maarten ploeg (1958-2004)

feb 23, 2004.

Thursday february 19th, 2004, Dutch 'pure sound and image' artist Maarten van der Ploeg died, at his home in Amsterdam. I had the pleasure of working and performing in many of the same contexts as Maarten did, in the Amsterdam of the early 1980's. This is a great loss.

Do see, and listen.

[ added april 20th, 2005: entry (in Dutch) ]


feb 21, 2004.

The speed of sound is something in the order of 1200 kmh, within earth's atmosphere, there where it is of average temperature and density, say. The Mach number of an object (plane) is the object's speed divided by the (local) speed of sound. Who- or whatever advances at the speed of sound, advances at Mach 1.

del aor

(©) Lara Del Aor ::
Entre zéro et un

I remember vividly the sometimes scary but always impressively modern 'supersonic booms' resounding above the suburb where I lived as a kid -- ba - béng -- and the cups and glasses rattlin' in the kitchen cupboard, caused by low flying military jets reaching Mach 1: passing the sound barrier. It was a part of everyday life when I was younger. So was chain smoking. ("Daar gaat er weer zo'n gek door de geluidsbarrière!" my mother used to say).
It has long become a sound from the past. Like the sound of a mechanical typewriter.
I have not heard either for a long, long time.

So how could I not be curious when C. & I received an invitation for the opening of a soirée exceptionnelle, Le mur du son, this thursday in a large (shopping?) space 'under construction', in the rue Scribe, just opposite the Galeries Lafayette?

"39 artistes réunis autour d'un Boeing 747," it said on the card.

The French mural artist, 'art constructor' and promotor Daniel Boulogne bought Air France's first 'Jumbo', a Boeing 747 named 'Viktor Mike'. He then had it taken apart, sold the more useful parts (engine ... what else ?) and distributed the remains among 39 (40?) French - or at least: living in France - artists. Asking each of them to use the bits as support / material for one or two works. "Daniel Boulogne a souhaité, en choisissant un avion comme nouveau support de création artistique, franchir cette fois-ci le mur ... du son," it says on the website dedicated to the project.

A matter of speaking, obviously. The Boeing 747's maximum speed is well below Mach 1. No way it could pass the sound barrier [ "... walls of noise come tumblin' down ..." ]. One should - at least - have changed the engine. Customize it. Or was that the idea? And do correct me if I'm wrong ...

I did find it rather disappointing to discover that the only sound breaking barriers this early tuesday evening was the usual loud'n'busy arty opening chit chat of the many hundreds of invités, forcing their way through their crowd from one improvised bar to the next. The pieces of - mostly - painted upon former-airplane, were exposed without apparent order or design within a space that was in the process of being (re?)decorated, covered by construction work dust, and full of building materials, scaffolds and the like. I guess all this was intentional? It felt like someone was trying very much to create the atmosphere of an 'art-squat' opening.
Which it definitely wasn't.
Making it kind of fake, I'm afraid.

Difficult as it was to take a good look at anything other than one's fellow guests, the show nevertheless did convey the impression of a collection of things that miss coherence, a guiding line. Having 39 artists paint the parts of one and the same airplane obviously is not enough to create a oneness. (Not that there weren't any nice/funny/beautiful/interesting items among the many pieces exposed, mind you.)

Also, much like before I observed how, despite its unavoidable and total destruction, the piano had surely won the battle against Sound Plexus, I do think that likewise the old Jumbo won its battle against art trying to re-form it. It's a so strong human artefact by itself already, so typical and well thought out in its design and in its textures (engineered), that, unless (and a few of the artists, I was glad to see, indeed took that step) one re-sculpts the material, the result will mostly remain just that: a painted upon part of an airplane. And the thought kept crossing my mind that maybe I would've enjoyed this so much more, had the parts and pieces not been painted upon, but put up there just as what they were: the parts of an airplane.

Or else: why not try to rebuild that Boeing - or even something only remotely like it - using the now painted upon and sometimes transformed parts? That would be interesting, that would be fun ! (Deconstruction-Reconstruction :: Cloening 747 :: ... )

Or else: use these parts (and maybe other? - there must be quite a bunch of them left) for a sonic exploration, concerts, happening ... invite improvisors to make them re-sound...!

(Well, okay, I admit. My hang-up of course. I felt sóóó tempted to hit the exposed works to find out what they sounded like ...)

[ The exposition of the artificed Boeing parts will continue in the Musée de l'Air et l'Espace, then, later this year, ship to New York where it can be seen at the Chelsea Foundation. ]

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