Art of Fear: Marnix de Nijs

Art of Fear: Marnix de Nijs

Marnix de Nijs is a Dutch installation artist. As a pioneer of Dutch media art since the mid-90s, de Nijs makes use of high-concept mechanics, software and ever-evolving technologies to create interactive artworks that play with the viewer’s perception of image, sound and movement.

The following is a transcript of the conversation between Marnix de Nijs and Zane Cerpina in Rotterdam, December 2017. 

Zane Cerpina (ZC): What is dangerous art to you? 

Marnix de Nijs (MN): Most of my works are about physical participation, direct gut feeling and emotions you get from an interactive work. Fear is one of the very basic feelings I play with. Therefore, I sometimes put the public in a dangerous situation, so they actually experience fear. 

Fear is one of the
very basic feelings
I play with

ZC: Are you a dangerous artist?

MN: I made some artworks that are quite dangerous. Especially SPATIAL SOUNDS (100dB at 100km/h) (1) - the big spinning speaker piece, where you would have to control a speaker by moving around it. It's a massive machine equipped with sensors that reacts on you. When it gets a sensory overload, it will start spinning at the top speed of about 100 km/h. It is a big monitor-size speaker, if you stick a hand in front of it, your arm would snap, if you step over the fence, you could possibly die. It is of course clear where you should go and where you should not, but people are always teasing the work. And your perception gets tricked because it is a spinning speaker and it spins at a speed so fast that it generates a Doppler effect. That affects your experience - you cannot locate the speakers anymore. So you see where the speaker is visually, but your ear gets confused and therefore your brain gets f***ed up. You don’t really perceive the exact size of the work anymore. 

if you step over the fence,
you could possibly die


This work triggers extreme emotions. We had a presentation at Nuite Blanche which is an all night long exhibition in Paris. And then somewhere in the middle of the night drunk people were getting crazy and really tried to challenge the work putting themselves in danger, even stepping over the fence. That was the point where it went a bit too far but then again, I am challenging them a with the work to do so. 

ZC: How would you define your artists’ manifesto?

MN: I simply have a taste for extreme works and therefore I also enjoy dangerous works that are physically involving and dangerous. I love big machines and machine violence. 

I love big machines
and machine violence

ZC: The physicality is mesmerizing, but why are we so attached to our gadgets?

MN: Technological devices are getting smaller and therefore less physical, I guess it is one of the reasons why my little bit old-school big interfaces are still popular at festivals, because you need something physical at a festival. You cannot organise a festival with only VR glasses and computer screens, you know.

ZC: What are you working on right now?

MN: The works I am doing now are also physically participatory. They involve the body a lot, but it is less about danger as such. It is more about the complexity and stories I can tell with the image. 

(1): Spatial Sounds (100dB at 100km/h) is an interactive audio installation by Marnix de Nijs and Edwin van der Heide.

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