Undertow (1999)
 


DV  1 min. 50 sec. colour, stereo sound, scanned photographs to Digital Video  (this excerpt 1 min.)

 

Undertow is a phenomenon known from the surf on the beach, when at the breaking of a large wave you can feel it pulling at your legs under water, so that you are almost dragged out into the sea. It is a force that is literally lurking below the surface.
In Undertow, the camera is following a course underneath a highway that is built on concrete pillars. There seems to be no end to this viaduct. After some time, the image changes to negative. The monotonous forest of concrete columns now turns into a sinister, blue-white space with traces that man has left behind: containers, fences and billboards. And the camera is hurrying along towards the vanishing point.
The image switches back to positive when we encounter a man hovering motionlessly between the pillars, in fetal position. The camera does not stop, but starts turning around him. The man is the bench mark in a succession of photos edited into a sequence, with the frame moving jerkily around him.
The line pattern of the architecture and the ominous atmosphere are reminiscent of etchings by the eighteenth-century artist Piranesi, or of the way expressionist film makers depicted the modern city in the early twentieth century. They seem to allude to the undercurrents of thoughts that could be running through the man’s mind. The way in which his surroundings are represented is a distortion of an apparent order; which similarly, in the caverns of the mind, could be reforged into a depiction of a more fearful sense of reality. Hanging motionlessly in an underworld, while up there everything is racing along.

Collection: Netherlands Media Art Institute.