Job Koelewijn

The centerpiece of Job Koelewijn’s show was the complex installation Time Machine, 2001, which literally revolved around a large, oblong black frame suspended from the roof and surrounding a rectangular void: an imaginary movie screen. Behind this empty “screen,” there was a painted backdrop of trees, while beneath it a long metal beam turned slowly around an axis that coincided with the center of the screen. At the ends of this beam there were small platforms (supported by wheels); standing on one of them, you could travel around the hanging structure, watching the changing views it offered. Two monitors were also part of this installation. On one, a nude man was seen standing on one of the platforms as he made circles though the gallery; he was evidently filmed from the opposite platform, which in turn was the stage for the equally nude woman shown on the second monitor, filmed from where the man was standing in the first video. At the opening, one could also have seen a live nude couple “inhabiting” the installation, but during the remainder of the show the platforms were empty, except when visitors took a ride.

Time Machine refers to the H.G. Wells novel and George Pal’s 1960 film based on it, but Koelewijn’s construction looks nothing like the mechanism described by Wells and shown by Pal. The appearance of this piece is determined more by Koelewijn’s own oeuvre: by covering the gallery’s back wall with a painted backdrop of trees, Koelewijn clearly refers to his earlier work for this space, The World Is My Oyster, 1996, for which he demolished the back wall in order to let a view of the lush back garden explode into the gallery with an almost hyperreal intensity. One is also reminded of his FilmStil-Cinema on Wheels, 1998, a mobile “movie theater” with a rectangular hole in its wall: When it is placed in the countryside, the scenery is transformed into a film, complete with Spaghetti Western sound track. These works are not so much the result of a quest for reality but rather a celebration of fiction: The garden, when framed by the gallery, is more beautiful; the landscape seen from the cinema becomes dramatic because of the sound track and the cinema seats from which one watches it. This Time Machine, clearly, is also an investigation of the power of fiction.

Koelewijn initially planned on putting dummies in historical costumes on the platforms; these were to change throughout the show. He finally decided against this because it was too literal: after all. His is really a mind machine, a fiction designed to stimulate the imagination rather than block it with silly-looking dummies. Their “replacements”—the naked man and woman in the videos—cannot help but evoke Adam and Eve. Thus, Koelewijn reintroduces Eden into a world in which it has long been recognized as an “ahistorical” myth, though we continue to be haunted by such myths, now often in their Disneyfied versions. Koelewijn reflected this by also exhibiting One Taste, 2000—two freezers with mint-flavored ice pops in the shape of famous historical figures, from Buddha and Marx to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. After all, we live in a world where Marx might end up the subject of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical—or indeed as a Popsicle.

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