Hovering over Wasteland (1998)
 


DV  2 min. 30 sec. colour, stereo sound, scanned photographs to Digital Video  (this excerpt 1 min.)

 

In the fourteenth century, the Renaissance was heralded in by the early humanist and poet, Petrarch, with a description of what he saw from the top of the Mont Ventoux in Southern France. He transcended earthly matters and lost himself in reflections on the reasons why; how his learning, his past and his divine mission had made him a man chosen to observe the world around him and to sing about this in his poetry.

Since Petrarch, this vision, in which man sees himself as the center of the universe, has become inherent in Western thought. In this video by Michiel van Bakel, a man is hanging down from a power pylon, in motionless fetal position. He is hovering right in the middle of the frame, holding the exposure-lever wire of a photo camera in his hand. Circling around him, the camera shows him from all sides. We can see the surrounding industrial landscape; it is the wasteland that the title refers to. Nothing but paling, harbour cranes, fences and electrical installations, not a human being in sight.

Hovering over Wasteland is in fact a smoothly aligned succession of photos, and therefore expands upon the motion-picture principle that has changed very little since the primitive forerunner of film, the thumb book. The still image of the hovering man is the bench mark, and only from the jerky and constantly changing frame can this procedure be deduced. In this way, Van Bakel paints us a picture of a human being as a lost soul surrounded by wasteland. From above, he is looking at a dehumanized world, but is trapped himself within chaotic frames.

Collection: Li-ma (Netherlands Media Art Institute)