Reading a Wave
Marinus Boezem & Noor Nuyten
Reading a Wave takes its title from the opening chapter of Italo Calvino’s novella Mr Palomar. The novel opens with the protagonist sitting at the beach intent upon looking at just a single wave. When this succeeds, he expects to have a better grip on the overwhelming complexity of the world and existence in general. But, as he writes “you cannot observe a single wave without bearing in mind the complex features that concur in shaping it and the other, equally complex ones that the wave itself originates [...] there are some forms and sequences that are repeated, though irregularly distributed in space and time.” Waves, which for Calvino serve as a metaphor for the whole world, cannot be defined in and of themselves; they exist only in relation to one another. In Mr Palomar, Italo Calvino uses everyday observations to grasp and understand life. This way of thinking echoes in the work of both Marinus Boezem and Noor Nuyten.
Upstream Gallery proudly presents a duo exhibition with an early work by Marinus Boezem and recent work by Noor Nuyten. Marinus Boezem (1934, NL) belongs, together with Jan Dibbets and Ger van Elk, to the most important representatives of the Conceptual Art and Arte Povera movement in the Netherlands. In the 1960s, Boezem discovered that he could use elusive elements such as air, weather, movement and light as visual materials and made a name for himself with radical, immaterial works that were far ahead of their time. Noor Nuyten (1986, NL) creates conceptual works that appeal strongly to the imagination of the viewer. Nuyten is artistically akin to the movement of conceptual artists from the late 1960’s, however at the same time her work is undeniably contemporary. In her new body of work, Noor Nuyten unpacks the materiality of the digital world by fusing crafts with tech-iconic materials.
In this exhibition we bring together two generations of conceptual artists who both have their own approach to capturing elements out of everyday life and elevate them to art. The mediums they work with are often immaterial, such as (digital) movement and time.
When observing their work, Mr Palomar comes to mind, through the awareness that a single action causes waves of implications that can’t be separated from each other. Everything is continuously in motion, in the digital as well as in the physical world.
“The key to mastering the world’s complexity [is found] by reducing it to its simplest mechanism.”
Marinus Boezem - Ping-Pong (1970)
In an oeuvre spanning more than sixty years, Boezem has created a body of work that stands quite independently in contemporary art, never having confined himself to a single style, handwriting or material. His work from the sixties has brought Marinus Boezem international fame and, as one of the first Dutch conceptual artists, he had a major influence on the development of the visual arts in the Netherlands. Through the use of everyday materials and elusive elements such as air and movement, he elevates the mundane to art, in a very playful manner. This type of work from the 1960s is also currently on display at the Kröller Müller Museum, where Boezem's solo exhibition All Shows remains on view through November 14, 2021.
Exhibited for the first time in 1970, the installation on display in the first room of Upstream Gallery is composed of a vintage extension table which serves as a table tennis table. The gallery is filled with the sound of invisible players playing the game, suggesting interaction and movement. Visitors are invited to play against each other, but are disoriented by the sound.
The sculpture is formed by the amplified sound, the suggestion of play, the more or less uncoordinated lines (waves) the ball describes through space and the movement of the two players reacting to each other. All these elements cannot be seen in isolation as they are continuously related. Even when no one is playing, because of the sound, the match plays in the imagination of the viewer.
This work is a good example of how conceptual art is related to digital art, which is also often performance-, chance-, and instruction based, and where interactivity with the viewer is often an important element of the work.
“Is this perhaps the real pursuit that Mr. Palomar is about to achieve? To make the waves run in the opposite direction, to overturn time, to perceive the true substance of the world beyond sensory and mental habits?”
Noor Nuyten - Digital Dust (2021)
Noor Nuyten’s new line of work, Digital Dust, archives the traces that one leaves behind while swiping on a screen as a physical leftover of the infinite online movement. Her work showcases how increasing digitalization is changing our perception of space and time.
Nuyten’s conceptual practice is characterised by merging disciplines without any form of hierarchy. To develop her work, she collaborated with various specialists and mastered several crafts over the past decade; from clockmaking and shoemaking to glassblowing. In the past year, Nuyten dove into the world of electrodes and 3D printing.
The off-white reliefs hanging on the wall in the front room of the gallery are taking the viewer behind the capacitive touchscreen, recreating the patterns of the electrodes. While swiping on a smartphone, a cascade of actions take place: the touch leaves a pattern of electrodes behind it. Nuyten has looked into how best to capture this movement and found a way to materialize it. After thorough research together with circular company Van Plestik, Nuyten developed a way to 3D print her concept with used electronics, such as computer monitors. These electronics, alluding to the evolution of technology, are shredded, melted and 3D printed. In imagining a transition towards more liveable futures, inspired by thinkers like Donna Haraway, Nuyten believes in the power of rethinking materials. By blending used materials, mundane objects and gestures, her aim is to spark the imagination of the viewer.
Where the installation of Boezem is in constant motion, Offline Timer – One Decade (2021) moves on a molecular level. The mysterious black spheres with sparkling silver are uniting age-old glass blowing techniques with 21st-century materials. These orbs are ‘Timers’ that Nuyten developed out of glass together with Marie de Bruyn at Tetterode Glass Factory. As a sequel of Nuyten's first Offline Timer (2020), which is still counting down, she has blown glass spheres with particles of silver from Smartphones into smaller ‘Timers’ - which together can be perceived as a timeline. Each ‘Timer’ is crafted with a different method, influencing the bursting speed of the glass. The ones that will burst within some weeks are cooled in the wind. The ones cooled in a blanket will burst after one year. The ones cooled in the oven will burst after ten years. The fluidity of time mirrors the nature of glass as an amorphous solid that can be melted and shaped endlessly.
Not only time and consciousness, but also place perception is shifting tremendously by the use of screens. Nowadays screens become (virtual) landscapes, carried in the hand. Our fingerprints are creating new landscapes. Nuyten photographed these picturesque traces together with brother and filmmaker Thomas Nuijten. The two colorful sceneries in the gallery are exuding the ambiance of the places where they were created - on the seashore of the North Sea and the Aegean Sea. Swiped Horizon (2020-2021) makes the intangible tangible and lets us rethink how digitalization changes our way of looking at the world.
Nuyten’s obsession with watches and clocks is never-ending and results in a yearly new prototype or proposal to re-imagine the relationship with time. During the Covid-19 pandemic humanity has spent their days mostly online, for either work or entertainment. As a consequence, the notion of time has once again altered. Together with Harald den Breejen, Nuyten invented Screen Time (2020-2021); a clock that is running on the rhythm of Swipes. Visitors are invited to manipulate the time by swiping on their screen. As soon as more people start controlling the clock, they can battle over time or collaborate by swiping a similar rhythm. The (thoughtless) movements on the screen compete with the user’s sense of time. Screen Time seems to summarize the exhibition, which raises awareness of the screen transforming everyday life at a dazzling rate, till dust is digital.
Noor Nuyten’s new works were made possible with the generous support of the Mondrian Fund.
With special credits to Stefania Petroula and Thomas Nuijten for thinking along in the process.