1994.05.18. THE IDEAL PLACE: WHERE THERE IS NO PLACE FOR IDEALS / HCAK / HAAG / TEXT BY PHILIP PETERS.
In this installation there is a war on and lynchings have been staged in such a way that – almost literally – you are not able to get round it: the setting forces the visitor to zigzag his way through the objects. At any rate, he finds himself right in the middle of the scene, he is clearly a participant, rather than an observer. This also applies to the artist: this is not a ’politically correct’ moralistic installation, in which the artist, wagging his finger at us, keeps out of range himself. He draws our attention to the mass murder he himself is committing, by acting as the perpetrator: no one can escape being an accessory to the catastrophe.
Of course the trees can be looked at in all possible metaphorical or symbolical functions, this is a matter of the observer’s personal interpretation. What is most likely is that we are actually dealing with nature here, with the nourishing part of the world, supplying us with oxygen so that we can breathe. An additional factor is that it is particularly the corruption of the Christmas tree, this symbol of peace, that makes the statement even more penetrating, and one might also question peace symbols themselves, which, after all, can only originate through murder. This makes the value of the peace symbol utterly dubious, a symbol which may only have the right to exist as long as there is no actual peace: something that does not exist can, at most, be indicated and this indication already includes the hidden seed of the opposite of what is indicated.
It is therefore remarkable and, whether a coincidence or not, characteristic of the situation, that in the midst of the extreme violence of Rollof’s installation there is the beneficient smell of pine-needles. Thus it acquires an additional ambiguity: in a sense, the installation conceals some of its atrociousness by expressing itself in fairy-tale terms of Christmas trees and pine odour. It is a well-known fact that fairy tales are often gruesome and that in order to discover this one should look beneath the surface of the anecdote. In this case, the gruesome facts are already presented to us in that surface, which means that they are close to our skin, closer than we would like, at least, for they also point out to us that we are accomplices or at least that we are present in the catastrophe.
Philip Peters, Curator and Director of HCAK, The Hague, Netherlands 1994
Exhibition THE IDEAL PLACE together with Stephen Williats at HCAK, Den Hague, Holland.