ECHOLOCATION Interactive installation 2009
Geert Mul created this work of art especially for 21rozendaal Space for Current Art. Echolocation is the direct result of his fascination with 21rozendaal’s location in the Roombeek neighbourhood and its history (it is the part of Enschede that in May 2000 was the scene of the fireworks disaster). The building’s architecture as well is imbued with references to the past. Echolocation is about memory and perception. Geert Mul makes a connection between this site, this neighbourhood and the way in which we perceive the world.
In preparation for Echolocation, the artist asked present and former residents of Roombeek and other inhabitants of Enschede for a few hundred snapshots from their photo albums - and it should be mentioned here that many photographs were lost in the disaster. In Geert Muls’ work photographs or images always serve a greater whole. The artist believes that an image can only acquire meaning within a context and that to think in terms of ‘unique’ or ‘universal’ images is obsolete.
To an individual a snapshot can be of immense value, for instance because it is a photograph of a house that was destroyed. Such photographs have an emotional value, but this value does not reside in the photographs themselves. The image is a catalyst for a whole chain of relationships, connotations and connections in the mind of the person who looks at it.
The photographs that were collected represent the past that is no longer physically present.
This interactive installation reserves an important role for the visitor. There is a relationship in content between what you, the visitor, do and what you get back from it in the form of an experience. You are encouraged to navigate the space, which makes the photographs fly up. Each visitor thus creates his or her unique path through the photographs and through the past. By walking through the space you evoke memories, in a sense; memories that are stirred up by the photographs. The photographs ‘land’ in a different spot from where they flew up, allowing fresh streams of thought and associations to be created each time. Echolocation is a walk through memory and it offers the chance to relive Roombeek’s past.
Normally, our consciousness makes a radical distinction between present and past, between dead and alive, between that which is and that which is no longer. In Geert Mul’s view that strict distinction is a relative one, as persons, places or things also or still exist in your thoughts, in your memory. Imagine yourself in a train - you see a landscape and you travel past this landscape. This landscape now exists in your mind and whether or not it burns up ten minutes later does not cause any discontinuity in how this landscape exists in your mind. Likewise, the Roombeek neighbourhood as it was before the fireworks disaster in a sense still exists for all those people who knew it and carry it with them in their memory. So there is a physical manifestation of the neighbourhood as well as a mental one. Besides these two truths or realities there are many more truths of Roombeek, or, in a wider sense, of reality. Geert Mul assumes that there are a number of truths that make it easier for us to live our everyday lives. But is it true?