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?

Authors

Frank van der SalmFrank van der Salm (b. 1964) studied at Delft Polytechnic and the Willem de Kooning Academy (Rotterdam). He has worked on projects with architects such as O.M.A. (Rem Koolhaas), Herzog & de Meuron, and MVRDV. His work has been shown at the Venice Biennial, Haunch of Venison (Zurich, Switzerland) and the Stedelijk Museum (Schiedam, Netherlands).

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Platforms

Panorama, 2004
Panorama, 2004
© Frank van der Salm
Zürich, 2019
Zürich, 2019
© Frank van der Salm
UN, 2016
UN, 2016
© Frank van der Salm
The Strip, 2013
The Strip, 2013
© Frank van der Salm
Wonderland, 2015
Wonderland, 2015
© Frank van der Salm
Treasure Gathering Square, 2013
Treasure Gathering Square, 2013
©Frank van der Salm
The Next Level, 2016
The Next Level, 2016
© Frank van der Salm
Mission Interlude, 2012
Mission Interlude, 2012
©Frank van der Salm
Entracte, 2016
Entracte, 2016
© Frank van der Salm
Bouquet, 2008
Bouquet, 2008
© Frank van der Salm
Reservoir, 2005
Reservoir, 2005
©Frank van der Salm
Exhibition sketch N_O_W_H_E_R_E
Exhibition sketch N_O_W_H_E_R_E
Exhibition sketch N_O_W_H_E_R_E
Exhibition sketch N_O_W_H_E_R_E
Exhibition sketch N_O_W_H_E_R_E
Exhibition sketch N_O_W_H_E_R_E

Exhibition

The installation developed for N_O_W_H_E_R_E is a collaboration between Frank van der Salm and Paradox. Winy Maas, founder of MVRDV, is a consultant on the spatial development of the installation. The radical design separates the venue into two equal spaces. One part shows – in a rotating schedule – a choice of original Van der Salm works under ultimate white-cube conditions. It emphasizes the physical nature of these works; their size, their surface. The arrangements will be made by various guest curators.
The other part feels like an open urban space, with a 18 x 3m wall at its far end, showing a continuously changing projection of images by Van der Salm, while not taking their original size into account. Here the images are combined and recombined, cropped and blown up, based on an artificial intelligence algorithm, developed by AI researchers from the University of Amsterdam. Here, the computer will act as the tireless curator interpreting the oeuvre of Frank van der Salm.
On the second floor of the museum will be a presentation curated by the same algorithm, showing images from the museum collection and social media in combination with Van der Salm’s work.
  • Launch spring 2021, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam

NOWHERE cover 2
NOWHERE cover 2

Book

NOWHERE – Imagining The Global City collects Frank van der Salm’s work of the past 25 years. The image of a consumer-oriented, imaginary metropolis rises from this book, designed by Irma Boom. Images – sometimes upside down – question each other about the reality they represent. Together, they form the image of a city that, all of a sudden, seems to be simultaneously everywhere and nowhere, yet: here now. 

Textual contributions by Shumon Basar, Aaron Betsky and Urs Stahel, link Frank van der Salm’s oeuvre to the world of design, architecture, urban development, art and photography.

The book is published in three different cover/belly band combinations.

  • The book, containing 360 pages, is published in a large format (24 x 32 cm) by Paradox (NL) and Hartmann Books (DE) with three cover/bellyband combinations.

  • Frank van der Salm (Photographer)
    Urs Stahel (Author)
    Aaron Betsky (Author)
    Shumon Basar (Author)
    Irma Boom Office (Graphic design)

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