Wild Zone

A ‘wild zone’ is a refuge within the organised structure of society. It is not a marginal place, but an experimental area which develops parallel to the controlled and established relations of everyday life. The artists in the exhibition Wild Zone, Carsten Nicolai, L.A. Raeven, Jennifer Tee, and Raimond Wouda, use these areas in their own ways to examine and make visible their personal desires and sources of inspiration. They are interested in the conditioning and manipulation of human behaviour and the effect of aspects of subcultures (fashion, music, sound, media and technology) and they zoom in on specific elements of a reality that seems familiar at first sight.

Carsten Nicolai’s work is based on electronic music compositions and codings. His installations are derived from the contemporary club circuit, but he eliminates every entertainment factor from this popular field, until he is left with only the basis – sound and the movement it produces. His installations combine scientific and artistic research into the kinetic effects of tones and their relation to visual images. By using particular sound waves in his compositions, Nicolai produces geometrical patterns on the surface of a fluid. These motions seem to refer in a highly abstract way to a dancing crowd driven on by the rhythm of the music. The industrial-looking design alludes to the atmosphere in techno culture. Through concepts such as time, rhythm and movement, Nicolai creates a personal, poetic microcosm that subtly questions the vast communication and network systems used in society today. He analyses social patterns by means of cool technology which he makes visual in his installations and thus demystifies.

Jennifer Tee also creates a personal microcosm: ‘The viewers are not in front of but inside the work, and become part of it’ (Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, Nieuwsbrief Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, 1999, no. 46). Using a wide range of materials, sounds and video images, she produces an Alice-in-Wonderland kind of world, which is based partly on reality and partly (de-)constructed. Because of this blending of the staged and the real, Tee’s installations are more than a fantasy and have a direct relation to the viewer’s perception. For the exhibition at Witte de With Tee drew her inspiration from hiphop and motor race culture. In her installation she turns stereotypical macho signs into colourful objects and rapid images; she employs the rhythm and language of hiphop to tell her own story. The absurdity of the combination of objects and the enlargement of familiar images make Tee’s installations an alienating experience. The wishes and motives behind actions remain unclear; relations are palpable but never elucidated, as if by accident you have ended up in a new culture whose codes are not yet familiar to everyone.

A mixture of the staged and the real is also to be found in Raimond Wouda’s photos. In the small community of Tuindorp Oostzaan he took a series of photos showing the everyday life of the inhabitants. Wouda spent a lot of time in the community so that people did not stiffen up in front of his camera or feel bothered by him going about his work. Thus, he was able to observe and study the relations between people and their environment in an uncomplicated way. Wouda is especially interested in the border area between private and public life. He photographed the people of Tuindorp Oostzaan in everyday situations (walking the dog, having a drink with a neighbour, waiting by the swimming pool) where the intimacy of the familiar setting coincided with the public character of the street. As a result, simple gestures and small acts take on an almost monumental significance. The people in Wouda’s photos are portrayed with self-assurance and pride, but also without shame or flattery. ‘Raimond Wouda succeeds in avoiding the sentimentality that you often find in documentary photos of working-class districts’ (Anne van Driel, de Volkskrant).

The twin sisters L.A. Raeven often feel like oddities in Dutch society because of their extremely thin appearance. In their work they try to lay claim to their personal territory with the aid of media and fashion strategies by creating a subculture in which they are the standard. The fact that they are twins already undermines the uniqueness of L.A. Raeven; this made putting together L.A. Army (a work they initiated earlier with people who met their standard) less threatening.

In subcultures the body is often a ‘performing body’, through which the individual can stand out from the crowd. Through clothes, hairstyle, movement, a logo or music, he can identify with or distance himself from a particular group. L.A. Raeven exploit this by making not the outward appearance of the body but the body itself the medium of their subculture.

In the exhibition at Witte de With L.A. Raeven will focus mainly on body scent. In commerce more and more use is being made of scent as a means of influencing the mood of the consumer. Scents that are generally thought to be pleasing and that encourage people to buy certain products are spread in shops and department stores through the air conditioning. L.A. Raeven oppose the ‘generalisation’ of scents in society. At Witte de With they spread something uniquely human: their own scent. This is not entirely natural because they have artificial eating habits with an excess of synthetic food. By doing this they also ‘show’ the limits of individualism in Western society. L.A. Raeven resist levelling tendencies and trends by making use on a small scale of means also employed by business and the media to give shape to identity.



  • Tanja Elstgeest