Noticed the Markers in the Market?
Have you noticed some new appearances in the Grote Markt square in the last week? Certain constructions such as a blue and yellow cone with colourful attachments on the outside, 10 metal poles with reflective flags attached to it, and a structure made from scaffolding that looks strangely familiar to a nearby Groninger landmark? At certain times, did you also notice a group of children in fluorescent yellow vests that suddenly appeared and played with rope within crush barriers?
If the answer is no, you must be wholly blind to the newest art manifestation (Kunstmanifestie) MARKER, established right in the heart of the Grote Markt. 10 days of this interactive art installation in a public space, to reform our thinking and perspective of how we, as a public, interact in a public space. Are we aware of the publicity of ourselves? Are we aware of our surroundings, our environment? As such, every artwork in the manifestation is interactive with their audience.
The first work or construction you’d probably notice is the tower of scaffolding, with a small grated staircase ascending right in the middle of it. Does it look familiar? Even if you’re a Groninger civilian or merely a Groninger tourist passing through the city, all you’d have to do is look a little up and behind the structure to see the real work that inspired it. The Martinitoren that distinguishes the city of Groningen stands tall and proud at its 97 meters. But the last 26 meters or so of the tower (painted in green), cannot be climbed. The artist and architect, Henri van Hoeve, reconstructed this final part from scaffolding to allow visitors to enter this final part. He even provides binoculars at the base of the reconstruction so you can see the height for yourselves!
Now if you look slightly to the left of the Martini tower reconstruction, in the direction of the ABN Amro bank, you’ll see ten flag poles aligned in a diagonal line, with reflective rectangles attached to the top. You’ll notice the flags aren’t perfect mirrors, but rather a type of reflective foil that reveals its surroundings (usually the buildings) in fragments. But, there’s another feature: this installation is interactive. Attached near the bottom of the flag poles are small handles that stick out, with these, viewers are invited to turn the masts and change the direction of the flags, thereby changing the fragment of environment that is reflected. Sarah Janssen, the artist, created a truly fascinating concept of how we, as a public, sometimes decide what we want to see when we’re in public. Yet, we’re not seeing the whole reality, only fragments of what we’ve wanted to see.
Right next to the flags is probably the second most salient construction, Lee McDonald’s Sound Cone. It is a wide yellow cone attached to a blue shipping container, and on the outside of the cone are these colourful contraptions and gears attached to the circular wall of the cone. This piece relies on two viewers to work. One (or more) people must enter the inside of the cone, where they make noise. The others remain on the outside of the cone, playing with the colourful gears. The gears, once turned by handles, will manipulate the sound that is emitted from the viewers inside. Here, the artist has also created an experiment that underlies concept: the mutual un-exclusivity of sound and space. Do these two variables still have a presence if we are not present to hear or experience it? What is sound if we cannot hear it in a space?
Ruben Boxman, another artist of the manifestation, also plays with the questions of space– but in terms of public security. Attached to one of the poles right next to the bicycle parking near the souvenir stand, is a white-framed screen and a security camera. Underneath the pole is a marked square with fluorescent tape. When viewers step into the square and look up to the camera, the camera will take a snapshot of them. Later, the shot will be shown on the large screen on the wall of the bakery, Bakker Bart. Starting to feel a little watched?
The remaining two artists of the exhibition should not be forgotten either! The works of Albert Westerhoff and Bert Scholten are very specific to the city of Groningen and its history. Westerhoff specializes in reproducing fragments of forgotten archaeological finds in an edible medium: chocolate. His work has its own stand where you can buy these informative chocolates. You’re really eating a piece of history. Scholten, on the other hand, creates a series of performances in various places around the Grote Markt. Each performance is one that tells a story of an important figure of history for the city. His most recent performance took on the help of teenage actors from Groningen’s theatre training (De Noorderlingen), to perform a narrative based on the Yde girl, whose bog body became internationally known. At different dates during different times, Bert will show his performances. To find out when they’re playing and who is playing, come to the Grote Markt and pick up a brochure!