Movement and the Process of Looking: An Interview with Robin Weijers

by Alex Hartstone

video still from Pre-Lepidoptera

Robin Weijers is a film and video artist from the Netherlands, interested in creating new visual languages through exploring the integrity of movement as a metaphor for life. Attracted to video as a medium that offers multiple ways of telling stories- from its capabilities of capturing present, fleeting moments to the installation and selection of screening options- Weijers produces video works as a way to express his curiosities and obsessions. Formally trained in science and carrying a masters of electrical engineering from the University of Technology in Delft, Weijers practice can be found at the fringe where art and science meet. A cultural engineer of sorts, he draws inspiration and thinking from scientist, Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theories, and the meticulous film works of William Kentridge. Working with the principle that we are interpretation machines, Weijers is interested in drawing attention to the juxtaposition between man/creature- as technology advances and mechanical objects continue to operate and become more intelligent, more alive, the distinction between the living and machine begin to fade.

His newest body of work, Pre-Lepidoptera -lepidoptera translating to the Latin name for moth- presents viewers with a 15 minute, 42 second video conversation between artist and insect. Filmed over four days all between 11pm-2am, Weijers drapes white fabric over battery powered led light panels as a sort of canvas to attract and catch insects in and around the Festung. Constantly aware and involved in the process of looking, Pre-Lepidoptera pulls you into the night, listening to the darkness come alive with the sounds of critters unseen. With pieces of cantaloupe, banana, and honey prepared as a kind of offering atop a tree stump, Weijers organizes a dinner in the middle of the bush, equipped with lighting and drapery, the scene is orchestrated as a feast for curious and hungry bugs. Amongst the buzzing and humming of the night, the work also presents a layer of audio conversations between Weijers and his friend, Gemma. The exchanges over the course of the video both act as an observational tool and involve the viewer in the looking process, placing them alongside Weijers.

Although his works are built upon the premise of movement as metaphors of life, and the interactions between machine and humans, Pre-Lepidoptera also recalls contemporary cultures of display and presentation. The stark white fabric draped along light panels is reminiscent of a brightly lit canvas or the walls of the ‘white cube’, presenting a living display of insects. Brian O’Doherty famously discusses the ideologies of the ‘white cube’ and proposes that in an ideal gallery space, ‘the work is isolated from everything that would detract from its own evaluation of itself’(1). The white fabric separates us from the environment of the insects, offering viewers a clean space, some breathing room, to take upon themselves, the process of looking and examining the specimen. In a way, Weijers’ process of quietly catching and illuminating insects also creates a nomadic gallery wall. However unlike the ‘white cube’, Weijers space does not close off the outside world, but rather is totally engrossed within it. The clinical whiteness, and brightness of the light panels echo a more sanitary environment, aligning itself with the basis of a ‘white cube’ gallery, or maybe calling upon Weijers background and practice in science and engineering. Nonetheless, Pre-Lepidoptera presents itself as an intriguing video that explores the concept of movement and observation while touching on ideas of contemporary presentation.

(1) O’Doherty, Brian. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. San Francisco: Lapis, 1976.

Alex Hartstone wrote this while being Development Coordinator at McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada