Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven

The first exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern under its new director, the young Belgian curator Philippe Pirotte, was Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven’s “Europäisches Zentrum für Futuristische Kunst” (European Center for Futuristic Art), which employed a multitude of media, ranging from quill drawing to photographic print, wall painting, video projection, and interactive computer. This only gives a hint of the complexity of its content of textual and visual quotes, however, and the clearly symmetrical layout of the installation’s spaces on the upper floor of the kunsthalle also reveals a more rigorous conceptual layer of her work that goes beyond the technological delirium of historical Futurism.

The key piece in the exhibition was the video installation Deeper, 2003, in the central hall. From two projectors, nineteen scenes featuring the dancer Marc Vanrunxt glide across the room. Interior and exterior spaces, distorted and undistorted images, and the static nature of the architectonic space all rush together into one’s perception, intertwining and separating out again. Every element displays its potential for reworking and for being integrated into a network. The calm circling motion of the projection evokes a lighthouse in a tide of images—the possibility of repetition and depth of knowledge (thus the title Deeper)—and at the same time reminds us that every static image in the exhibition is but a tangent to the moving ones.

Among the guests in van Kerckhoven’s European thought-world is the American philosopher Richard Rorty. Rorty, the HeadRoom, 2004–2005, an interactive computer animation presented as an installation with computer, sensors, and two projectors revisits, like Deeper, elements from the “HeadNurse-Files.” The exhibition encourages a poetic and yet to some extent also a scientistic mode of perception: “The modern revolt against what Foucault calls ‘the sovereignty of the signifier’ helps us think of the creation of new descriptions, new vocabularies, new genres as the essentially human activity—it suggests the poet, rather than the knower, as the man who realizes human nature,” in Rorty’s words.

The reconfiguration of the kunsthalle’s architecture through van Kerckhoven’s all-encompassing “HeadNursing”—through her care and feeding of the brain via symbols and images—takes up the theme of the permanent change in our perception caused by communication and mobility in today’s world. In the process, her spatial organization of thought opens up a futurism beyond our linear understanding of “the future.” “We will have thought that . . . ”: the future perfect tense, possible in the English language as in German, reflects on the past from a point yet to happen. This conception of temporality, and not a discourse limited to any given media, is the basis for the future-oriented perspective developed in van Kerckhoven’s “Center for Futuristic Art.”

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.