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the one & the many

This summer's exhibition by Elmgreen and Dragset in the Rotterdam Onderzeebootloods (Submarine Wharf), titled 'The One & The Many', uses the gigantic space of the wharf to create an bleak and broken-down cityscape of the kind glimpsed in British social realist films. (Andrea Arnold's 'Red Road' and 'Fish Tank' particularly come to mind.) At once familiar and warped, the artists' dystopian vision encompasses an entire, almost lifesize apartment building, a ferris wheel, a desolate parking lot with a stretch limo on blocks - it even includes loitering kids in hoodies and trainers, a teenage mother arguing on her cell phone and other extras.

The One & The Many - 1

This "sad tale of what happened to public space", as the artists put it in an accompanying video lecture, contains an amazing wealth of detail to explore by voyeuristically looking into the different apartments and the lives of quiet desperation inside. In one apartment there's football on the telly and a table full of empty beer bottles. In another a boy lies on his bed while his open laptop displays a chatsite. (You can even look up the chat text in the exhibition's newspaper.) And apparently different live performances with actors take place throughout the week.

The One & The Many - 2

For all its criticism on the demise of public space as a symptom of a dysfunctional society, 'The One & The Many' leaves a lot of room for alternative, more humorous and less gloomy narratives. What, for instance, is a ferris wheel doing in this urban wasteland if not cheering up its inhabitants? Or who does the limo belong to, and do any of the apartments contain a clue that its inhabitant might be the owner? And so forth, from a voyeuristically passive spectator (the many?) to a more active and imaginative director (the one?) of possible realities.

In the end, then, most interesting is how the work's frayed edges make you question what exactly is and isn't part of it. Are the security guys part of it? Are they art, or just security guys? And what about those people you thought were visitors, do they live here? If 'The One & The Many' is effective, this pleasantly disorienting way of looking at the world will linger for a bit after exiting.

miyajima torii

Miyajima Torii - 1

Miyajima Torii - 2

Located on Miyajima in the Seto Inland Sea, Itsukushima Shrine with its famous gate (torii) that appears to be floating on the water is one of the canonical Three Views of Japan. The part about its floating needs to be taken poetically, or perhaps seen under the right meteorological circumstances, but even just standing in the water the gate makes for an impressive, mysterious sight.

The gate and the shrine, built like a pier in the water, were created to allow pilgrims to approach but not set foot on Miyajima, which was held sacred in Shintoism. Later, when the island was inhabited, births and burials were still forbidden on the island. (Apparently there is still no hospital or cemetery on Miyajima.)

a-bomb dome

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima - 1

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima - 2

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima - 3

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima - 4

When the nuclear bomb named Little Boy hit Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, one of the very few buildings left standing in the city was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, built in 1915 by a Czech architect. The ruin of this otherwise not very noteworthy building became a symbol of the city's destruction. It was never torn down and became known as the A-Bomb Dome.

At night especially, its ghostly green and orange lighting serves as a dramatic reminder of the incredible devastation of the world's first nuclear attack.


In the wake of Tinariwen's success, other Touareg bands have started to appear over the past few years. After Terakaft at the Amsterdam Roots Festival last week, this weekend's Metropolis Festival in Rotterdam offered the chance to see Tamikrest. They proved to be the highlight of the day.

Young enough to have been brought up on Tinariwen, Tamikrest (which in Tamashek means the knot, the junction, the coalition) have developed their own brand of the distinctive desert blues rock that somehow seems to have come full circle - from its ancient African roots via American blues and modern guitar rock, and now back in Africa.


At yesterday's show, under a fittingly burning sun, they started laidback and slowly added energy to their hypnotic grooves and wandering guitars, while their female vocalist added fuel to the fire with her high-pitched ululations.

For some examples, check out 'Aicha!' from their debut album 'Adagh' (2009) and 'Aratan N Tinariwen' from their new album.

Also at Metropolis, by the way, a completely different discovery was Belgian "haunting indie" band SX. All they've released so far is one song, but an EP is supposedly scheduled for later this year. Worth keeping an eye out for.