In his spatial and video installations, Aernout Mik examines the behavior and interaction of groups in society. As a premiere, his new work "Threshold Barriers" can be seen at the Schirn. The exhibition at a glance.
The spatial and video installations of Aernout Mik (b. 1962) create intense situations that trace the behavior and interaction of groups in frequently unstable social contexts. With his choreographed video works, the Dutch artist touches on sociopsychological structures and staged spaces that reflect the position of the individual in contradictory or dysfunctional systems.
From July 7 until October 3, 2022 the SCHIRN is presenting Aernout Mik’s video installation “Double Bind” (2018), as well as the work “Threshold Barriers” (2022), which was conceived specially for the exhibition. Both works pursue the notions and dynamics of security and threat, power and powerlessness in public space and enter into dialogue with each other at the Schirn. In “Double Bind”, the artist addresses the presence of armed units from the national apparatus. They move around the city in apparent isolation and without direct contact to passersby, no longer seeming to fulfill any particular public function. The video “Threshold Barriers”, which is related to “Double Bind”, depicts people after a confrontation in which society and state power, citizens and police, came into direct conflict. It seems as if traditional structures of authority and security had lost their validity.
Mik's fictional scenarios oscillate between documentation and performance
Mik’s fictitious scenarios move between documentation and performance, seeming familiar and disconcerting at the same time. The multichannel installations do not follow any stringent narrative strand; individual fragments are instead interleaved to create an atmospheric staging. The videos reference pictures and narratives of current events such as anti-terror measures in large European cities, as well as international protests or police violence against demonstrators, which have become a part of the collective consciousness as a result of their dissemination in the media.
“Double Bind” (2018)
The three-channel video “Double Bind“ shows a group of individuals of an anti-terrorism unit in the combat dress. The movements of the formations resemble choreography that takes place alternatingly in urban space and in an undefined, white interior. The task forces do not seem to be following clear orders as an organized unit but rather appear to be acting as loosely connected individuals, so that the question remains open as to whether this is an exercise or a serious situation.
The unclear context, the seemingly exhausted protagonists, and their slowed-down movements seem ghostly and surreal, like a memory or an echo of reality. This impression is augmented by the acoustics of the video. There is no verbal communication; noises are the only thing that can be heard, and they generate a heightened sensitivity to the situation: street noises, breathing, helmets scraping the asphalt, or steps. The undefined interaction within this group is reflected in its encounter with the people on the street, who virtually ignore the heavily armed task forces.
No verbal communication, only sounds
They remain isolated, undefined, and without any function, communicating a disturbing or even unsettling impression that raises fundamental questions: What notions of fear and protection or forms of violence, corruption, and racism are connected with these special forces, and for what reasons? What demands with regard to terrorism, society, and peace are there? How have expectations changed over the course of recent years and in light of current events?
“Threshold Barriers” (2022)
The video work “Threshold Barriers”, which was filmed in April 2022, will be presented to the public for the first time at the Schirn. It is related to the work “Double Bind” with respect to content, but like most of Aernout Mik’s video works it has no sound. As a result of the simultaneous presentation in the hall and the room-filling sound of “Double Bind”, the two works are interwoven with and put in direct relation to one another.
“Threshold Barriers” shows the moment shortly after a confrontation between a police task force and a group of demonstrators, surrounded by huge street barricades. Here as well, the backgrounds of the events and the actions and objectives of the two groups remain diffuse and open in the fragmentary and contradictory scenes. Injured police forces or bloody demonstrators call to mind an escalated confrontation. At the end of it, control seemingly lies more with the activists, while the task forces of the state have, apparently exhausted, given up. At this moment when hierarchies have been invalidated, the participants test other forms of behavior in which the function in society or classifications inherent in the system are still totally undecided.