For nine years now, our traveling art studio has been roaming around Friesland. Once an old mobile grocery store (SRV-wagen), now a transformed fire truck. Along the way, artists sitting behind the wheel create new artworks inspired by the local surroundings and encounters with residents. This autumn, artists will hit the road again, presenting VHDG: Contemporary Glory, featuring Charlien Adriaenssens and Louis van der Waal. In October, this remarkable duo will travel through Friesland for three weeks to create a unique video artwork about monsters, demons, and other frightening images.
Taking the story of Frankenstein as their starting point for their exploration of Friesland, Contemporary Glory delves into Mary Shelley’s early science fiction classic, written in 1818. With numerous adaptations into plays, films, and series, Frankenstein has become an icon in Western popular culture. Everyone is familiar with the image of the monster created from stitched-together body parts, brought to life by lightning. The artist duo uses the original text as a launching point for their film, adopting the perspective of the monster and its quest for connection.
Frankenstein was written in the twilight of the European Enlightenment and the beginning of the Romantic era. In the creator of the monster, Victor Frankenstein, and his ambitions and creation, we see the influences of both intellectual movements. On one hand, Frankenstein is a tale of an ambitious scientist who believes he can unlock the mysteries of life and death, seeking to control nature with human intelligence. However, shortly after he turns something dead into something alive and awakens the monster, Frankenstein is confronted with the uncontrollable consequences of his creation and the (natural) violence it has caused.
Mary Shelley was influenced by the Enlightenment ideas about education put forth by philosopher Rousseau: Humans are born good but made evil. If society treats you poorly, you will eventually act poorly. The monster is abandoned after its creation and hunted by society. The monster experiences hate and loneliness, and in its personal crisis, it becomes violent towards anything that rejects it. Both the monster and its creator are tormented by emotions of guilt, regret, and loneliness during their lives, ultimately succumbing to these emotions.
During their journey through Friesland, Contemporary Glory will breathe new life into the story of Frankenstein, drawing inspiration from contemporary monsters of Friesland. What are the fears and nightmares of the inhabitants of Friesland, and who are their creators? The story of the monster also prompts us to discover and question the monsters within ourselves. The themes of Frankenstein initiate conversations about personal identity, the Other, and society. How do people in Friesland relate to the larger society as a whole? What does it mean to be Frisian, and who and what belongs or doesn’t belong? How are Frisians perceived by outsiders? Through these monsters and frightful images, the artists make visible the formation and blending of identities in Friesland. Ultimately, in the film, we dive into the province together with CG, exploring the idea that we are all creators and monsters in a humorous and visually rich manner.
In addition to Louis and Charlien, the fire truck also accommodates a toddler and a baby. As a traveling art troupe, they embark on a tour with the fire truck, creating costumes, masks, and sets together with the locals at each location and performing a scene. Just like the monster is composed of different body parts, they travel in a large arc around the province, gathering impressions, conversations, encounters, collaborations, characters, and fragments of stories. This July, while driving along an imaginary path following the Golden Ratio that cuts through Friesland, they will begin working on the script. In October, they will execute the plan, capturing all those different parts of the “monster” as a living Gesamtkunstwerk on film. Later, a festive premiere will take place in Leeuwarden.
When artist Jean Cocteau was asked which object he would save if his house were on fire, he replied: the fire! Contemporary Glory brings the fire in the form of art and theater. For all the wild enthusiasts, hidden talents, village divas, garage musicians, shyly curious individuals, and so on—CG travels from village to village, creating a piece of a larger whole everywhere they go. Stay updated on ‘Frankenstein in Friesland’ through the website. If you’d like to get in touch with the artists, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Nelle van Schoor