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Ahistoric Vacuum – Research Lab - Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam

Every two weeks EYE invites a Dutch art academy to present the work of selected students in a special Research Lab. This edition features Ahistoric Vacuum, compiled by Judith Leysner of the Sandberg Instituut.

The exhibition Ahistoric Vacuum features three new works by recent graduates of the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam. Recent graduates Kent Chan (SG), Richard John Jones (UK), Nikola Knežević (RS)of the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam. Ivan Cheng (AUS) made a text ribbon in relation to the video works. Each work examines places, structures or histories that have been erased, forgotten or annihilated, and exposes the vacuum that they have left behind. In contrast to the present trend of underlining the revolutionary aspect of technology, these works use technology as a means to create room for fiction and revival, thereby continually evaluating the present in relation to the past.

The topics of these works range from the colonial roots of Singapore, private lesbian and gay bars in Munich and the present state of the utopian architectural projects that were developed in the Netherlands in the 1950s.

Every two weeks EYE invites a Dutch art academy to present the work of selected students in a special Research Lab. The focus is on the artistic research process, and may include material from EYE’s collection. On Tuesday evenings the students organize a presentation, which will remain on show for two weeks.

Screened as part of the exhibition Close-Up. A New Generation of Film and Video Artists in the Netherlands.

This presentation takes place in the exhibition space on the first floor.


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The Ahistoric Vacuum
With the work of Kent Chan, Richard John Jones, Nikola Knežević

Curated by Judith Leysner 

Opening: 29 March 2016, 19h15
Exhibition until: 10 April 2016

Address: EYE, IJpromenade 1, Amsterdam

From 31 January to 22 May 2016, EYE presents the exhibition ‘Close-Up – A New Generation of Film and Video Artists in the Netherlands’. This group exhibition features numerous recent film and video works and spatial installations by a new generation of filmmakers and artists in the Netherlands, who are breaking down the barriers between film, video and visual art. 

In context of the exhibition, various art academies from the Netherlands are invited to organise a presentation. The Sandberg Instituut selected recent graduates Kent Chan (SG), Richard John Jones (UK), Nikola Knežević (RS) to participate in this special program. The artists will present their work Tuesday, 29 March 2016, and it will then remain on show for two weeks.

For this occasion, Kent Chan, Richard John Jones and Nikola Knežević will present their latest work. At first view, the subject matter of the three video installations is rather different, varying from the colonial foundation of Singapore, the closed lesbian and gay bars of 1970s Munich and the current state of 1950s utopian architectural projects in The Netherlands.

However, the phrase “an object out of place in time” taken from ‘To the Eastward (The Lines Divide)’ by Kent Chan is rather significant to ‘The Ahistoric Vacuum’ in general. Part of an installation that also includes a number of early 19th century geographical prints, the video narrates extracts from the Diary of Captain J.G.F. Crawford, who was present at the Founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles. Against the backdrop of a desolate landscape a historical event from a colonial past is re-enacted. 

Furthermore ‘The Ahistoric Vacuum’ explores the symbolic status of events or situations from the perspective of time: What did happen? What would it mean? How could it be substantial?

The video installation ‘All Closing And Dyke Bar And Everything Ending And Not And Death To The Ahistoric Vacuum’ by Richard John Jones is set in the urban queer scene of Munich. A group of individual characters respond to their surroundings as lesbian and gay bars are closing. The scripted stories and archival footage are combined in a repetitious mode each time adapting and changing pattern. 

By other means, ‘Many shades of Blue’ by Nikola Knežević relates to urban changes in our direct surroundings. The video installation brings attention to Nagele, a Dutch city once subjected to the progressive ideologies of modern architecture. With visible references to the architectural blueprint, this work extracts various elements of what once was and the imprint it has made on our social memory.

In addition, Ivan Cheng has been commissioned to write a text in context of the exhibition. As a participant of the Critical Studies department at the Sandberg Instituut, his contribution ‘PRIVATE BROWSING (The Ahistoric Vacuum)’ is somewhere between an artwork, performance and critical reflection. He considers ‘The Ahistoric Vacuum’ from his own practice while encountering a ghostwriter. 

The contingency of something taking place at one point in time is present and visible in ‘The Ahistoric Vacuum’. The works that are included in the exhibition relate to events or situations that attend to the failure, erasure or reconstruction of a historical idea of futurity. Indifferent to the passing of time, these narratives articulate what is left of their creation from the past, in the present, for the future.

Written by Hélène Webers 
(NL, art historian and curator)