Surfaces, thrives on the above mechanisms. The allocation of street art pieces from the city jungle to museal surroundings attributes an archaeological feature to the graffiti objects. Van Wijk has scraped off and manipulated these thick layers of graffiti. Polished multiple times, they finally reveal their multi-coloured interior. And though they seem to have a sculptural precedence, the graffiti ‘artefacts’ slowly lose their shape – as an act of revolt or due to lack of support? – and bow, abandoning their once dynamic life in their glass-made coffin. Of course, this removal from their natural habitat leads to criticism of and protest by street artists. Graffiti therefore plays a key role throughout the project: from the removal of the graffiti pieces, through graffiti sprayed on Keiko’s fish tank as an act of protest, to Basquiat’s early artistic career as a street artist. It binds them together and creates a proximity between these universes and a continuity defying the linearity of time.
In this fashion, the materials, now withdrawn from their previous function and meaning, in van Wijk’s installations are not chosen for their serving nature, but for their structure. Their ‘material honesty’ is as important as the content, their empirical reuse is necessary to open up both anecdotic and associative revelations. So, despite the objects’ misleadingly random composition and interlinking, Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” remains ever-present. The medium can finally showcase its potential artistic value and be credited as such.
© Leontien Allemeersch, pictures of his residency
© Domas van Wijk
© Michiel Devijver