Christian Yde Frostholm Vigilance
Garbage revisited and cleanliness
on the Web
Interview with Danish artist Christian Yde Frostholm.
Even though the theme for the interview is virtual, we decided to
meet up in the real world. The meeting spot planned - a cafÚ in
Vesterbro in Copenhagen - is crowded even though it is still early
in the afternoon, so we decide to move on. We find a spot further
down the street with fewer people but very loud music and a very
noisy child. However, it works out anyways, and when I return home
later and listen to my tape recording of the interview there is
more on the tape than background noise. There is a nice and interesting
talk with Christian Yde Frostholm about his new digital work Vigilance
PropretÚ and about the Web in general. By Kristine Ploug.
PropretÚ is photographs of Parisian garbage containers. As a
part of the French precautions after September 11th 2001 the garbage
containers in Paris got clear plastic bags.
Christian Yde Frostholm (poet, web
designer and a central person in the Danish Web project Afsnit
P) was in Paris during that time and was fascinated by the clear
plastic bags with a green glow and the words 'Vigilance PropretÚ'
(in English: cleanliness and attention), that made the garbage a
different part of the street.
The garbage in the transparent bags is visible to the passer bys
and at the same time the words Vigilance and PropretÚ becomes mantras
of the city. CYF spent more than three months this winter walking
around the streets of Paris photographing garbage containers. The
result is 49 close ups of garbage made into a work of art exhibited
at the virtual exhibition space of Afsnit P.
Christian Yde Frostholm
How did you get the idea to photograph garbage containers? "Well,
I was travelling when the terror act happened on September 11th,
so I hadn't been sitting by the TV experiencing it all. And then
I came to Paris and saw the new garbage containers, and it's an
amazing thing. They are beautiful! They are standing there gleaming.
And then there is those very uncanny words. Imagine if throughout
Copenhagen it said 'cleanliness'. At the same time all the stuff
that is supposed to be hidden all of a sudden becomes very visible.
There was someone that saw one of the photos with a can of beer
on it and said that you almost felt like picking it up and drinking
it. All the stuff that has been thrown out becomes consumer items
Detail from Vigilance PropretÚ.
The photos are very similar. They all have a clear blue-green glow
and there is garbage in each and every one of them. They are structured
in 6 ways. On one page you find all 49 arranged in a grid. Another
page has all the photos with text that seems very poetic and in
a third all the photos without text looking like little abstract
paintings. You can zoom in on each photo and when you do you get
information about when (date and time of day) the photo was taken.
There is also a selection of photos that is not part of the 49 close
ups, but is instead taken from a further distance, so you can see
the whole garbage container. CYF calls it "a few darlings" and continues:
"Maybe they should have been killed (laughter) but that is the kind
of stuff you get to keep when you do solo project!"
The photos look a like just like two feathers or two drops of
water. They appear to be the same but are fundamentally different.
They are different garbage containers located different places and
holding different garbage. When you see them together they look
like an ornament....
"They are not the same. I could have sat down at a cafÚ and photographed
the same garbage containers again and again, but my method is walking
around the city. That it is a series is important, it clearly holds
a resemblance to people photographing water towers etc., where each
photo in it self is not art, but the series makes it art. The photos
are only interesting together. The series creates new connections,
i.e. in the version with all the photos with text on them. When
you read the fragments of vigilance and propretÚ on the bags it
almost becomes lyrical. It almost turns into a poem."
And that is what you do? (CYF has published a number of poetry
books ed.) "Yes it is!"
Detail from Vigilance PropretÚ - almost poetry.
When you zoom in on the photos you get the date and the time when
it was taken. It would have been interesting also to know where
it was taken, and CYF says he could have put that information down
as well. He states "Garbage reveals a lot" and points out from the
print of the grid I brought with me, the photo from the colorful
and multi ethnic Belleville, where CYF stayed during his months
in Paris (Belleville is the part of Paris probably a lot of us remember
from visiting the grave of Jim Morrison at the Pere Lachaise-cemetery).
The photo shows garbage containing nerve medication packaging, champagne
corks and Chinese soups.
The photo from Belleville, taken on December 8th
2001 at 3.37. pm. Find the champagne cork!
The Internet's second wave: You don't have to
just because you can.
Vigilance PropretÚ is not a very extensive work of art. It is quite
easy to find your way around it, which is refreshing in a time where
the Internet is loaded with lots of huge digital artworks, where
the user gets lost in all the hyper linked levels. Vigilance PropretÚ
consists of only 7 pages (6 with photos and one with text). Furthermore
you can click on each photo, but essentially it is easy to comprehend.
"Obviously I had a little more than 49 photos to begin with (laughter).
But I had a lot of time to do this project, so it has all become
very organized. I have done very extensive things before, where
everything was linked in weird ways and where people got very confused
and got lost on the site. You don't get lost in this one."
Is it also because time is changing? Because we are past the
euphoria of the possibilities on the Internet and thus feel that
we no longer have to do something just because we can?
"I think we are moving into what you could call the 'second wave'
of the Internet. We are a bit tired of things being able to do stuff
just to be able to do stuff. I think Vigilance PropretÚ is a very
clean, pure and simple project, and I like that."
My definition of net.art is works using the technology as part
of the work and where the work in no way can be exhibited as tangible
art. There are clear examples such as when the National Gallery
put paintings online, but with a work like Vigilance PropretÚ I
can't quite use my definition because the photographs could be exhibited
as tangible art. What do you think - is Vigilance PropretÚ net.art?
"Only to some extend. But then again. I think, the navigation is
used in a creative way. And then there is the virtuality, the fact
that you can have a number of exhibitions in one - that makes it
net.art. But at Afsnit P we have definitely done things that are
way more net.art-like."
Why did you choose a virtual exhibition space and not a physical?
"That is mainly the fact that I could make versions. And the photographs
are all taken with a digital camera so there were born digital,
so to speak. And then there is the very gleamy green color - it
just shows up so well on the computer screen.
I considered if you artificially made the photos green after
they were taken.
"No no, it is real."
CYF is not the only
one photographing garbage. Alexandra Martini has photographed
garbage containers throughout the World and published the photos
in a book. Click here
to read more.