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`Transmissions`, Wapke Feenstra (ENG)
Published as writer in residence during the webbased project Transmission initiated by Michael Markwick. 2004

The Garden of Eden is the first place where people had a transmission. As the story says, here all our activities started that had to do with making offers, feeding desire, taking over goods and selling imaginations to one another. What if this first people had been satisfied about the fact that this was the place and that was all?
Transport, translations, transmissions and other words with trans, never would have come into our lives. And for sure nobody would have come up with the idea to make art, because life was complete.

What can we add?
Let’s start a village. Not a global village, but a small art village in which we make works of art together and present them to others. There is a danger here while villages can take a lot of time and energy because of the social claim. Not to mention the soap-opera effects that you can have in a small community. The good thing in the village is that we stick together and answer every attack from outside as a group.

Who is in the group?
In this story I am part of this art village, and let’s have a look how I will function. It always starts with excitement and the idea that everything is possible. In a few days, I discover that there are limits in time and space, and above all, the people around me have their limits. In these first moments of frustration I can blame the facilities, the technique, the tools and the skills of the others. After a time I have to admit that in this small community, I am most of all fighting against my own ideas and ideal scenarios. One of my pet subjects is to think that what we have must be enough, and first I need a proper look at the treasures in our own village. This makes me totally dependant on what is available in this group. No wonder I am getting frustrated. After this insight, there will follow some days I will fill with shopping and having nice drinks at places where no acquaintance will pop up.

We work(ed) together?
Back in the village, I like the random effect of the people. The process is therefore as interesting as the works we make together. Because you never know what comes up, you can be surprised or disappointed. But for sure we will make one and one into three and sometimes even hundreds and more. And that shows off... The power of our group glows to the neighbour villages. People come to visit us, and suddenly I see some villagers act toward the visitors in a way that surprises me. They present us to them! Just selling the image of our village! And in this transaction they leave out what the visitors do not seem to like, enlarge the stuff visitors react to very well and dig up their own favourites and put their personal actions in the spotlight. My sister that lives in another village says: “Grow up. This is how it works!” But I liked being in this group and experimenting with them and now it falls apart because we have to feed a surface, a surface that a few villagers shaped.
Please, let’s start anew.

What kind of village?
An art village is a strange idea. The power of a more rural village is that you belong there because you were born and/or grew up in the village and were part of the community. The global village is even a more strange idea, because what was essential in all the villages I knew was the daily physical appearance and the smell of the group you belonged to. So how can you be a community in the virtual world? The fact that all these people online also have real spaces around them is quite fascinating. But you can never smell or explore their bodies and houses in a physical way. Is this a community without bodies? Bodies have limits; it still is impossible to physically be in two places. Our imagination can do a lot and even in memory we can mix up real and virtual experiences. In that sense we can trick our bodies.

What happens in art?
I like to redefine the images we have or that I assume we have. The best thing an artist can do is offer others an experience in an art space or public space. This experience can give the body and the eyes new lines of approach. This is a challenging mission. Don’t ask me how to act. Being an artist is doing tryouts. I have done this over 12 years, and my opinion changes all the time about what is the best strategy. Time and space and visitors of the work bring in the content, I tend to think. So the context defines the artwork? But then I find out that my so-called fresh observations on location were not only related to the context, they line up in a row of other sketches and ideas in my notebook. Another time I dream that my observations on this planet are very subjective and original, but sharing them reminds others of artworks they have seen before. Of course it feels good that it’s recognized as art, but being visible and rethinking visibility is very fragile. And also, my goal is not fixed; it is more a misty feeling and a desire for the unknown. You need humour and courage when you share this with others, especially with professionals. The escape is that you can start to talk about material, gravity, colours, concepts and so on.


In giving sketches and ideas to others there is always a moment of translation. This is not new; art always depends on the people that receive it. You never know what will happen when you install your art or implant your concepts into a community. In the Transmission Project Data Exchange, all this communication is enlarged and there is no hierarchy; all artists are dependent others. A lot of works of world-famous living artists are also installed and partly made by others – mostly technicians – all over the world. But there is a strong hierarchy. The artist can come in a few days before the opening and when not satisfied, the technicians have to redo what they did the last week. Now the digital camera, e-mail, the Internet and so on can provide the best communication between the people that fill art rooms. After installation, most visitors have a look at the works not knowing the process. Why should they know?

What is the space we are in now?
Artists will underline that in contemporary art, the tension of space between idea and result, imagination and material, the virtual world and the physical world can be stretched out in an amazing way. But mostly it is not present in our minds when we look at art. Is it that stretched space that attracted Michael Maarten Markwick to initiating Transmission? Their first project makes me curious about this and at the same time raises a lot of other questions. For example: What if doubts about the quality of the artwork of the other are too big and overrule the relationship they are in? What if you look back at the show and speak to visitors who were not part of the process? Can you change the show in between and make it better for the public? How often can an artist go into a transmission relationship with a stranger? Is there a limit? In the end, will Transmission be a virtual-physical community?