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Aernout Mik

Aernout Mik Pulverous  2003

Aernout Mik | The Netherlands b.1962 | Pulverous 2003 | Three-channel video installation on video server: 23:27 minutes (looped), colour, silent on rear projection screen embedded into temporary wall Purchased 2005. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Aernout Mik Pulverous 2003 

Aernout Mik
The Netherlands b.1962
Pulverous  2003
Three-channel video installation on video server: 23:27 minutes (looped), colour, silent on rear projection screen embedded into temporary wall
Purchased 2005. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Aernout Mik

Pulverous  2003

No artist has a keener sense for the absurdities of social interaction than Aernout Mik. In work after work he has captured the strange dilemmas of being together.1

Aernout Mik’s practice is a hybrid of architecture, performance and video. His work often shows moving images projected in specially constructed architectural settings. Through careful composition of the projected image within particular environments, Mik links the fictitious space of the image with the real, physical space of the viewer.  

Pulverous is a three-channel video installation that was inspired in part by the Native American tradition of potlatch, a ritual feast in which the host destroys valuable items as a display of wealth. In Mik’s work, a group of adults are in the process of slowly and very methodically destroying a warehouse. Some of the participants engage in violent acts such as pushing over large shelving units and tearing walls apart, while others focus on a different scale of activity, emptying packets of food or obsessively destroying small and seemingly insignificant objects. Although their activity implies intensity and agitation, each participant remains detached from their own actions, as if sleepwalking.

The scenario we witness in Pulverous does not conform to conventional patterns of behaviour; however, the actions are strangely recognisable. In fact, as with many other pieces by Mik, we can register sympathies between certain types of actions portrayed in his work and scenes that we regularly witness in the media. For example, in viewing Pulverous, writer Dominic van den Boogerd was reminded of the television images of social upheaval in Buenos Aires during the currency crisis of the late 1990s.2 The portrayal of violent actions in the media as spectacle (without communicating the underlying social context) is strangely mirrored in Mik’s scenarios, in which motivation and intention are forever absent.

The footage in Pulverous is looped in such a way that the viewer has no awareness of the beginning or end of the scenario. Projected across a large panoramic screen the destructive scene appears to continue indefinitely creating what critic Daniel Birnbaum has described as an ‘elastic’ form of time forever caught in the present.3

1 Daniel Birnbaum, Elastic [exhibition catalogue], Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Amsterdam, 2002, p.17.
2 Philip Monk, Aernout Mik: Reversal Room [exhibition catalogue], The Power Plant Contemporary Art Centre, Toronto, 2002, p.27.
3 Birnbaum, pp.5–17.