White Noise, Giny Vos, 2009
An artwork in public space is different from an artwork in a museum. Encountering an artwork in the streets, you often have to make do with the physical details of the object (and its immediate environment). This may make it difficult to come to an interpretation of the work. In a museum, works are often presented in coherence and wall texts or a catalogue may be supplied for background information. Perhaps it is for the lack of information that public works of art are often met with such aversion. But mystery can also be powerful.
The difference between public space and the museum is something Giny Vos understands very well. For the KPN tower at the Zuidas she made the light artwork White Noise. When night falls, at a height of 120 metres a composition of lights starts flickering. For the design of the light installation Vos looked into the functioning of radio masts. At times, the transmission and reception of signals is interrupted by ‘white noise’- the same noise that fills your television screen when the connection fails. The artwork is a representation of Vos’ imagination of the universe: we see the big bang, meteorites and falling stars. Against the background of this universe signals are being transmitted and received. To illustrate this, every now and then numbers and letter light up: verification codes you are sometimes asked to enter on a computer to prove that you are human and not a robot. White Noisehas many layers of meaning you cannot immediately grasp as you pass by. But for this work that’s not essential, because it functions as an artwork by itself: when you see it twinkling against the dark night sky you will pause automatically to take time to be enchanted.
Most of Vos’s projects are made for public space, and she often works with light. For this commission that was especially a good thing, for non-transparent material would obstruct the mast’s radiation- it would create actual noise. It is quite an ambitious endeavour to make a work at such great heights and without obstructing the mast’s performance. But it suits KPN as a company which in the 1920’s, when it was still state-owned and called PTT, was one of the first Dutch businesses to boost their reputation by means of art, architecture and design. Commissioning an artwork for their mast can be seen as a way to continue that tradition. As such, the nature of the commission is reflected in the final result. The telecommunications tower is now owned by another company. The new owner chose to keep White Noise, but wouldn’t have had to. Artworks in public space are always subject to these kinds of unstable factors.
For the accidental passer-by, White Noisemay simply allow for a moment of wonder or surprise. The work is not a loud and dominant presence. Its high location gives the work a certain subtlety. For people who are familiar with the nature of the commission and with Giny Vos’s oeuvre White Noiseis a pleasant surprise. That is exactly its strength, and the artist’s intention: “A work needs to have layers of meaning, but you should also be able to enjoy it without knowing my story.” White Noiseis a successful example of the way a work of art in public space can serve on many levels the many eyes that can behold it.
White Noise op de officiële website van Giny Vos: http://ginyvos.nl/werken/white-noise