Four years after I first learned of the Nova Zembla prints, my exhibition has opened at the Rijksmuseum.
The installation of the show involved working with a large team from the museum. As the exhibitions there need to be installed when the public is not present, we started at 6.00 in the evening – and finished at 4.00 the next morning!
The process was a complex one. The exhibition includes works demanding very different lighting conditions. This was a huge challenge, especially as the lights are positioned at a great height above the gallery. Lighting a combination of the delicately gilded pages of small-scale vellum bound works, backlit “watermark” drawings in light boxes, pinpricked drawings in tarnished silver and a video piece, together with the distressed books and prints from the Nova Zembla collection, needed very particular skills. Luckily Hans, who was in charge of the lighting, has worked for many years on opera productions. At one point I called up to him, “It’s too warm, we need more ice.” Suddenly the whole space was transformed, taking on the cooler temperature that the works require.
Another important aspect of the installation of the works, was the journey that one makes through the space, Two flat glass display cabinets, one containing my twenty five vellum bound works and the other containing the song book and pile of fragments of a nautical map found on Nova Zembla, were placed in order to slow down the route through the gallery The video work in one corner of the space also slows the viewer down – it depicts a journey edging little by little through the frozen icepack. Many of the other works take time to take them in; in part due to the way that the light is reflected off or diffused through the surfaces.
In stark contrast to the slow pace of viewing that is encouraged through the installation and nature of the works, the opening night was filled hundreds of visitors moving through the museum. A wonderful evening that also brought together so many of the people that have been involved in the project. Not only was the event to celebrate my exhibition but also that of a further exhibition of objects from Nova Zembla – which included the clock that had froze during the overwintering months because it was so cold, the letter of farewell left by Willem Barentsz and many of the prints that had been painstakingly reconstructed by Peter Poldervaart. Still more interest in the Nova Zembla story, sprung from the fact that Reinout Oerlemans’ feature film “Nova Zembla” the most expensive and first 3-D film to be made in the Netherlands, had been premiered in Amsterdam two days previously.