Marijke van Warmerdam: First drop skinnyfest1

Article by Morven Innes | 14 Aug 2006
Somewhat radically in the world of contemporary art, Marijke van Warmerdam's First drop exhibition does not have an agenda. It appears to make no political statement or social comment. It is, though, one of the most beautiful, strangely poetic and enthralling shows anyone could hope to see this summer.

Using photography, film and sculpture, van Warmerdam engages the viewer with mesmerising beauty, gentle humour and dream-like situations. The pieces are instilled with whimsy: fantastic things happening to ordinary objects, beauty coming from the most mundane acts.

A photograph shows what appears to be the moon, hanging in a kitchen as if it has shrunk and simply drifted in. Underneath it, a slightly blurred hand holding a frying pan has just flipped a pancake – the object we have been contemplating in lunar terms.

More photographs are suspended from the ceiling, back to back, rotating gently. A polka dot patterned teacup and is seen on one side: the other side shows that the polka dots have become three-dimensional bubbles and floated up into the air, hovering above the cup. Another piece shows the same cup, but in the twist in its narrative, the dots have become a mysterious vapour rising from the cup, and shimmering.

The teacup is seen again in the film "Stirring in the distance", where it sits in front of a window, through which we watch snow falling at varying speeds. A hand appears and stirs the tea in the cup, and then the film loops and plays again. Somehow it's hypnotic.

Similarly entrancing is "Dream Machine". This is a film which starts with a glass full of water against a dull, dark background. Gradually, the camera zooms in, and drops of milk are added to the glass, winding around in strands in the water, creating wonderful, unexpected shapes, until the liquid is completely white, and the camera pulls back to reveal the glass, now against a warm, colourful background. The piece is astounding: it is inexplicably beautiful and leaves the viewer with a sense of serenity that usually only a floatation tank or a month at a Buddhist retreat would bring.