HarSMedia

I'm An Island

december 04, 2007.

[ podcast :: rpc 39 ... s ]

Just some days before with the ookoi we drove up to our favorite island, the isle of Ameland, off the north coast of the Netherlands, the region got hit by heavy storms and high waters. Badly, as at several points along the island's coastal line the sea bit off large parts of beaches and dunes. The natives did not seem to be overly impressed: they said they'd seen it all before. It does make one wonder though... Given global warming and stuff, how much of the island will remain to see the end of this century?

Bananen op AmelandOn november 7th, before the island's coasts, a cargo boat lost ten containers. Some of these were empty. Others were crammed with bananas, which ended up on the beaches of Ameland and the neighboring island of Terschelling. It made for some great pictures ... When I saw them, I prayed: God let the bananas stay on those beaches for just one more week! For among the activities ookoi had planned as part of its stay on the island was the shooting of video footage for the upcoming - feature length or more - ookoi video/movie-clip. Who would not have loved a shot of us on that beach covered with washed-up bananas? But the dutch are too organized and efficient to let them washed-up bananas be. Within less than a day the exotic fruits, many thousands of them, were collected. It was then suggested to send them to the nearest zoo, as munchies for the animals locked in there. That seemed a fine final destination for these fruits. The animals' feast though was - at least for a while - spoiled by custom officers who firmly held that they would not allow any foreign bananas to be transported onto the dutch mainland without someone paying the due import duties ...

Ameland is part of the dutch province of Friesland, but islanders hardly will consider themselves to be frisian. The about three and a half thousand men and women inhabiting the island administratively form one community, divided over 4 tiny villages. The villages are points on a line running along the middle of the island, almost straight from east to west: Buren, Nes, Ballum and Hollum. The driving distance between the line's ends, between Hollum and Buren, is some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles). Ameland's town hall can be found on the Jelmerastraat in Ballum, the smallest of the four villages; Ameland's official postal address, though, is a PO Box (number 22) in Hollum. Nes by many still is considered to be the capital of the island. Though Nes is not the biggest Ameland village (Hollum is), it probably is by far the loudest of the four. That is because it is near to the landing place of the ferry boat that ensures the liaison between the island and the mainland. Between the four of them, the villages count no less than eight churches. One catholic one, and seven reformed ones, most of them of slightly differing persuasion. There are also two soccer clubs: Amelandia in Hollum, and Geel Wit, between Nes and Buren.

That's where we were.
This is our island.

twee bananen
de zeemeeux

We stayed in 'De Zeemeeuw', a little house in de Burenlaan, next to café De Welvaart, and just across the road from Gallery Dit Eiland and the Archipel Medialab in Hollum. The owner of 'De Zeemeeuw' had left us two washed-up bananas on the table in the living room, as a welcoming present, together with two tins of beer, two tasty eels, some other dried fish, and a bottle of dry white wine. The bananas looked great on the plastic tablecloth (click the picture to enlarge), though their bilious green colored skin didn't make them appear particularly nutritious ... We came across another whole box of them the next day on the side of the road. That was when we made a little tour of the village after watching ("Wat een grote begrafenis, hè?") a long funeral procession in the cemetery of the (Dutch Reformed) church. The church bells tolled, gulls cried overhead, and six - or were they eight? - black-clothed bearers carried a shiny snow-white wooden coffin. It was windy and gray. It was cold as well, and every now then there were little drops of wet hinting at oncoming rain. A seemingly endless row of mourners paraded from the church's side door. Two by two, men, women, boys, girls, all solemnly trod down the graveyard's gravel walk and followed the coffin on its way to a fresh grave dug amidst that of the many De Boer's, Visser's and Nobel's that, from ancient whaling times onwards, were put to rest here in the salty soil. The slow rhythmic crunching sound the procession made first was soft; as if it came from far away, from behind dykes and dunes. It then gradually got closer, louder and more intense, with ever more feet stepping into the gravel. Mixed with the insistent metallic re-sounding of the church bells above and the insolent random crying of the gulls overhead, the sound was almost painful ...

Thus the island set the tone for our stay.

leve ookoi !

When we arrived in the afternoon of tuesday november 13th, the first thing I did was buy me a pair of green rubber boots and a plastic cape to protect me from rain. Especially the boots proved to be of great use in the collecting of footage during the days that followed.
vogelwijzer We were up and running at the break of dawn, to catch the starry red and golden sun rising on the Ameland beaches. We strolled along sheer endless green and wet muddy meadows. We ran over dykes amidst sheep. We found shelter under a majestic rainbow. We juggled with a golf ball, and wandered about Geel Wit's playing ground, between Nes and Buren. We flushed black crows and drifted over meandering dune paths. Contemplatively we posted below the windsock at the entrance to the small Ameland Airport, just outside of Ballum. We ran behind umbrella's along the shoreline. We stood with windmills. We became the stuff that many a postcard is made of ...

