photo: lisa jasperina bommerson / tom van huisstede
Jumping the Shark
Alban Karsten, Feiko Beckers, Steven Jouwersma
work period 05/11 – 23/12 2018
show 23/12/2018 – 19/01/2019
former gas station, turfsingel 16 groningen
written by Vanessa van 't Hoogt & Anna-Rosja Haveman
text only in written language
'Jumping the shark’ is an expression commonly used in reference to unsuccessful attempts to regain popularity and attention through outrageous and spectacular overkill. The origin of the saying comes from a 1977 TV episode of the American series Happy Days in which the main character Fonzie, wearing his trademark leather jacket, jumps on water skis over a (confined) shark. Did het resort intend in the same way to upscale their entertainment value with their most recent exhibition Jumping the Shark at the BIM station? Just as the television series aimed to create a spectacular episode, the three artists-in-residence of het resort aspired to make something remarkable. Perhaps Feiko Beckers, Steven Jouwersma and Alban Karsten wanted to impress the city where they once lived and studied with the grand gestures of a wrapped gas station, a car crash and a jump - not over a shark, but through a window.
While the apparent aim of Happy Days was obviously to increase audience ratings, the motives and results of the three artists ‘jumping the shark’ are neither straightforward nor clear. Was it perhaps a signal that the reputation of het resort is in decline and in need of some new relevance? Considering the positive reactions to the exhibition by the public and the municipality, this did not turn out to be the case. Or might the artists have felt the need to upscale their activities and careers to the next level? Since all three artists are past the age of thirty-five, their personal trajectories may have been on their mind during the preparations: no longer qualifying as a ‘young talent’ or an ‘emerging artist’ in grant applications, but now having to grapple with being known as a ‘mid-career artist’ or even ‘established talent.’ Considering the outcome of the exhibition, Jumping the Shark more likely indicates a healthy dose of self-irony, and an interest in finding the subtle, the uncomfortable and the mysterious in something ‘spectacular.’ The totality of the presentation is more confident than desperate, absurd but with a dark critical edge. Perhaps it is here that the differences between the art world and popular media become clear; what would be labelled as blatantly stupid and nonsensical in a TV show has a different relevance in the context of an experimental artist residency.
The BIM Station (Turfsingel 16) was one of the first public gas stations in the Netherlands. Renowned architect Wim Dudok designed the building, now a national heritage site, in 1953. After closing its doors in September 2018, the station was repurposed by the city of Groningen as a cultural destination nicknamed ‘Dudok aan het Diep.’ As a part of the city’s renewal program, the station’s outside canopy was painted bright magenta, while the building itself retained its colour scheme. With an eye towards increasing its cultural visibility, the municipality recently provided het resort with the opportunity to use the location as a temporary exhibition site. Feiko Beckers, Steven Jouwersma and Alban Karsten each created work in response to the BIM station or the surrounding public space. Using the specific context of the BIM station as a starting point, it became difficult for the artists to ignore the jarring magenta-coloured petrol pumps. In order to solve this problem, Jouwersma turned the magenta into black, while Beckers in the set design for his video referenced the red and white colours of the original BIM station. Karsten’s project in turn seamlessly fit into the surroundings: at first sight the car wreck might seem left over from the former gas station.
The total environment created at the BIM station seems both odd and familiar. The video in the window reminds one of the advertisements that used to be installed in the same place, although now unspectacular things are promoted. The blackness of the station is overwhelming, but its presence withdraws at the same time. After the spectacular performance of the opening, the car became a victim of everyday vandalism.
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HET RESORT IS supported by:
Mondriaan Fund, Gemeente Groningen, Academie Minerva, Kunstraad Groningen, NNT + Club Guy & Roni