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I want to die
lulled by the waves of the stormy sea,
or standing on a mountain-top...
my eyes looking upwards,
I know my extinction
will be complete.
I would have no hope of mercy.

Since that vision revealed
to me the supreme truth,
to many nightmares
have sucked my throat,
by day and by night,
for me to have any courage left...
But I shall not complain.

I received life as a wound,
and I have forbidden suicide
to heal the scar.
I want the Creator
to contemplate the gaping crevasse
for every hour of his eternity.
That is the punishment I inflict on him.

after Comte de Lautréamont
Les Chants de Maldoror
translated by P. Knight


VERSIONS OF THE BLUE HOUR arose in the context of The Blue Hour - a diluvial remembrance, an interdisciplinary art and science project sponsored by Founda-tion h2ome, publisher de zingende zaag (The Singing Saw), publisher inbetween, mare (Center for Maritime Research), and siswo (Institute for the Social Sciences).
For this project - which included an exibition during August and September 2001 held in the former Amsterdam synagoge Uilenburg - poets and artists were invited to take their inspiration from the sea and the water, and especially from a remark-able phenomenon called 'the blue hour'.

The blue hour is 'when - usually at close of a lovely summer day - time seems to fail, to stand still. The light is diffuse, the outlines of objects become vague, and a deep and melancholic desire takes hold: you want to merge into that infinite blue' (George Moormann). 'The world ... changes from being clear and visible and becomes an invisible mystery. ... Things become phantoms, a sort of music even, that ... sounds unexpectedly powerful and familiar' (Donald Kuspit). 'And then, should we hear a melody from long ago, we would hope for comfort in tears' (Henri Roquas). But the project dealt not only with the 'moment pregnant with melancholy and magic' (Roquas). No. The notion of sea and water also points to the not always calm sea, but a raging, cursing demon. And, don’t forget, it points to Eros/Thanatos and all their implications.

The title of my work Versions comes from Leçons de Ténèbres, a vocal compo-sition by François Couperin. The French leçon has several meanings, such as 'lesson', 'reading', and 'version'. In Dutch and in English, it can also mean 'the way in which a happening is presented' and 'the way in which something is interpreted or understood'.
Versions  lasts twenty minutes and contains five sections: The Song of Hylas, The Song of Maldoror, Ode on Death, Alla Cilentana - a Song  of Lamentation, and The Song of Maldoror and of Mario. Using new and old visual and audio material in these five 'video songs', I’ve developed some older themes and added new ones.

Melancholy is an important current in my video work. That is why I’ve chosen those elements from my earlier and ongoing productions in which melancholy plays a central role. The melancholy I refer to is not the pessimistic or romantic kind of melancholy implied in the common use of that word, but rather the mood that runs brilliantly through an entire book: The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly (under the pseudonym Palinurus).  Two examples: “Jusqu’au sombre plaisir d’un coeur mélancolique: a sense of perfection and a faith in human dignity, combined with a tragic apprehending of our mortal situation, and our nearness to the Abyss.”; 
“Illumination: ‘La mélancolie elle-même n’est qu’un souvenir qui s’ignore’ - Flaubert.”

In fashioning my contribution to The Blue Hour, I used as a guide one remarkable element in the structure of Leçons de Ténèbres, namely the accompanying vocal adornment provided by Hebrew letters, in this case, the letter Daleth from the Première Leçon. Hebrew letters usually have certain religious, often esoteric, meanings that have little relationship with the melancholy described above. Still, the symbolic meanings of Daleth - according to B. Coudurier these are: Matter, Resistance, Death, Tribe Mother/Mother Earth/Womb etc., and Trial - have provided me with several themes I could relate, consciously or unconsciously, to my choice of video. But these themes are wholly unrelated to their religious symbolism. It is no accident that two of my five Versions deal with melancholic expressions of the dark pleasure of Lautréamont’s Maldoror and his 'supreme irony' regarding every type of  'romantic aspiration for the divine and the transcendental' (Paul Knight).

(ndk 2001)


concept and script Nol de Koning, camera Louk Vreeswijk and Nol de Koning, online editing Ramon Coelho, postproduction Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo/TimeBasedArts, Amsterdam, music Hector Berlioz Chanson d'Hylas  (from Les Troyens), Rocco Rossetti Canzone a Morto and G. & L. Marotta Alla Cilentana - canzona di lagnanza (from L'Arpa di Viggiano), G.F. Haendel intro Pompe vane di morte!, words from Comte de Lautréamont Les Chants de Maldoror translated by Paul Knight, thanks to Rob Glotzbach, Pien Stades and Grada van Velzen; three versions Dutch, French and English; duration 20'11"; colour, sound (stereo)

> Bulicame   > Palinuro   > Miseno   > Palinuro and Miseno   > Vulcano Eolico
> Hylas' Song   > Nox Umida   > Malebolge   > Versions of the Blue Hour
> Terra Morale   > The C of Scylla   > Old Ocean
> Not from Land any Longer   > remaining projects