Jeroen Nelemans: Adhoc

Sep 4, 2015

Jeroen Nelemans, born in the Netherlands, currently resides in Chicago. Nelemans is interested in the construct of a digital image. In order to access a new set of contemporary notions related to sight and seeing, he dissects the image as a physical entity.
Nelemans has shown at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, the DelaCruz Collection Contemporary Space in Miami, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in Greece , Elmhurst Art Museum, Aspect/Ratio gallery in Chicago and the MISSION gallery in Chicago. Screenings include; the Banff Center in Canada, the Werkleitz Centre for Media Art, Halle, Germany, V-kunst: video und medienkunst, Frankfurt, Germany.

We had the pleasure to chat with Jeroen about his work and to tell us a little bit about his upcoming solo exhibition at the MISSION gallery in Chicago.

What initiated your interest in exploring the construct of a digital image?

Most of my source material is back-lit, so exploring the construct of a digital image was a logical step within this discourse. Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, wrote a book in 1976 entitled “The Selfish Gene.” Here, he identified how cultural information is distributed within society and coined the term as a Meme. Nowadays the general population knows this concept by co-producing these images or videos from the internet. Dawkins compares the general concept of the meme to that of biological evolution. From his perspective, the meme, designed as a ‘unit of culture’ is ‘hosted’ in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself, thereby jumping from mind to mind.
I find this very intriguing, as I do think the digital image contains both dynamic energy and matter. It is this material support system that I am currently interested in exploring.

Can you explain what inspired your use of light boxes in most of your series? I believe this really strengthens your overall concept of theoretically examining a digital image.

I have dabbled in many different media, but light boxes (and light) have been my main resources over the last 5 years. Coming from a photography background, I like the sculptural element that the light box presents. Before dissecting the digital image and exploring its materiality, I was dissecting the light box. This is evident in the light box series: Scapes in RGB and the More I See, the Less I Grasp. I allow the light source to become part of the image. These idyllic landscape images cannot be separated from the mechanism of their creation, so I am working on giving the viewer a new relationship between traditional documentation and contemporary notions of representation.

What do you hope the viewer will discover after viewing your work in person?

I am more interested in seducing the viewer. The materials I use are chosen quite carefully, as this is part of the process of achieving this seduction. Reflective materials, refraction, color, light and gradients are these choices and are not arbitrary. I don’t mind if the viewer finds my work beautiful (or not) because identifying something as beautiful is an acknowledgement. Being seduced is a much more transitory experience as it does not lead to a conclusion. I feel that this ties into the digital moving image as well. Nowadays, we have an arsenal of tools and programs to make an image more enticing. Most of the time, we are unaware of this seduction, because we soak it in or ‘it’ soaks us in.

Your work, as seen online, almost seems to blur the line between the digital image and the actual exhibited installation of the image object. Do you feel this might cause the viewer to be mislead by what is documented online rather than what is seen in person?

Documentation is an interesting process for me and it is an ongoing learning curve. I don’t think I am misleading my audience on purpose. There is some post production involved, as you cannot shoot a light box correctly and have the walls white from where it is hanging, which is the way the human eye experiences it.
But there is something about the rectangular image that is somewhat trustworthy for me. When I was exploring more sculptural work, I would take an image with my camera and download it to my computer and “experience” the image. Meanwhile the actual Artwork was next to me in the studio. Often times I found the cropped view point more interesting than the actual Artwork.

So, I heard you are getting ready for a solo show, this Lemon is Not Yellow, at the MISSION gallery in Chicago. Tell us a little bit about the new series that you are presenting for this show.

I will presenting two light box series, to be Crystal Clear and Between a Solid and Liquid Space. These light box series contain three main materials that cannot be separated as they function only as a whole: The LED light panel, cellophane/acrylic and polarizing filters.

A LED back panel and polarizing filter are materials that are part of any backlit screen and are essential components to the way we view digital imagery. In these light box series, I use polarizing filters to elicit colors from clear and colorless cellophane.

When light waves from the LED panel travel through certain plastics, like cellophane, it causes the light waves to bend in different directions. This refraction that occurs is best seen when this cellophane is placed between two polarizing filters as the light waves produce a spectrum of different colors that is reminiscent of the digital culture. These color schemes change depending on the point of view. This ultimately makes the images less static and invites more participation. Much like the digital image, the presentation of these acrylic mediums are presented in a theatrical way. Two light box series – similar in size – one more natural looking and the other more geometrical, each having its own theatrical reference.

To be Crystal Clear alludes to the history of Wunderkammer or cabinets of curiosity. Like many of these early cabinets which displayed materials or works that were meant to imply a discovery or to highlight unusual, often insignificant material, these custom-made light boxes display a theatrical aesthetic filled with discardable material (cellophane) that acts as a catalyst to understand phenomena in the world.

The title of the light box series Between a Solid and Liquid Space refers to the features of the LCD screens. Liquid crystal substances are classified on a spectrum between solid and liquid, depending on their individual characteristics. Instead of cellophane, here I use acrylic strips arranged in a repetitive design to suggest (colored) wavelengths. The theatrical display also references minimalism and touches upon the theatrical framework of Michael Fried’s critical essay “Art and Objecthood.” In this critical essay, Fried criticizes the understanding of minimalism in the 60’s to theatricality, which nowadays can be intrinsically identified in new media Art as it welcomes interactivity. Thus, the exhibition at THE MISSION gallery stages the space in which the viewer moves and perceives the light boxes.