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Radical Aesthetics #3 - Anne de Vries

Onomatopee 120.3

When René Descartes disconnected the mind from the body and inspired a scientific revolution with his famous words ‘I think, therefore I am’, he could not have imagined that command over the very reasonableness of our thought would shift to the cloud, effectively putting the world of our reason  on a different track, outside of man. What Descartes did know: that the senses cannot be trusted in the establishment of reasonableness, has now been supplemented with the insight that human reason itself is inadequate. But if the will seems to have become a puppet rather than the puppeteer, where does that leave the will-power?

We are left to hold faith in a heavenly body: the Cloud or other instances of big data. Conveniently, The Internet of Things is here to take us by the hand and, like a prophet returned, guide us in our every move. Technological persuasion snugs us like a comfortable blanket; when we go to a festival for instance and the laser beams lift us to euphoric heights or when our surroundings take on ever more convincing dimensions of virtuality. We become part of a fluid reality that effortlessly absorbs us. Only the administrators of large immaterial systems, like all Google shareholders combined, hold power over reality: they dispose of the rationality that surrounds us.

Through tangible objects that address the moral and ethical aberrations of this technology-dominated domain of knowledge and the communicative order outside our cognition, Anne de Vries puts a face on the mind in the body standing outside of us. We take a peek at the world of the divine machine and see its sinister consequences in the quarries where the minerals are extracted so indispensable for the production of our mobile phones, and we see how this deus ex machina oversees its own colonisation of our minds, through the habits of the crowd it showers with its technological splendour.

Alongside works from the Viewfinder series (2013), the exhibition in Onomatopee presents Submission (2015), an installation that hasn’t previously been shown in The Netherlands. It exists of four free-standing constructions that, put together, would form the hollow cast of a colossal head. Screens inside each part show live streams of various public spaces. It is like looking around inside a juggernaut’s head. Vision and supervision become entangled in a strained relationship. Sound is singing around in the air between the four parts of the head. We can hear different voices speaking at the same time, sometimes speaking to each other. They are fragments of recorded telephone conversations with people in detention centres, monasteries, Vipassana meditation centres, BDSM clubs and shelters for the homeless. The different persons in the conversations describe the manners, the house rules and the atmosphere of the place where they are. This includes discussions of the philosophy and psychology of the various institutions. Which institution the fragments refer to is impossible to make out in the multitude of crisscrossing stories. It leads to a psychological merging of various  physical and mental spaces derived from the existing locations.

By contrast, Viewfinder is a very physical work. A pair of classic NHS spectacles, iconic accessory of the left-leaning baby boomer, has been enlarged, made of current high-tech industrial materials. The frame has been torn to pieces, connected to tubes for artificial feeding and secured with stainless steel locks that have a certain robustness we recognise from the vandal-proof and durable materials in public space.

In this landscape full of images and sounds, sources and receivers (some of which are human while others are not) are brought together in surprising ways. This expanding combination of contact is instantly stimulating. The sculptural qualities of both Viewfinder and Submission turn our physical reality into the body of a system that delivers people to disillusion. The real mind resides in that system outside of us. Our reality in the latest technological culture is, once again, dynamic and once more, our position in all of this is debatable. We are being encouraged to move the scale in which we weigh our human measure. This way the world, which appears increasingly immaterial, becomes more solid.


This presentation might be seen as a bypass within the culture constituting our life, exactly because it is so fundamental. Within the daily habits in which we live its actuality, a space has been created where the changes on this stage are being contemplated. This is a distinctive theme in the work of De Vries and a subject that Onomatopee is eager to enter on the agenda.

To elaborate the articulation of this area of tension, we are working on a publication that discusses, among other topics, the moral and ethical issues De Vries touches upon, and maps out various areas of tension. Expanding on the concrete experience of Anne De Vries’s work, Onomatopee hopes to question the increasing interconnectedness of man and technology, with a particular focus on the interdependency of man under the regime of this autonomous, technological cultural producer

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Opening february 27th, 4 PM
open Thursday - Sunday 1-5 PM,
Friday-evenings open untill 9 PM
open untill April 24th




Onomatopee 120.3, Anne de Vries, 2020


€ 22

In (re)print
170 x 226 mm / 6.7 x 8.8 inches (portrait)
Anne de Vries
Anne de Vries
Anne de Vries
Release date
sewn and glued
cover: 250 grams 1-sided Sulfaatkarton. Inside pages: 90 grams Magno Volume
NPN printers, Breda (NL)
Made possible by
Mondriaan foundation and the Municipality of Eindhoven
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