NOX UMIDA (1999/2000)


Those who are unburied lack chance.
Those who sail across are buried.
(Virgil The Aeneid 6.325-326)


Nox Umida originates from the fable written for a plan conceived in 1998, for a multi-disciplinary project under the working title Hekate:Trivia, Selene. A number of themes from this plan are in a certain way related to two video works that I made earlier: Palinuro (1989) and Miseno (1990). The direct motivation for the creation of Nox Umida as a spin-off to a project that is still in preparation, has been the retrospective exhibition of my video work TERRA MORALE - Malebolge (Jan/Feb 2000) at the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/ Time Based Arts in Amsterdam and a commission by Dutch Art Channel for making a videotape for broadcasting on televisi­on.

The original version  is a video installation with two videotapes. The first tape is display­ed on a video monitor, the second on the wall (or a screen), by means of videoprojection. The monitor stands on an open socle in front of and somewhat left to the videoprojection; the projection (upright format) reaches from the floor level almost to the ceiling, with a maximum of ± 360 x 270 cm. There are two parts: In unda (10'50") and In litore (7'00­"), with the first imperceptibly running into the second. During the first part, the sound comes from the projection wall with the monitor. During the second, after a short intro, it comes from the opposite wall, which is closer to the viewer.

Nox Umida also exists as a one channel videotape inten­ded for a single monitor or television. This tape was made for the Dutch Art Channel, for broadcasting on television, and is virtually the same as the tape for the monitor of the installation. The video image has been adapted in some places, in order to ensure that certain elements from the videoprojection are also shown to their full advantage on the tape for one screen.

The configuration version on this DVD is a picture in picture configuration desgned for one videoprojection on a panel and the wall, or on a panel and a screen.


Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) painted several classical landscapes containing a dramatic incident, on a small scale.

Landscape with a man being killed by a snake, for example, or the two landscape paintings featuring Phocion, in which in one the body of Phocion is being carried out of Athens, and in the other, his ashes are being collected. It is remarkable that the snake appears in a number of these landscape paintings; not only in a painting with a man being killed by a snake, but also in one with a man being chased by a snake, and the paintings with Orpheus and Eurydice and with two nymphs and a snake.

According to R. Verdi (Cézanne and Pous­sin: The Classical Vision of Landscape, p.69), Poussin borrowed this theme from various classi­cal sources, including Homer's Iliad, Virgil's Aeneid and Eclogue III, and Dante.
In November 1997, a visit to the National Gallery in London and the Poussin collection there gave me the idea for what I came to call 'Poussin video'.

What is special about these landscapes lies as much in the form as in the content, or in other words, in "the interrelation between the visible and the invisible" (O. Bätschmann, Nicolas Poussin Dialectics of Painting, p.110). Sometimes it is a landscape in which "the earth, the sky and everything else inevitably radiate terror" (Bel­lori in O. Bätschmann), at other times, landscapes that exude a certain "equanimity in the face of fatal and overpowering occurrences" (O.B.). For Bätschmann, what is special about Poussin's landscapes (and not just the tragic ones) is the interrelation between "nature, myth, and morality" (p.110).
Poussin's tragic landscapes are not romanticized landscapes; his designs are "intellectually ordered, solidly constructed, and ultimately austere" (M. Levey, The National Gallery Schools of Painting, p.217). The horrifying elements "reverberate in degrees through the receding planes of the magnificent landscape, whose sombre serenity is on the point of being broken" (idem), but often the drama only takes place in the foreground and just behind it, while in the centre and/or the background life seems to be going on quietly, or indifferently.

In contrast to my earlier video works, in which the 'moral landscapes', with all their different image layers, are constructed in a rather complex manner, the framework of Nox Umida is first and foremost simple: a 'video landscape' with just one image layer, in which, in the foreground, a dramatic incident is taking place (or has taken place). In order to emphasize this 'antinomy', the two planes in the landscape - foreground and centre/back­ground, each with their own character - are presented as two separate elements: the foreground on the video monitor, the centre/background in the video projection.

The projection represents the domain of the new moon, the damp night, and the mistress of the forests of Averno, who is also the goddess of the underworld: (...) in the solitude of night / through darkness, faery lands forlorn / (...), as sometimes by the meagre half-moon light / the road throught forest passes / (...) and black night robs the world / of all its brilliant colours (based on Aeneid 6.268-272) - and not only at night; also when, in the daytime, she has withdrawn into her threefold capacity.
The motto that I have bestowed on this work applies to the drowning man on the video monitor.

(ndk 2000)


concept and script Nol de Koning, camera Louk Vreeswijk, online editing Ramon Coelho, postproduction Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo/TimeBasedArts, Amsterdam, music Janet Baker sings Haendel and from L'Arpa di Viggiano: Canzone a Morto, Rocco Rossetti, arpa; 18'34", colour, sound (stereo)
three versions: video installation with monitor and projection (two videotapes), videotape for TV-screen or monitor (one channel tape) and video installation with one videoprojection (configuration tape)



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