and Palinurus, to you he went, though you had no sin,
and he came carrying to you a sombre dream.
(Virgil The Aeneid 5.840-41)



The video work is based on the story of Palinurus, the helmsman of Aeneas, who, overcome by sleep while taking the watch, fell overboard and for three days long was at the mercy of the stormy sea. When he eventually managed to reach the Italian mainland unharmed, at Velia, he was murdered by the inhabitants of that town, after they had vainly tried to rob him. The title of the work comes from the name of the head­land near to the town where they abandoned his unburied body.

This story, as told by Virgil in the fifth and sixth books of the Aeneid, implies that an accident befell Palinurus when he was on the point of reaching the end of his journey. This is in fact a point of some controversy. PALINURO examines the interpretations of various authors, inclu­ding the English critic and essayist Cyril Connolly, who are of the opinion that Palinurus deliberately fell overboard. He is supposed to have done this because he was no longer able to believe in the ideal of the crusade: the founding of a city which would rule the world. "Virgil knew the cost of the Empire; the cost in suffering, and the cost in conscience and in so many graceful things. His recognition of the costs shows up so clearly in his poem that the work is currently thought to be a bitter attack on Augustus and absolute rulership." (W.J. Knight, quoted by Cyril Connolly.)

The installation consists of three video screens and a photographic work and is set up in a darkened room. The revolving beam of a lighthouse at night constitutes the main motif on the middle of the three video screens.  Palinurus himself is not depicted anywhere. He is only discernible in the images of his mind's eye, which glide across the monitors, while his gaze is fixed on the coast. On the wall opposite the monitors hangs a highly enlarged photograph of the sea, which is briefly illuminated when the beam of light from the lighthouse swings round the the front (and the middle monitor itself become the source of light). In this way, PALINURO is based on two forms of projection: a physical one of central monitor on photograp­hic work, and - in the opposite direction - a psychological one of Palinurus' mental images on three monitors.
The main motif - lighthouse and sea - consists of images recorded on location. Palinurus' mental images, which are interwoven with the main motif in multiple layers of ima­ges, are drawn from a collection of TV images which were construc­ted specially for this installation during the first half of 1989.

In the first part (Te Palinurus Petens) the lighthouse repre­sents the coast at Cumae, when Palinurus is keeping watch. In the second part (In Unda), the coast at Velia, which Palinurus will reach three days later.
To bridge the time that the installation is not running there is a fourth tape depicting only a lighthouse beam, playing on the middle monitor. The physical projection is then at its strongest. This tape is turned off as soon as the installation is started up by the viewer.

The remix on this DVD is a configuration of three pictures in picture designed for one videoprojection on three panels and projection screen or wall.

The motto of the work: te, Palinure, petens, tibi somnia tristia portans insonti (searching for you, Palinurus, undeserving of the bad dream) is drawn from the dream passage from the Palinurus episode of the fifth book, in which somnia tristia means "a vague phrase of foreboding" according to R.D. Williams, "where 'somnia' does not mean specifically 'dreams' but rather 'the sleep that brings doom'."

(ndk 1989/2002)


'In 'Palinuro' everything revolves around the nocturnal hour of fate before his fall into the sea, when Palinurus is keeping watch, contemplating hi situation. Before him lie the shore and lighthouse, whose beam of light sweeping around we see on the middlemost of the three monitors. The light that derives from the monitor illuminates a photograph of the sea on the wall facing the monitors. The lighthouse light is the main theme of the installation, throwing light not only upon the destination of the odyssey, as it were, but also upon Palinurus's fearful forebodings, upon the somnia tristia, the sad, ominous dreams, memories and obsessive thoughts spinning around his mind, the video images of which are combined with the lighthouse theme, the cross-cutting determining the rhythm of the alternating shots. The installation never presents Palinurus himself; only his desperate imaginative universe is made visible. In order not to reduce the representation of this universe to an illustrative sequence of images, Nol de Koning did not use the story itself as his main guideline, but instead applied the form principles of Virgil's 'Aeneid'. [Based on: Maurice Nio, exhibition catalogue 'Imago' 1990]'



> go to Palinuro remix on Vimeo (mp4)


installation (1989)
concept and script Nol de Koning, camera Louk Vreeswijk, editing Ivo van Stiphout, sound Rob Glotzbach, music Hector Berlioz Chanson d'Hylas (from Les Troyens); postproduction Monte­Video, Amsterdam;
four video tapes 32'30", colour, sound (stereo), three video screens, photograph 120 x 120 cm; collection Rijksdienst Beel­dende Kunst, The Hague

remix (2002)
concept Nol de Koning, online editing Ramon Coelho, postproduction Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo/TimeBasedArts, Amsterdam; 32'17"


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