Bref, you know ... "le pied, quoi!", as the french would put it ... And it was still early morning when all of this said and done we sat down at a table in the side room of bakery de Boer. There we had a warm coffee and a hot sausage roll, while reviewing the filmed images on our newly acquired Panasonic HDC DX1 high definition DVD camcorder.

schaap schaap schaap

What we were on the island? We were ookoi on the island. Why we ookoi were on the island? On the island ookoi we were at the occasion of the 11th edition of the Kunstmaand Ameland. That is a month during which - as it says on the web site - the island becomes "the place for artists and visitors to meet". The Ameland churches become galleries. Galleries open their doors even more widely than usual. Some have special exhibitions. Gallery Dit Eiland, however, remained closed during the Kunstmaand. But not the Archipel Medialab, which is achterom (round the back) from the gallery. A little island on the island. During the Kunstmaand the Medialab organized five Digitale Suites, presenting a framework for and giving an overview of Archipel's adventures in 'new media art' during the past five years.

We [why who whence what] in each and everyone were of those years!

All started with the Isle of Sound, the Geluideiland. That was in 2003. Who? For a week I roamed over Ameland with my dictaphone and MD recorder, to capture the sounds of the island. Where? In 2004 we were there again, this time with a complete PARK4DTV team, doing both video and sound recording for Schateiland (Treasure Island). Why? It was the year of 0 OK, 0:1's Tafelmuziek/Muziektafel, and the first island placard and was followed by ZandOog (Sand-Eye) in 2005. What? I got my hair cut on the beach, and in Hollum's Dutch Reformed church the vocal ensemble Vocalis sang a 0 OK, 0:1-tune. Whence? All of it was documented in a memorable 6-part 7-day Raudio Podcast (#9 - #14) and in the fifth Raudio mainstream. Wow! The next year, 2006, saw Havenland: 0 OK, 0:1 now was ookoi, and settled high up in the Ameland lighthouse, to do "Tails of lite house keepers", a 10 hour streaming audio event. Whop! We finally set up the Vogelvlucht placard as part of Downunder in 2007, without being ourselves on the island. But then again we were there during this year's Kunstmaand, when Archipel's 3rd Digital Suite presented three full days of 'leve ookoi!' ...

blackbox While in the afternoons, after early morning shooting vids and a decent lunch, we worked and web-streamed achterom, in Second Life Frans Peterman and Hars Hefferman were the guests of Pomodoro Bolzano's art.think.box, who had been so kind as to give them access to their Black Box in Netherbeck ( * ) and enabling the in-world streaming of the sounds made in the Archipel Medialab. Hars H. and Frans P. sat listening in the Blackbox, just like FPCM and HarS sat listening in the Medialab. The illustrious SL duo kept them company and did many of the things that they did. Sometimes they played guitar. Sometimes they danced. Sometimes they fell asleep.

In the Medialab we met up with Gijs van Hesteren, working as an innovator for Medialab sponsor Kabel Noord, and his apprentice Adrian Bucur; as way back then in 2003, we were being interviewed by Kirsten van Santen for the Leeuwarder Courant, and once again photographed by Jan Spoelstra.

Which only goes to show that the Medialab's doors were ] w i d e [ open. Anybody passing achterom or simply strolling along the Kerkpad was both able and welcome to step into the world of ookoi to watch us at work. And watch and listen to several other things besides. There was of course another premiere of 1024, endlessly playing. A second monitor showed FPCM's Infinite (), the material for which he filmed from the gallery's backyard in 2004, during our first Ameland Placard. And there was a monitor showing our contribution earlier this year to an episode of De Waag's Killer TV, including the first ever performance of the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse in Second Life, doing a Vicky's Mosquitos.

During the Open Studio hours we went through the archived ookoi sound and other material from the past five years , whose volume at the moment counts about 75 Gb. We compiled 'Live Beyond the Paradiso', ookoi's upcoming 16 track digital data dump release, which will be available at the Netherlands Media Art Institute (Montevideo/Time Based Arts) in Amsterdam, during Video Vortex.2, as part of PARK4ddd (between dec. 7th, 2007 and febr. 3rd, 2008).

