Marieke Verbiesen "Loud Matter @ANX Gallery"
Marieke Verbiesen is a Dutch artist based in Bergen, Norway. Her interactive and audiovisual works have been showed and screened at various art events and festivals in Europe, USA and Asia. In February 2017 Marieke had a solo exhibition Loud Matter at Atelier Nord ANX in Oslo. Loud Matter has been previously exhibited in Japan, Australia, and also during the Transmediale Festival 2016 in Berlin.
The following is a transcript from the conversation between Marieke Verbiesen and Stahl Stenslie on January 29th 2017, Oslo.
Stahl Stenslie (EE): Marieke, can you tell us about your background?
Marieke Verbiesen (MV): I come from the fine arts background. I took my education in the Netherlands where I did animation and sculpture. I started to realize specialized installations, and further I took my masters in electronic arts. I often work with very physical elements as I like to use the language of specific materials. And in my works there are always animated and moving elements as well. I focus on how to add the interactivity so that the audience can be the ones controlling my artworks.
EE: How did you find your way from the Netherlands to Bergen where you are based now?
MV: I was participating in an artist residency at BEK (Bergen Center for Electronic Arts), and after that I started to organize various events in Bergen through BEK. I saw the interest and response to my projects and enjoyed collaborating with Norwegian cultural partners, artists and musicians.
EE: How would you describe BEK today?
MV: I think, it has grown a lot. Now it has a dual function both providing services to artists and art institutions, lending equipment and studios as well providing workshops. In my opinion that is a unique function for an electronic arts institute. It makes it more open to public use, as a lot of people know what BEK is and who is working there. It is easy to approach us to organize things, but at the same time the staff initiates their own projects as well.
EE: Going back to your own work, how would you describe your artistic expression? In your latest exhibition Loud Matter at Atelier Nord ANX, there was a sense of retro style from the 80s.
MV: For Mayhem Machine I have spent a lot of time researching how the audience can create compositions themselves in an intuitive way, and offering various forms of exploration when using all its tools. There is humour in the tools, such as the “bad guitar solo” joystick and the “reverse bhtshifting” algorithm. These are things that you cannot explain but people discover once using these tools. I have been using both classic and new technologies in Mayhem Machine, and I was inspired by classic arcade machines as they have inherited information about how they are supposed to be used. Mayhem Machine is an interactive composition installation but looks like a game. I wanted to create a machine that is easy to approach without having to read a manual, but instead can be explored by playing it. The technology within it is very complex, but the machine is built for “exploration whilst playing”, and can be understood intuitively. This was very important as I want the audience to feel included in the experience.
EE: When looking from the users interaction perspective, how do you think they experience the project?
MV: To build this machine, I went through several stages of looking at how people use it and if they understand how things work. People sometimes do very unexpected things. In the Mayhem Machine you both create and destroy compositions, that is where the name comes from as well. And I have experienced that people love destroying things. Especially when using machinery, they test what are the limitations, how far can they push it. Another important aspect for me was to make an installation that can evolve, where I can change its functionality at any time. For example, to invite other artists to contribute with sound effects.
EE: How do you see this area of experimental art developing in future?
MV: Interactivity forms the work itself, it is not something that I “add on” in a later stage. I look for unusual, experimental ways of interaction to create my work where there is something to discover for the audience. Without interaction from the audience, there is no work. Their role changes from spectator to participant. Interactive art is still largely an emerging field in Norway and I aim to establish a platform where Norwegian artists can showcase autonomous interactive art. Although there is room for emerging art forms in Norway, too often interactive works still fall in the realm of applied arts here, but I am sure this will change with time and with the generation that is now growing up surrounded by interactive interfaces. Because what you grow up with, will become your cultural reference.
As part of the exhibition Loud Matter, Marieke Verbiesen had invited sound artists John Hegre (NO) and James Welburn (UK/DE) to play a concert accompanied with a live animation by the artist itself. The concert filled the gallery with distorted noises, electronic tones and even sounds of guitar being hit by a hammer and carved with a knife.
As an addition to the playful and audience participatory character of the Loud Matter project, Marieke invited artist Piedro with his cooking crew from the Netherlands.During the event, the audience were served freshly baked pancakes, and could eat peanuts from a large peanut pile in the middle of the gallery. As we found out from Marieke, the massive amount of peanuts were also brought to Oslo in suitcases by the Dutch Cooking Crew members. Since there is a social element to both the interactive installations as well as eating food, its only natural to bring these two together: Meeting new people, and initiating conversations.