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Echolocation: Nocturne (Thinging part IV) - Nickel van Duijvenboden, in collaboration with Gwenneth Boelens

Project Spaces P/////AKT

Zeeburgerpad 53
1019 AB Amsterdam
+31 (0)6 54270879

Open Thu - Sun / 14-18 hrs (during exhibitions)

Exhibition 25 Jun — 23 Jul

Opening 24 Jun, 20-0 hrs


Nickel van Duijvenboden

The hours between midnight and dawn are the city’s calmest and quietest time. It’s a period of rest, little traffic, and – if you’re awake – unusually undisturbed and uninterrupted thoughts. At the same time, the dead of night is also the proper time for worry, for sleeplessness, prowling, and loneliness. It harbours a sense of unsafety, oblivion, irrationality. To the wakeful, both its bliss and anxieties may appear endless.

The composer and sound artist Luc Ferrari (1929-2005) once encapsulated this sentiment in a title he gave to a chapter from his noted field recording series Presque rien: “ainsi continue la nuit dans ma tête multiple”, which might translate as “and so stretches the night inside my multiple head”. It’s a phrase that continually recurred to Van Duijvenboden as he walked through the eastern parts of Amsterdam between 2 and 5 a.m. with binaural recording gear (microphones worn in both ears).

The coordinates to his nocturnal drifts were roughly the “eastern islands”, with its former docks and converted warehouses; the Cruquius area and Zeeburgereiland, which only barely manage to preserve their fringelike appeal; and the shores of the Amsterdam Rhine Canal, where the city slowly gives way to polderland, and where trains, boats and lorries navigate through the night on the city’s main arteries. The artist is tracing an intimate map, since this is also where his studio, his house, his allotment garden and P/////AKT are situated. Moreover, it retains traces of a childhood spent in Amsterdam.

Van Duijvenboden was able to use the three concrete “silos” on Zeeburgereiland as sound chambers. These former digestion tanks of the sewage treatment facility were originally designed to be airtight structures, but the decoupled piping on the roof now allows microphones to be lowered inside. This way, the sounds – both prerecorded and made on site – are made to bounce around in 6500 cubic metres of cilindrical darkness, creating unusually long reverberations. The structures function as a musical instrument of sorts, but they equally reflect a “tête multiple”, trying to sing itself empty.

In collaboration with Gwenneth Boelens, the exhibition space was darkened and partitioned with circles of mesh and other materials, gently directing and enveloping the viewer. Occasionally, localized phrases of vocals and percussion emerge from the sonic texture. These are the result of a session with four speakers/drummers in the exhibition space prior to build-up. Whistles, grinding, rubbing, dripping, and the sounds of objects falling further complement the composition.

As such, Nocturne maintains the same principle as Van Duijvenboden’s earlier performances and sound installations under the header Echolocation. These marked the transition from writing to rhythm, from speech to tonality. Once more, stalled correspondences and broken-off exchanges are the source of an ever more fragmented language – like the haunting echoes of an upsetting conversation. This ultimately gives the nightly movements a sense of dread and fugue.

“Getting away from the gang,” writes Pascal Quignard in his book The Hatred of Music, “fleeing at full speed whenever I catch sight of bodies that have any sort of faith in any sort of institution or being; fleeing the feebleminded and atrocious conviviality of our time; building a lesser dependency within a small network of polite expressions,
of harmonies between grammatical tenses and musical instruments,
of small softer regions of the skin,
of certain berries, of certain flowers,
of rooms, of books and of friends,
this is to what my head and my body devote the essential part of their reciprocal, always unadjusted, finally almost rhythmic times.”

The artist wishes to thank Gwenneth Boelens, Marijn van Kreij, Akiko Wakabayashi, Antony M. Gray, Ton de Vreede and Mirjam Kuitenbrouwer for their unique and valuable involvement.


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