Martien Groeneveld (Amsterdam)

PERFORMANCE, Saturday, July 26, 1997, 7pm, Tacoma Art Museum.

Martien Groeneveld (1947) is moved by anything that can produce sound. Quite typically, thinking back of his childhood in Krimpen aan de Ussel (a small town by the river Ussel), he remembers the sound of ships being launched, sand barges being loaded and unloaded, and the little tugboat pulling the ferry, on board of which he spent many hours as a 5-year-old boy.

At the age of twelve, he moved to the west coast artists' village of Bergen. After that, he became an artist himself. Until 1974, he studied graphics and painting at the Rierveld Academy in Amsterdam, getting more and more fascinated by the sound of the brush on projects, reaping a success in several theatres, like "De Bakkerstraat bestraat" ("Baker-Bend"). f.i. in gallery De Appel, at Calxon Festival, in Bimhuis, 1979.

Martien: "At the time, I lived in the Bakkerstraat, in the centre of Amsterdam just around the corner of Rembrandtsplein (Rembrandt Square). On morning, I woke up by the sound of the pavers...tick-tick-tick, tock-tock. This held such a strong rhythm, that I couldn't get it out of my mind. I started recording the sounds, shooting the work in the street and this grew into a project I called "Bakerstreet paved". This project led to the idea of "The sound of the Tram at the Bend", as the tram passed through that street too. The sound of my environment got a hold on me. That is a concept isn't it: "Soundscape." In Canada, people did some sort of scientific investigation of this; I once read about it in a magazine. In the article, they were talking about the soundscape all over the world. There's a soundscape of a wood, for instance: this changed at a certain time. People used to cut and saw up trees by hand, all relatively soft; nowadays they use motor power, chain saws, very noisy things that have their effects on the whole environment, stretching out for miles around.

After reading this article, I thought: painting-landscape, musicsoundscape. It is all related and I felt supported by this. What is the soundscape of this place, I thought; the tram, the pavers, the cars racing by. I started imitating these sounds myself, using all kinds of instruments and objects. I came to see the tram as an art object and used it that way. In the theatres where I performed, grips hanging down the air, were connected to sounds of the tram and the street, coming from cassette recorders. I had made up a story going with it; that life in the city had become very dangerous for pedestrians, because the tram raced along without a sound, so as a consequence, at each bend a civil servant needed to be appointed. Imitating the sound at the bend using a metal sheet.

"Visual art" became a concept. The combination of sound and the visual image was and is central to my work, my projects. What is the reason that I'm with sounds in such a visual way? That's because I like it. But why do I like it? Well, because it struck me some time and I saw more and more in it and I started developing this. I think it is part of me.

Martien Groeneveld's Website

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