Marijke van Warmerdam

The Museum Ludwig’s eagerly anticipated new project space was inaugurated this spring with three installations by the thirty-nine-year-old artist Marijke van Warmerdam. Jochen Poetter, who has been the museum’s director since October 1997, hopes to use the space to respond with flexibility and immediacy to the latest trends in contemporary art. In this respect, the choice of artist was significant: van Warmerdam’s work has appeared at the Venice Biennale, the Kwangju Biennial, and Documenta X, and she has also had solo shows at the Vienna Secession and the Museum for Contemporary Art in Zurich. One assumes that her work’s current visibility will set a precedent for the selection of artists in the future.

Van Warmerdam’s installations dominated the exhibition space. In a large, high-ceilinged room the artist projected a film titled Skytypers (all works 1997) onto a screen that hung from two wires; in a smaller adjoining space she combined a mural titled Hin und Her (Back and forth) with a film called Billard (Billiard). Hin und Her was a long, wide arrow running clockwise around the room. The arrow, which is printed on pieces of red paper, can be shortened or lengthened to adapt to different spaces. Here, the artist placed a projector on a shelf attached to the shaft of the arrow in the middle of the longest wall. Billard, which was shot with a stationary camera, shows a man standing more or less motionless with a cue in his right hand. The only action, which takes place on the narrow strip of a billiard table that can be glimpsed, is repeated in a loop: a ball rolls slowly forward, strikes the cushion, and then vanishes from the frame. A frustrating monotony and feeling of enervation is generated by the apparent lack of interaction between player and ball.

Skytypers was unquestionably the show’s high point. The scale of the image filling the large screen was overpowering, while the film’s aura of freedom contrasted with Billard’s melancholy repetition. One sees a broad expanse of sky into which five planes suddenly appear in formation, the trails of exhaust creating a pattern that almost immediately evaporates. Once again the artist chose to use a stationary camera, and the planes flew in a pattern that had been carefully determined in advance. The film was then edited in such a way that a clear line of flight could no longer be perceived. Like Billard, Skytypers is repeated in a loop. The emphasis on line in all three works is striking—the arrow, trails of exhaust, and path of the billiard ball all tracing a trajectory that seems to have no beginning and no end. This was also mirrored in the line drawings van Warmerdam created for the pamphlet accompanying the exhibition.

The sound of the reel of film unspooling is an integral part of both Billard and Skytypers. By self-consciously incorporating such elements, van Warmerdam achieves a dynamic spatial quality that is only heightened by the considered placement of projector and projection surface. Even when she deploys the two-dimensional medium of film, her work is full of sculptural energy.

Yilmaz Dziewior

Translated from German by Diana Reese.