25 May 2008

Atlantis Rising by Bierenbroodspot

Today is Bierenbroodspot Day (reality) -- or Atlantis Rising Day (myth).


Scoot over to bierenbroodspot.com to see why I'm excited. That's the newly refurbished website of the Dutch artist Gerti Bierenbroodspot. And today her big show of paintings and sculpture opens at the Museum Jan van der Togt. The theme is Atlantis Rising.
There is magic in names and the mightiest among these words of magic is Atlantis… it is as if this vision of a lost culture touched the most hidden thought of our soul. (H.G. Wells)
The official ribbon will be cut by the Dutch film star Rutger Hauer (Bierenbroodspot's dream). And the cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger will be there, too, to make his music -- a fellow barefoot artist.

Here's something I wrote about them.


Bierenbroodspot always walks barefooted, whether over the rough unlandscaped grounds where the past has placed a temple, or when she paces over slabs of alabaster that once were palace floors. And she is always barefoot when she paints, indoors or out. It is not so much that footwear constrains her, but barefoot is freer, and gives her a mindset conducive to improvisation.

Letting happenstance into her paintings. Like white light that contains all colours.

Seeing a beautiful painting is also to hear the music of it. Triads, consonance and rhythmic patterns metamorphose into paint; these are the themes, tunes and icons of a silent song. Its mathematical structure incorporates silence and the sound of birdsong, a single note and the rush of the winds. This brings her close to the music of cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger.

Bierenbroodspot first listened to Reijseger's music on the terrace of her house in Petra one evening nearing sunset, as she watched a sandstorm approaching.

She was listening to his Requiem For A Dying Planet, the music he composed for Werner Herzog's documentaries, "The Wild Blue Yonder" and "The White Diamond", and remixed for this recording. Requiem evokes the near-term end of Earth, a longing and nostalgia for what is disappearing – just as the dim outlines of jebels and mountains were dissolving in the distance as sand began to obliterate all distinctions between earth and sky.

In this half-dream world, Sardinian voices (Tenore e Concordu de Orosei) were chanting Libera me, Domine, "Kyrie," and "Sanctus", mantra-like droning and bursts of full-throated singing, "Free me, Lord!" Mingling with the choir and sometimes taking turns, the soaring vocals of Mola Sylla in the Wolof language of Senegal, singing to the metal-tongued mbira . And underneath the songs, the dark contemplative shadow of Reijseger's cello, his chords rising like storm winds before the oncoming, invisible sand. Bierenbroodspot was sinking into the gorgeousness of it when the storm reached her, blanking out the dying planet's sounds of radio bleeps and not-quite-audible ground control-to-space messages, and jungle rivers and wildlife cries. As if doomsday had hit.

She took that music with her into the desert, and into her studio. She painted with it and sculpted with it, even going so far as to remove her shoes when working with stone and listening to it. Despite her bruised toes (it was truly foolish), the Requiem inspired her while she created the icons of Atlantis Rising, the end of an earlier world, a dream transmuted into art before it too passes finally away.

(Don't have time, I'm afraid, to write more about the Amsterdam All-Zenobia Day today, but will try for tomorrow.)

Update 26 May 2008: A photo made by Theo Botschuijver yesterday. Over 1,000 people attended Gerti's opening. It was amazing.

This is Gerti (left) and Ernst (right) after he had played.

A fabulous show.

(but no time yet for reporting on the Zenobia Day. Sorry)

Update # 2, 1 June 2008: For everything you always wanted to know about Atlantis, a wonderful book by the late Pierre Vidal-Naquet has now been translated into English, The Atlantis Story: A Short History of Plato's Myth. It recounts the history and development of popular views of the City of Atlantis from Plato's time through the myth's many transformations in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Serious stuff but a delightful read, too:
The book is written in a casual and conversational tone and reading it is rather like spending an afternoon with a great scholar, but with several brandies and in a state of total relaxation.
What could be wrong with that! I've ordered a copy as a little gift for Bierenbroodspot; she's earned it.

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