NOWHERE – Imagining The Global City focuses on the past 25 years work of Dutch artist/photographer Frank van der Salm and consists of a large-scale exhibition featuring a video wall (powered by Artificial Intelligence), a collection presentation, a public program and a book. Paradox (project initiator), Nederlands Fotomuseum (partner and venue) and Frank van der Salm (author) are collaborating with the University of Amsterdam, RNDR – design studio for interactive media, architect Winy Maas, composer Henry Vega, graphic designer Irma Boom and Hartmann Books (co-publisher).
In the 1990s Frank van der Salm aimed his lens at the landscape in order to record the human influence on it. Initially he followed in the tradition of the New Topographics, a movement that gained prevalence in the 1970s. Soon, however, he felt that the self-imposed restrictions – black and white, restricted format, the subject depicted sharply in focus and descriptively – was too limiting; Van der Salm started experimenting with colour, format, depth of field and scale. Until the mid-2000s the latter aspect was a distinguishing element of his visual language. The resulting alienation made the observer doubt whether this was an image or a scale model – an idealized model of reality, or an image of reality itself. In various guises, this has remained a characteristic of his work to this day. The central question always remains: which is the ideal image being pursued and what are the underlying values of it? Van der Salm himself indicates that his work – with the urban environment as its main subject matter – is a search for ‘who we are’. In other words: Frank van der Salm’s often impressive, aesthetic images are based on a critical cultural engagement.
We are currently living in a media society in which the image is omnipresent: experiences are guided by images we have seen before in the (social) media. In architecture this is taken a step further: buildings are increasingly designed (or cloned) with the eventual resulting image in mind. The traditional relationship between (physical) original and (digital) copy is reversed.
Exhibition at the Nederlands Fotomuseum
The main exhibition will be presented on the ground floor of the Nederlands Fotomuseum, the space divided in half by a 20x3m wall. While the front will feel like an open urban space, on a long facade an AI-driven montage of the work will be projected. Behind the wall, physical works will be on display.
In his PhD research at the University of Amsterdam, Gjorgji Strezoski (MK) studies the interpretative capacities of artificial intelligence. He co-developed a model fed with Van der Salm’s complete oeuvre and concepts that were relevant to him; they were all attributed with a high or low value. Based on subjective concepts like 24/7, environment or alienation and the values attributed to them, the computer will indicate objective relationships between the images. This will shed a new light on the works and their social relevance. The visualization of verbal concepts, the images, the values they represent and the underlying machine language was translated into a monumental 18x3m projection by RNDR – design studio for interactive media. The accompanying sound design was produced by composer Henry Vega (US).
Total images, crops, and details from Van der Salm’s work will be combined in a projection with a visual translation of the data, to make visible what happens inside the computer. The second part of the main exhibition is an extreme contrast to the urban environment and dynamic projection; ultimate white cubes with a restricted selection of physical works.
De collectie belicht door…
For the last few years, the NFM has invited contemporary writers, photographers and curators to – from their specific perspective – curate exhibitions from the museum collection in De collectie belicht door. In the context of NOWHERE the unique occasion presents itself to have a computer perform this task. The images that Van der Salm’s oeuvre consists of will be combined with the digitised images from the museum collection. The computer will select from architecture/urban environment and then apply the values that the algorithm has learned based on Van der Salm’s input.
The presentation with the computer as a descriptor of the images as well as a guest curator is a unique opportunity to address the phenomenon of AI for the general audience and encourage a debate amongst professionals working in the archive and museum world. Are we dealing with AI as a ‘helper’ of the artist or AI as the ultimate curator? Or is it De collectie belicht door Frank van der Salm in the end, because his motives are the underlying data the algorithm has learned from?
This extraordinary monograph offers a complete overview of Frank van der Salm’s works from the period 1995 – 2020 in a design by Irma Boom. She placed 241 images from the past 25 years in an associative flow, sometimes placing images upside down, forcing the viewer to turn the book around and take a different, better look at the essence of the image.
The heart of the book contains a series of fold-out pages concerning the interpretation of the work by means of AI, through a number of selected concepts. The voluminous publication also contains texts by Shumon Basar (author and culture critic, Commissioner of Global Art Forum in Dubai), Aaron Betsky (director of Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design (US); regularly publishes on art, architecture and design) and Urs Stahel (curator at MAST, Bologna (IT); co-founder of the Winterthur Photo Museum and curator and author on the subject of photography). They reflect on Van der Salm’s work from the point of view of philosophy, painting, architecture and photography, in the context of images as carriers of urban society.
Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie support for NOWHERE9 January 2020
Happy to start the new year with an exciting announcement that our project N_O_W_H_E_R_E has been selected to receive support from the Creative Industries Fund NL under their Open Call for Exceptional Presentations! With this grant, the fund calls on presentation institutions, exhibition places, museums or new initiatives to come up with a proposal for...Read more