- Presence, an exhibition by Daan Roosegaarde at the Groninger Museum
Take off your shoes, let yourselves go and leave behind your daily routine. This is Presence, the first exhibition designed by the Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde for an indoor environment. His previous works had always been connected to the outdoors, where the landscape was a fundamental part of the artwork itself.
Things are different here: human beings are at the centre of Roosegaarde’s art project. This made it necessary to confine his installation to a dark, closed space in order to ensure the privacy needed to get the most out of this exciting experience. Then, if you think that the space is the Groninger Museum, a bright, colourful volume commissioned by Alessandro Mendini, everything becomes even more special.
“Presence” refers to the fact that we, as visitors, are present, we are part of the art created by Daan Roosegaarde, or rather, of the art that we create with him because everything is based on his idea of actively integrating the visitor into the installation. This involves no virtual integration, where an electronic device makes us feel as if we’re active, even though we’re not. In the artist’s words, “I’m sick and tired of screens” that take us away from the physical world. Here at Presence, it’s all about jumping into the fray, playing, and even running. To the point where Studio Roosegaarde designed a symbol to encourage visitors to actually touch the installation. This clearly contrasts with the “Do not...” signs we’re used to seeing in museums.
The different areas of this phosphorescent installation enable visitors to experiment with a range of perspectives, from dimensions to light. In a gallery, futuristic spheres trace lines on the floor. Another room seems to be full of luminous stardust that is reminiscent of a large city viewed from an aeroplane. On the other hand, if you stop in your tracks, you become aware that we are not the only ones who impact the setting with our presence - there is also a current of air that continuously shapes what looks to be a great continent made of sand. Other spaces seem to scan visitors, recording their presence in shapes and models, and everywhere you go, visitors are encouraged to interact with the artwork, creating constantly changing visual impressions.
Our presence leaves its mark, it has a certain weight to it. Like in the museum, out in the real world too, where the climate crisis is a demonstration of the impact of human beings.
Daan Roosegarde says, “I wanted to create a place that would engage people. You create the artwork and the artwork creates you. PRESENCE showcases our relationship with the environment and how we can influence it”. As Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan says, in Roosegaarde’s favourite quote that closes the exhibition: “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”
With a playful, light-hearted, entertaining approach we can get hands-on experience of how we influence the world around us. You feel rooted to the ground just by taking off your shoes, you are carried back to our origins, there is no in-between. It’s all happening while we’re doing it and the traces remain, even if only fleetingly.
The first monograph on Daan Roosegaarde was published by Phaidon to coincide with the Presence exhibition. So you can get an even clearer idea of the work of this Dutch artist and innovator who uses art and technological innovation to get his message across.
Exhibition - Presence
from 22 June 2019 to 12 January 2020
Groninger Museum, Groningen, NL
Curators: Mark Wilson and Sue-an van der Zijpp
Project Coordination Groninger Museum: Marieke van Loenhout and Jenny Kloostra
Project Coordination Team Roosegaarde: Jord Alma and Niek Rietbergen
Images: courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde
Find out more:
Book: Daan Roosegaarde, published by Phaidon