Exhibitionsparkling like the surface of the ocean at night

Hanne Hagenaars en Heske ten Cate

The exhibition title is printed in bold letters on a sheet of paper taped to the wall of our workspace. Sparkling like the surface of the ocean at night. As these words reside in our thoughts, their meaning constantly transforms, becoming fluid like the ocean and ever-changing in significance.

A first interpretation is an image of the beauty of the night and its release of inhibitions. Where the setting sun has made way for the moon to cast its silver light onto the water, breaking into a glistening mosaic of patterns. Nearly everyone has stood at the water in that very way, breathing in a sigh of happiness at being present in that awe-inspiring image. The solitary individual in the immense cosmos. But gradually, this interpretation fissures into multiple new meanings.

The darkness thickens. Picture yourself wading in the ocean, the water illuminating you in its reflection. The jetblack void stretches out above and below you: the infinity of the dark heavens rises far overhead, while the inky depths of the nocturnal ocean undulate underneath. In the dark, little is discernible in the distance, leaving visible the oscillating reflections. You could dive head first into that glittering surface, but there’s no containing it, no holding it, no taking it. It is merely a temporary reflection of reality. Within that sparkling ocean, everything is a fleeting, transient, and ephemeral copy of an ideal form that resides outside of space and time, permanent and imperishable. The allegory of the cave and reality’s elusiveness.

The more our knowledge expands, with researchers exploring natural phenomena, elementary particles and wavelengths in a constant search for the essence of life, the more we realise how little we actually know. Mythical thinking makes way for realism. Today’s greatest scientists stress how little we understand of our world, especially when it comes to the cosmos. Enveloping us is deep, dark pitch-black space.

As an artist, you’re familiar with the echo of the elusive real, like within the artwork that both reflects the world and likewise adds to its darkness. Artworks that peer back through history, or that look towards the unknown before us, refer to the most exceptional of predecessors: always a resonance of that which came before, of something that describes, but never completely delineates our human existence.

The exhibition at Garage Rotterdam will explore the numerous interpretations of this particular sentence: Sparkling like the surface of the ocean at night.