Amidst the mass audience descending on the Rotterdam museum night, >RE:ID by Willem Besselink emerges from the movements of the public. Under the umbrella theme of RE: where the public is urged to participate in mass digital interaction, through text messaging their scores of art work, signing up to online profiles, scanning and pushing buttons and lots of flashing lights, it is a relief to come across Besselink’s analogue translation of digital interaction.
A scaled down construction site on a corner of the Witte de Withstraat is equipped with construction workers in green and yellow jackets who take centre stage under the heavy weight lighting, manning BO-rent machinery and drinking coffee while the cement mixer churns, drowning out the song playing on the portable radio. To the rear of the site stands a pile of freshly delivered paving slabs beside a portacabin.
Spread around the flapping advertising board for ‘Panda dim sum restaurant’, to which the entrance is momentarily obstructed, are scattered paving stones, slightly raised on wooden slats above the original paving. They are carefully placed to represent the map of museum night venues. In relative scale the venue furthest away, which happens to be the Ceramics Museum across the river in Delfshaven, translates into ten paving stones down and two across, placing it in the middle of the pathway, accompanied by a bright orange traffic cone.
Besselink calls himself a rule based artist, trying to avoid the influence directed by his impulses or emotion. He follows a set of guidelines and rhythms that are often arbitrary movements of phenomena, such as temperature, direction or even Besselinks own heart beat. Within a predetermined frame, data is sourced and transferred into graphic representations rendered into simple shapes and bold colors. This data is not removed from its context but takes on form in the place it is sourced.
Pie charts, scatter grams and line graphs take on a three dimensional presence. As mysterious figures they evoke exactly what the artist avoids in their making process, a feeling of absence and secrecy. There is a desire to decipher their tales within them. The beauty and humor in irregularity and exceptions to the rule are read in a glance. More people have walked passed this window from the left than they have from the right (Witte de Withstraat 80, 2006) more men have entered this door than woman have the other door (Flurwege WdKA, 2005). It is revealing the subtle irregularities amongst mundane data that makes Besselinks work fascinating.
>RE:ID is an application of this working method to the hectic situation of Rotterdam museum night. The construction workers are waiting on further instruction determined by the museum night audience. Some twenty something other colleagues in identical jackets are manning the doors of Rotterdam’s art venues to scan visitors wearing badges. These statistics are concurrently relayed to a website and to the construction site via a computer in the portacabin.
Identified by tiny flickering lights on hats, scarves and coats, the museum night crowds flood into the street and the construction workers begin to lay pavement slabs on top of each other in accordance to visiting numbers. The dynamic events of the evening start to raise in a bar graph of bricks and mortar… A crash sounds! And to the right the Ceramics Museum has been kicked down the path by a group of young men, a boy hurries back and places the paving stone exactly as he found it and joins his group to continue with his Saturday night out.
A nice contradiction occurs, while individuals spread through Rotterdam and converge into one flow, it simultaneously is rendered to a halt in a hard copy of bricks and paving stone, encasing and creating one single presence. The same stones that you walk on become the material to convey your steps and the towers that are created out of them are the visited, scaled down buildings. Perhaps in places, the graph will become as high as the lamppost inside it taking on new proportions with the street furniture.
After the reference points fall away, when the crowds disperse and are long gone, like removing the frame from around a dried plaster cast, the mysterious form, as if deposited on the street, could take on a mute presence in the quiet aftermath, underlining the absence of its makers. Perhaps the group of young men, on return from their Saturday night out, will stop in the early morning hours and hang around sitting on the additional shape to the Witte de Withstraat, to perhaps smoke a cigarette, unaware of what it beholds, before moving on themselves.
Willem Besselink, >RE:ID, 2009, photo-sequence registration by the artist
vond plaats tijdens de Rotterdamse Museumnacht op 7 maart 2009