Some art just sticks in your mind. In 2012 I saw Roman Kirschner’s / Els Viaene’s Maelstrom at the DEAF Festival in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and last year I found myself thinking about it a couple of times. Seeing the work; the subtlety of it, and not knowing how it worked left a big impression on me.
The work is inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe story “A Descent into the Maelstrom”, in which a man reminisces about surviving a storm, shipwreck and a whirlpool. Over time, memories are transformed and imagination comes into play. Our memories are liquid.
In Gaston Bachelard’s description of the most important travel of human beings, namely the one between the real and the imaginary, he states that when art takes us to this travel, it is not about the stay in one of the two realms. But instead the journey, the movement, the border crossing and the mutual exchange is what we should pay attention to. The dark line in Maelstrom is the vehicle of this travel and the border at the same time. It doesn’t show us one of the two realms. It shows us the process of trying to make sense, its materiality, its movement, its buildup, decay, turbulences, and fluidity.
When I saw the work, I had the revalation that because of not being able to understand the technology, I could focus more on the actual meaning and thought behind the work, as if it had been a painting. I did not “get” how the fluids worked, and the sounds tied in very nicely and came from within the object. If this would’ve been a projection, speakers and some visual algorithm, this would not have been possible.