Memories of Friends
Interactive art installation George Struikelblok at the National Art Fair
The art installation by artist George Struikelblok taking up the entire entrance of the National art fair was to most, at first an enigma. The mirrored corridor of over three meters in length, ended with a small desk manned by a silent man performing the single task of writing words on small squares of red paper and subsequently tossing them onto the Floor in front of him. The large mirrors placed left and right were decorated with illegible words and small black silhouettes of boys standing in line, an umbrella, hands folded in prayer and a red encircled boy also stand out. An enigma indeed.
For those who know the artist and his work the initial thoughts might have been of death. Although death definitely factored into the equation, as it still often does in the art of Struikelblok, there was a lot more to the installation than first meets the eye. Yes the silhouetted little boys do reflect upon the confused childhood of Struikelblok as he learned to deal with never knowing the father who died before his birth. The red encircled figure symbolizes him as a boy. The many other figures, multiplied endlessly in the reflection of the opposing mirrors symbolize the fact that he is not unique and alone in his experience. Thousands of people all over the World experience some type of loss daily. The umbrella, the hands folded in prayer all stand for the many ways different cultures display and deal with their grief.
Lost love, broken bonds and memories of friends, all emotions experienced daily by a multitude of people. Sensitive texts and words describing the emotions related to these issues of death or any other type of emotional loss were written on red pieces of paper by the man in the art installation. Crumpled and tossed onto the green carpeted floor and reflected repeatedly by the mirrors on both sides, they made a striking visual impact. Again the message is multiplicity. Feelings and emotions shared by hundreds, thousands or even more at any moment in time. We may not actually see the ones sharing these emotions we know they’re out there. The mirror relays that message in a unique illusory manner.
This visual illusion presented by the opposing mirrors which reflect, seemingly endlessly, everything on or in between them was the main objective of the installation. Imagining something, conjuring up images in our heads, visualizing the who, the what, and where of friends and family who are not with us, is something we all continuously do. But what we imagine is not real, is not tangible, no matter how much we envision things in our heads. The images visible in the mirror, when you actually stand right in between them and take a concentrated look create a similar illusion. Images present themselves to us in multitudes that are not real or tangible and not there where they seem to be. Illegible words written on one mirror become legible in what appears to be the third or fourth mirror image, when in reality there are still only two mirrors. We can see them, but they are not actually there.
The optical illusion presented by two perfectly aligned opposing mirrors intrigued many of the visitors who were consciously involved in this interactive, conceptual work of art. Actually being a part of the installation and the visual outcome and having a human being, in this case the man at the table, being part of the physical art installation, was something new to most of the visitors at the National Art Fair. This was the exact intention of George Struikelblok; to present to the public an art form they had never before encountered, and one they would experience in a way they had never experienced before. Judging by the enthusiastic reactions from visitors all throughout the Art Fair, it is safe to say that the artist achieved the objective he had in mind. Art is indeed so much more than paintings and sculptures.
The art installation Memories of friends is currently displayed in the upstairs furniture showroom of Fernandes Klip in the Klipstenenstraat in Paramaribo.