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Let's talk about video art

Interview with Bart Rutten

Let's talk about video art

27-11-2013 | 15.31

On November 28th we open the last edition of Stedelijk at Trouw: Contemporary Art Club – Part 3: DATA. It’s the grand finale of our collaboration in 2013: three exhibitions with film- and video pieces of which the soundtrack and the sound design – inspired by pop and film – define the pieces of art. We talked to the conservator of Stedelijk, Bart Rutten at his home whilst enjoying a nice cup of coffee.
 
Do you feel proud looking at the result of Stedelijk at Trouw and what we’ve accomplished in the last three editions?
"Definitely, I’m so proud of the exhibitions. Especially because the level of ambition as far as content and presentation goes remained of a high quality. We kept bringing artists and their pieces to Trouw with a strong international reputation that could have easily been presented in Stedelijk. I really do think that we were able to surprise the young creative minds, who either have a blind spot or a skeptical attitude towards contemporary art. No, better yet: we were able to treat them with some really good art!"
 
It’s no coincidence that the decision was made to display video art in Trouw. Video art and music show great similarities, could you tell us a bit more about that?
"Indeed there are a lot of similarities in the rise of electronic music and video art. A tendency especially visible when looking at the rise of the sample, which also applies to imagery in those days. The breakthrough of the glitch-based electronic music walked hand in hand with the emergence of samples used in music videos. It’s a pity that nobody ever took the music video seriously. The Groninger Museum for example arranged a collection of music videos which they wanted to exhibit, but this came to a standstill because of the music rights. Such a shame, because the music video often really deserves a place in the museum and is also the perfect way of demonstrating how music and video are connected."
 
Were you never afraid that video art would lose its impact, especially now everyone is so accustomed to the medium?
"Sure, but a good artist is never as good as one particular piece of work, a good artist exists through his oeuvre, a continuation of different works. Or whether his art challenges you to view some of his other outputs. Moreover, the presentation of the work is really essential, which is reflected brilliantly in Trouw. You can almost compare it to a drawing that you can show au natural or framed.
 
Do you mean that the presentation in Trouw differs so which causes the experience of the piece to change?
"When you show a piece of art in a neutral environment, then it clearly possesses the message ‘this is art’. The public is automatically pointed to the fact that they have to change their view and manner of perception. When you’re in a club environment, you’re not immediately exposed to a museum-type presentation and that’s a big difference, because you’re essentially being introduced to the work in a different way. That’s why we’re very conscious of the presentation of the works in Trouw. We feel that we should guide the public a little bit with the help of texts, so the people know that they’ll have to view the works with a certain type of concentration."
 
There is more and more art available on the Internet, which is again another type of presentation.
"I think the Internet is a bad medium for art, because you get distracted so easily. You can leave the work with a click of a button and you get pop-ups everywhere, mail… It would be great of everyone had to turn off their cell phone in a museum, so you can really lose yourself in the experience of the work."
"But let’s be clear that there is a big difference between data-based art and event-based art. The abundance of art on the Internet is great, but art is if anything an experience and that’s why the presentation of the piece is so important. The same goes for film. The beauty of the movie theater is not the size of the screen, but that you’re together in a room sharing an experience and feeling the emotions. That emotion differs so much from the feeling you get when you’re watching the same film behind a computer."
 
Did you receive any nice reactions from the artists who were exhibited in Trouw?
"Definitely! Rineke Dijkstra was very excited about the presentation of the Buzz Club, whilst it is an iconic work and presented in a white museum very often. It really came to life in Trouw and it felt like the work ‘came home’ in a sense after a long journey from 'white cube' to 'white cube'. Just like when you used to go back to your parents’ place to get a good night’s sleep and an healthy meal, that’s exactly how the Buzz Club was able to rest and catch its breath in order to continue the heralding journey through the white art spaces all around the world."
 
Do you think Rineke Dijkstra would like to display her pieces in a club environment more often?
"I don’t really know. Rineke is very meticulous about that. We also looked at her work The Krazy House, but she didn’t thought it was displayed often enough to handle this type of exhibition. I think that's a beautiful thing for an artist to view their work in that way, felt like you first have to raise your ‘child’ before it can flourish in a club environment."
 
Our last question: what kind of music do you like listening to?
“I was at The National last week, really stellar stuff! But my music taste is very broad. It ranges from The National to electronic music. I try to keep up with the latest trends, but that’s proving to become a bit more difficult due to the fact that a bunch of things require my full attention (laughs at his daughter who’s been on his lap the entire conversation). I used to have a music group with a couple of friends and we got together once per month to listen and swap music, really the pre-Spotify era. And we burned a lot of CD’s for each other, which I still own by the way!”
"But what I find really interesting about my own music history is that I experienced quite a lot of music revolutions. When I was 18, grunge got really big which I went through pretty intensively, including hairs reaching my back. After that came house together with clubs like RoXY and also found me losing myself in this genre. But at a sudden point everything started merging into one another and the strong identities of subcultures vanished. I think we’ve reached a peak of this tendency at this point, subcultures are fading immensely. And Trouw might be one the best examples of this phenomenon."