Blackout Installations at the Kunsthal, Rotterdam

This was the first time I had ever walked up a red carpet. I reached the end of the red carpet, and made my way up the stairs – into the darkness. Punctures of light interrupted the darkness, clicking sounds reverberated throughout the space, and ghostly images faded in and out before my eyes.

I was at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Film implies the careful and conscious curation of time and space. The IFFR and Kunsthal’s exhibition Blackout Installations – part of the Deep Focus section of the IFFR programme – shows how the medium of film can give rise to unexpected moments, forgotten memories and hidden histories.

This exhibition revolves around the Kodak carousel slide projector. With its rotating tray of slides, the Kodak Carousel – discontinued in 2004 – has been recognised as an artistic medium for the past fifteen years. It is the 35 mm carousel slide projector that forms the focal point of these works, by eleven international artists from Thailand to Brazil.

Blackout Installations is testimony to the myriad of ways in which the aesthetic qualities of slide transparencies can be exploited by contemporary artists. In Floris Vanhoof’s Fossil Locomotion, fossils – those sedimentations of memory – come alive and dance in front of your eyes. After spinning a wheel in front of the projector in Aura Satz’s Her Luminous Distance, stars morph into ink spots, which inspires a childlike awe and fascination.

It is not clear whether the photographic plates had been arranged in order to achieve these effects, or whether it is down purely to chance. The experience becomes rather magical. While spinning the disc faster and faster with a member of the museum staff, she revealed to me that a star is named after her.

Interactivity is a word that we would normally associate with digital technology. However, the visitor is invited to engage with the works in a way that is not familiar to us. Sitting down in a chair alongside another visitor, I was invited to dictate the projection of slides with a clicker, in Cauleen Smith’s Space Station: Rainbow Ihnfinity. A small crowd gathered behind us as we created an artwork in front of their very eyes – projecting a constantly changing overlay of different images.

I found myself reaching for my smartphone in my pocket, to film the experience of participating in Space Station. I’ll confine this experience to my memory, I thought. Antonia Dalivalle 25th January 2019

Blackout Installations continues at the Kunsthal, Rotterdam till 3rd February

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