And while we were working in the lab, visitors dropped by. Some peeked in, but then took a such fright when they saw (and heard) us, that they immediately turned back. But others were curious enough to come in. They looked around. They listened. Sometimes they were even so lucky as to find captain Haglet around to explain them the goings-on in more detail. Sometimes we did a little dance.

leeuwarder courant

"Sound art in a parallel universe" ... thus read the headline of Kirsten van Santen's article in the Leeuwarder Courant. She of course was referring to Second Life, where Hefferman & Peterman stood sentry in the Black Box, as if on yet another island on an island on an island ... But that newspaper line also was a rather apt description of the MediaLab's Digitale Suites within the context of Ameland and its Kunstmaand. On saturday evening we did a 'Radio Raudio', achterom. And while the ookoi kept reaching upwards, upwards, always upwards, at the very same moments: vocal ensemble Vocalis presented a fine program of secular and sacred song in the Dutch reformed church en face of Dit Eiland; the dutch national football team faced the Luxemburg team in the qualifying rounds for the european championship tournament of 2008; and in café de Welvaart preparations were well on its way for another un-forgettable saturday evening with yet another musical duo: Harm & Henne ( ** ). For an impression of what happened that saturday evening in the Medialab, watch ookoi's JAM KARET IV PocketMovieClip (47 seconds !) at YouTube, and download a high quality version to watch on your PSP, either from PARK's PocketMovies Collection, or at the Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo as part of PARK4ddd. Next, of course, you may download or listen to sono the 39th Raudio Podcast ...

de welvaartAfter having bid farewell to our audience, we closed up the Medialab and walked over to a dimly lit café De Welvaart, where the party was just about to heat up. Harm was hittin' the kit and Henne fingered the organ, with his left big toe pumping out a mean bass-line. Oh, how we envied his agility, we really did!
All the girls were there. They hung around in groups. Drinking, smoking, chattering, glancing. Some must've been gossiping. And some were casting devious stares in our direction, who were so obviously strangers here. Some of the girls danced and in each other's arms swirled across the floor waiting for the boys, who still had to arrive.

Somewhat later, they did.

We drank a beer and another one, and then a last one before retreating next door, to the Zeemeeuw. There we mused on a bit, drinking Amelander korenwijn ... When would be our next time on the island? And shouldn't we then play De Welvaart? Or De Griffel or De Zwaan? Should not some day we come to pass the dark rite of Sunneklaas ( *** )?
But hey! ... would we ever be able to? For cannot only those that were born on the island be real men? ... It seems only logical. And not even Captain Haglet was born there. Not even then. Not even he ...

It is not easy to be an island.
There is water all around you.

[ 2003: Geluideiland * 2004: Schateiland * 2005: Zandoog * 2006: Havenland * 2007: Downunder ]


[ added june 4th, 2008 : ookoi's pocket movies Jam Karet I and Jam Karet IV, shot during our Digital Suite residency in the Archipel Media Lab, were selected as part of the program of the fourth international Pocket Film Festival, held in Paris, France, in the Centre Pompidou, june 13-16, 2008. ]


notes __ ::
(*) For some reason or other a group or someone called or pretending to be the Patriotic Nigras found it worthwhile to 'raid' the art.think.net's Black Box at precisely the time we had announced the 'being there' of ookoi. Some sort of a malicious script (?) was causing anyone entering the box to ceaselessly shout the words "THIS RAID BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE PATRIOTIC NIGRAS, ENJOY!", making any other action impossible. It took a while before somehow the 'attack' ceased. Because it was 'temporary'? Because the running of scripts at that spot was disabled? It was a curious incident. [ ^ ]
(**) Actually, that is not how they were called, but I forgot their real names. It was something like that, though ... [ ^ ]
(***) The islanders are very protective and secretive about their ancient custom of Sunneklaas, a pagan 'rite' which is held on the island early december every year. During Sunneklaas women and children under 18 are not allowed to leave their houses. All the street lamps are turned off, and no lights - any light, not even that shining from the windows of a house - are allowed (which makes me wonder about the lighthouse ...(?)).
Sunneklaas is a feast of darkness. The men roam the streets of the villages, heavily disguised, dressed in (group) costumes that often they have been working on secretly for a pretty long time. They make noises to chase away evil spirits, and when (remember, this is in the absolute dark) they meet up with members of other groups, they engage in a ritual of hand holding and shaking which is used to distinguish the boys from the men. If a 'boy' is found out, he is cudgeled back to his house, and underway may get himself a pretty bad beating. When a 'boy' succeeds in 'passing' a Sunneklaas without being 'found out', he henceforth is considered to be a man. Also women and strangers that happen to be out in the streets run the risk of being beaten up. Captain Haglet told us about a couple of unsuspecting german tourists that were driving on Sunneklaas around the village with the headlights on. They consequently had their Mercedes badly messed up by furious islanders ... Many hotels on the island close and tourists are strongly advised not to go visit Ameland during Sunneklaas. Any islander talking and disclosing facts about Sunneklaas to 'outsiders' is considered a traitor ... [ ^ ]

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