– Spring 2012

Interzone: On Three Works by Wendelien van Oldenborgh

Sven Lütticken

Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Supposing I love you. And you also love me, 2011, architectural intervention with bench and projection and montage of still images with dialogue, sound, English subtitles, 13min, stills. Courtesy the artist and Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam

In today’s franchise-driven cinema, the production of ‘trilogies’ is de rigueur. Three being the magic number, the trilogy — a secularised triptych — gives a semblance of artistic planning and closure to a series (but of course there can always be a follow-up trilogy). To the extent that Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s three slide works Après la reprise, la prise (2009), Pertinho de Alphaville (So Close to Alphaville, 2010) and Supposing I love you. And you also love me (2011) follow the logic of the franchise trilogy, they do so in an almost parodic manner — as when some of the protagonists of Après la reprise return, as if by ‘popular demand’, in Supposing I love you. In fact, Supposing I love you is something of an entr’acte, for the official third part of van Oldenborgh’s trilogy will be the work Bete & Deise (2012—). Even in this case, then, the trilogy format spawns spin-offs, but the interrelations between the parts are far from clear-cut. Strategies and motifs recur, but in a manner that recalls musical variations more than the relentless branding of franchises.

All three works consist of a cinematic series of slides that dissolve into each other (‘real’ slides in the first two pieces, digital stills in the last) in dialogue with a soundtrack on which we hear what we presume are the voices of those we see in the images, but not in sync.1 In Après la

  1. When Supposing I love you was selected for inclusion in the Danish Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale, the Pavilion’s organisers deemed the risk of slide projectors getting jammed or breaking down over the duration of the exhibition too great; hence the digital option was pursued.

  2. Tariq Ramadan’s tenure as guest professor at Erasmus University and as advisor to the city of Rotterdam ended in 2009 over a controversy concerning his work for the Iranian network PressTV. Ramadan, essentially a conservative interested in integrating Islam in Europe, is habitually accused of being a fundamentalist ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ by right-wing populists. At the moment of writing, the Dutch Wikipedia entry on Ramadan still hawks the myth that he staged a campaign to prevent Voltaire’s play ‘Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet' (1736) in Geneva in 1993 (http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tariq_Ramadan#cite_ref-7); for Ramadan’s rebuttal, see ‘Se prendre pour Voltaire?’, http://www.tariqramadan.com/Se-prendre-pour-Voltaire.html (both last accessed on 24 October 2011).

  3. Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872), in Kritische Studienausgabe 1 (ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari), Munich: DTV, 1988, pp.92—95. English translation available at http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/Nietzsche/tragedy_all.htm (last accessed on 24 October 2011). According to Nietzsche, the ‘Socratic’ tendency in Euripides’s tragedies leads to the atrophying of the chorus, from which the tragedy had emerged in the first place. One might note that in Supposing I love you, the youngsters form a quasi-chorus, interrogated Socratically by Ramadan.

  4. Matthew Wilson Smith, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace, New York and London: Routledge, 2007, pp.9—10.

  5. Diedrich Diederichsen, ‘Combating Discursive Scarcity, Futile Intention, and the Negative Gesamtkunstwerk: Christoph Schlingensief and His Music’, in Susanne Gaensheimer (ed.), Christoph Schlingensief: German Pavilion, 2011. 54th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2011, p.190.

  6. Allan Kaprow, ‘Notes on the Creation of a Total Art’, Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life (ed. Jeff Kelley), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993, p.10.

  7. Quoted from Wim de Wagt, Piet Elling, 1897—1962: Een samenstemmende eenheid, Bussum: Thoth, 2008, p.139. Translation the author’s.

  8. See Roland Barthes ‘Le Troisième sens’ (1970), an important text for van Oldenborgh. See also R. Barthes, ‘The Third Meaning: Research Notes on Some Eisenstein Stills’, The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation (trans. Richard Howard), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, pp.41—62.

  9. The title evokes La Reprise du travail aux usines Wonder (1968), directed by Jacques Willemont, one of the films shown in Harun Farocki’s Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades (2006).

  10. See Eric C.H. de Bruyn, ‘Intermittent Conversations on Leaving the Factory’, Texte zur Kunst, no.79, September 2010, pp.128—44.

  11. Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Versuch über Wagner’ (1938), Die musikalischen Monographien (Gesammelte Schriften vol. 13) (ed. Rolf Tiedemann), Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2003, p.102.

  12. Jacques Rancière, ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, Artforum, vol.45, no.7, March 2007, p.277.

  13. Ibid., p.278.

  14. See Augusto Boal, Theater of the Oppressed (trans. Charles A. McBride, New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1993.

  15. See Sven Lütticken, ‘Secrets of the See-Through Factory: On Intervening in Opaque Transparency’, Open, no.22, forthcoming.

  16. Email from the artist, 8 September 2011.

  17. On this project see Binna Choi and Wendelien van Oldenborgh (ed.), A Well Respected Man, or Book of Echoes, Utrecht and Berlin: Casco and Sternberg Press, 2010.

  18. See Aby Warburg, Schlangenritual: Ein Reisenbericht (1923), Berlin: Wagenbach, 1988, p.56.

  19. My terminology here is based on the account of the dialectic in Fredric Jameson, Valences of the Dialectic, London and New York: Verso, 2009.