BY Willem de Rooij in Reviews | 01 JAN 04
Featured in
Issue 80

Arnoud Holleman

Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam, Netherlands

BY Willem de Rooij in Reviews | 01 JAN 04

Arnoud Holleman has been inconspicuously influential in Dutch cultural life for the last ten years. Never one to pursue a conventional gallery-backed art career, he chooses to express his ideas through a series of collaborative interventions in a broad range of media. Quoting, borrowing and appropriating are strategies he uses with ease. Subsequently, questions about the nature of all media and the notion of authorship occur in almost all his works, adjusting to each new context with light irony and diligence. With Lernert Engelbrechts, Holleman wrote and produced Driving Miss Palmen (2001), a micro-soap about the Netherlands' artistic and literary crème de la crème, shot in Bollywood. He also collaborated on the meta-theatrical projects of Mugmetdegoudentand and since 2000 has been co-editor, with graphic designer Jop van Bennekom, of Re-magazine. His elusive talent can be hard to pin down.

Holleman's exhibition at the Stedelijk Bureau was the first serious attempt to connect some of his numerous projects in a comprehensive overview. As might have been expected, 'Being There' was a critique of contemporary exhibition-making, as much by the choice of individual works as by the installation itself. Holleman enlisted the help of interior designer Herman Haerkens to tackle the challenge of showing several video and film projections, a page from a magazine, a sound piece and a set of drawings, all in a relatively small space. The result was a harmonious whole, in which every piece played an integral part. When sounds interfered, it was deliberate; where natural light was present, it added to the perceptual experience. The time required to view the mainly time-based pieces was that needed to appreciate the complexity of the installation as a whole.

Museum (1998) is a re-mastered, projected version of a 1980s video by French gay porn director J. P. Cadinot. After Holleman cut out all the sex scenes, all that is left are young boys in hot pants and uniforms wandering aimlessly through a cheap film set of rooms in a nondescript museum. The eclectic art collection functions merely as a prop, but since there is no apparent action either, it's not clear what the props are for. Ken Park (2003) is a looped fragment from Larry Clark's film Kids (1995), in which teenagers indulge in sexual escapades to alleviate their suburban ennui. Holleman looped the legendary shot of one the protagonists relieving himself after a night of steady drinking, emptying a last can of beer while doing so. After a while the calm splashing becomes reminiscent of a Zen fountain rather than a toilet, forming the audio backdrop to the show. Holleman filmed this fragment with a video camera in a cinema, in an exploration of appropriation, as well as of the status of the original images. Cadinot's work is nowadays mysteriously referred to as 'quality porn'. Clark on the other hand is accused of presenting mere porn in the context of art. But where Cadinot's 'pornographic' material can be nicked without a second thought, there might be a stir over re-using Clark's 'artistic' material.

Untitled-Staphorst (2003) is a large projection of slowed-down black and white archive material showing young girls in a protestant extremist Dutch village around 1960. Afraid to be filmed, the girls turn their heads, covering their faces with an arm or a scarf. Their souls will not be stolen, their images not distributed. Where Ken Park in its blank stupor seems mildly to ironize Marijke van Warmerdam's loops, Untitled-Staphorst may hint at Fiona Tan's struggle with the aesthetic temptations of archive material.

My Dad Playing Piano (2002) consists of a hand-out CD played on a mini-stereo in a neutral, soundproof white room. Holleman found the quiet, melancholy recording after his father's death. Now its amateurish appeal makes for an intimate comment on the relation between 'high' and 'low' art. In Sperm Drawings Holleman takes this juxtaposition a step further: these drawings evolved from his own ejaculations on A4-sized paper. The dried up, yellowish drops now create flashes of light against painstakingly black-pencilled backdrops. Tiny bright-coloured rims lift the traces of post-orgasmic vacancy up to explosions of festive home craft.

Hal Ashby's film version of Jerzy Kozinsky's Being There (1979) tells the story of 'Chance', a friendly, infantile gardener (played by Peter Sellers) who through a series of misunderstandings becomes Chauncy Gardiner and ends up in Washington's highest diplomatic circles. Chance experiences life through TV, and once his position is sufficiently misunderstood by the outside world, his decontextualized quotes from Sesame Street and the weather forecast become nation-shocking truisms. One wonders to what extent Holleman identified with Sellers' creation when he chose the title of his show.

Willem de Rooij is an artist. He teaches at the Städelschule, Frankfurt, Germany, Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Berlin Program for Artists, Germany. He lives in Berlin, Germany.