Interview with artist Boris Acket about his work at NDSM

On November 4th, during Museum Night Amsterdam, Acket takes the philosophical concept of boundaries as the starting point for a light and sound installation at NDSM. Sicne this work can only be seen on this evening, it’s time for a catch-up with this versatile artist.

On November 4th, during Museum Night Amsterdam, Acket takes the philosophical concept of boundaries as the starting point for a light and sound installation at NDSM. This work can only be seen on this evening. It’s time for a catch-up with this versatile artist.

In your installations, various disciplines come together to create an experience collectively. As an artist, you’ve developed a recognizable style that continues to evolve. How would you describe your current point as an artist?

My practice has always had sound as a starting point. Initially, it was always ‘musical’ sound, but in recent years, it has evolved more into the sound of the installations, sound characterized by the rules, parameters, and boundaries of the artwork itself. In the work at NDSM, for example, I will be using my echo system, a system that I developed with a classmate at art school and then further developed with groups like Slagwerk Den Haag into a complex instrument that creates an endless Droste effect of duplicates in light and sound from a single sound source.

The cool thing about this very temporary work is that it will be placed in a location that is very dear to me, the Docklands and the NDSM Loods at NDSM. A few years ago, I created SKYLINE I in the Noordstrook in collaboration with 4DSOUND and Bob Roijen. This work was also situated in a transitional area, above an entrance through which 20,000 people passed every day.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I love philosophy, science, and human questions about their own consciousness. I think experiential or phenomenon art is the ultimate way to provoke thoughts in people. Time, and our experience of it, fascinate me immensely. How a person, with all their memories and expectations, always constructs their own ‘now,’ completely different from the person next to them, solely because of their different background and expectations for tomorrow, that fascinates me endlessly.

Time, and our experience of it, fascinate me immensely. How a person, with all their memories and expectations, always constructs their own ‘now.’

In the experiences I create, I often find that the conversations between visitors or participants afterward are very interesting. The shared experience of a new ritual – for example, in an echo piece in collaboration with Slagwerk Den Haag – can remove social boundaries. Although everyone has seen something different, experienced something different, and constructed a completely different experience, those who have shared the experience can still talk to each other and sometimes even come closer together.

Impression of Boris Acket’s work at NDSM, credits anna bogmolova, blitzkickers

My practice is – just as it always was – still very diverse. From theater scenography to complete exhibitions, and from shows for a pop idol to a temporary sound and light tunnel like the one at NDSM. The consistency for me lies more in themes and thought processes than in media and project form, and I love that.

Your work has been seen in clubs like De School and at festivals like DGTL and Down The Rabbit Hole, but also in public spaces like the upcoming Museum Night. What fascinates you about working in the public domain?

With this specific work, I think of the theme of “PASSAGE” – a work I created last year on the wharf in collaboration with Bob Roijen. At that time, I came across a book by Thomas Nail about borders:

“Fundamentally, boundaries are inflection points where flows change direction. Any social construct — fence, wall, passport, browsing history — that changes people’s movements is part of the social kinetics of borders.

It follows from this definition that borders are not about stopping things from moving, they are about movement itself.” — loosely based on Thomas Nail

I think this definition ultimately characterizes the public space. Public spaces are full of human-made boundaries, temporary villages called festivals, barricades that serve as passageways a day later. NDSM is one of those areas, and I believe it’s essential that we cherish and preserve such areas. That’s why I’m so closely aligned with the theme of the work on November 4.

In the experiences I create, I often find that the conversations between visitors or participants afterward are very interesting. The shared experience of a new ritual can remove social boundaries.

During Museum Night, you are playing with the notion of boundaries at NDSM and creating a kind of ‘light corridor’ that extends from the outdoor space at NDSM into the NDSM Loods. How would you describe the work itself, and where does your inspiration come from?

The work is situated both inside and outside, serving as an invitation to walk along a boundary on the NDSM site. It begins outside and ends inside. The sound quality of the composition changes as you make your procession. Outside, the feeling is open, but the sound is dry, whereas inside, the feeling is closed, but the sound suddenly resonates with a massive reverberation, while the source of the sound remains dry. You become aware of the spatial difference in sound waves between indoors and outdoors.

Impression of Boris Acket’s work at NDSM, credits anna bogmolova, blitzkickers

The sounds that pass through the echo system all come from the surrounding environment – I will go out with a field recorder in the week leading up to Museum Night. This makes the work a kind of feedback loop that momentarily emphasizes the quiet place. Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton – someone I collaborated with a few years ago – aptly said that anything you put a microphone on becomes more important. In this journey, you could say that for a brief moment, you’re listening and watching a self-manifesting piece of living NDSM in light and sound.

As with all my works, the exact meaning might not be very interesting, but the conversations and interpretations of people who have walked the procession are what ultimately matter.

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