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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Travelogue: Abroad in Amsterdam

The Rooster on the Roof in its final stages of construction for the 24-hour art exhibition.
The Rooster on the Roof in its final stages of construction for the 24-hour art exhibition.

On November 4, 2003 I took off from Logan Airport, bound for the Netherlands, with Ann Torke, my video professor from UMass Boston. Earlier in the fall semester, Ann had invited me to be her assistant for “Museum Nacht,” (“museum night”) a 24-hour art exhibition that takes place all over the city of Amsterdam.

Most of the major museums and cultural centers in Amsterdam hold special art events that last through the night and into the morning of “Museum Nacht.” Ann was invited to bring her “Video Vain” to the De Balie, Amsterdam’s most vibrant art museum, to participate in an exhibit themed Open 24 Hours, How far would you go for art?

Aneta Lesnikovska, director of the DNerve Lab, masterminded this show. Using live video streaming to link the De Balie with the Stedelijk Museum, one of Europe’s top modern art museums, she allowed the De Balie’s installations, performances, and music to be broadcast live and seen in two places at once.

We arrived on the morning of November 5 and headed straight for the museum. We unloaded our equipment and headed for the roof where we were to install Rooster on the Roof. We spent the rest of the day taking in the wonderful sites of Amsterdam and talking about how to install the rooster.

The piece in question, a traditional American weathervane, has a camera attached to its arrow, which streams live video to a monitor situated in the lobby. The arrow, of course, is controlled by the wind, with a 360° range of motion. In a moment of genius, Ann decided the rooster needed wheels to add another dimension of movement to the piece.

The next day, armed with a dual saw and power drill, courtesy of the De Balie, we set out constructing the three-meter high by twenty cm rooster-mobile. After two days of working in perfect weather the piece was installed and running.

By noon of November 8 we had plugged the piece in and would let the wind do the work for the next 24 hours. At this point, the De Balie was filled with installations and performance art that lasted until noon on Sunday. One of the most impressive performances was a one-and-a-half hour play directed by Aneta Lesnikovska that played twelve consecutive times. I saw the ninth performance of the play at 4am and the actors performed it as if it was their first.

At noon on Sunday, Museum Nacht came to an end and exhausted participants congratulated each other with a champagne toast. Over a thousand people had visited the De Balie during and the Rooster on the Roof received many compliments. The trip was a wonderful success because we truly participated in the artistic process, from conception to installation to demonstration. As we boarded the plane to return to Boston, we had a powerful sense of accomplishment. It was a very satisfying feeling to have gone this far for art.