Saskia Olde Wolbers: Placebo

Art Artwork from United Kingdom. Published by anonymous on Wednesday 21 May 2014.

 Saskia Olde Wolbers: Placebo image  Saskia Olde Wolbers: Placebo image

Year: 2002

Saskia Olde Wolbers has a taste for stories where the characters become victims of their own imagination, lost in the hazy space between dream and reality. She gathers these anecdotal slices from newspapers, TV documentaries, dinner party conversations and rumor, attracted by the protagonists who live out their fantasies no matter how outlandish they might be.

Here I am …
Lying next to my lover Jean, in intensive care.

Slipping in and out of consciousness in shifts.
Life slowly dripping out of us …

These are the first lines of Saskia Olde Wolbers’s video work Placebo, softly articulated by a voice intensified by an unfamiliar setting, devoid of human existence and dripping with a feeling of more to come. A bed, a lamp, a ceiling are seeped in a liquid fantasy world where tragedy is a beautiful and valuable state of mind. Placebo whisks us away into a personal melodrama beyond imagination, illusory reality leading us through an affective muddle. A woman confined to a hospital bed recounts an affair and the artifice of a man who inexplicably, unconsciously needed to be an other – a doctor, a husband, an adulterer, a caregiver. Reflecting on the deception, the woman extracts the loose threads of his flimsy story, amazed by her complicity in the sham, yet gentle in her self-reprimand. Both wanted to believe, needed to believe the conditions of their love, but both knew it was only a matter of time. For the man, the only way out was a suicidal and murderous end, taking his accomplice with him, feeling that the living annihilation of his entire identity would be worse. As the revelations persist, shrouded in the materiality of what is unseen, we are struck by the feeling that in this moment, we are privy to something beyond intimate – emotion incarnate.

Olde Wolbers’ inspirational obsession with the self-destructive side of human nature and her uncanny ability to come dangerously close to the core of the self, implores us to join her in a passage through exquisite emotional turbulence. Her constructed worlds of intense visual fairytales coupled with her understanding of the fragility of the human condition result in a freefall to a place that is most often denied. In just a few minutes, Olde Wolbers facilitates stunning revelations, both in the lives of her characters and in the sensory landscape of her viewers.

Interloper extends the shock of realization, the lover returning to the site of his heart-wrenching ruins. Out of body, he stares at the emotional remains of his lover, quick to slip out of the present and back into his own world of fabricated instances. I am beginning to fear that part of me has become fiction , he proclaims. Tunnels and tubes, abstract images seeped in the intangible are suspended softly, free of gravity, intensifying the disavowal of whatever it is he is eluding.

His narrative collides with our craving for order, becoming more horrific in detail, ending in the birth of a child created out of the lovers’ need for each other. Time, and any conception thereof, has completely disappeared, a six minute piece endless and raw, sucking us in for more. Olde Wolbers manages to keep us hanging on every breath and every whisper of disaster. While specific in the events, the feelings are not remotely foreign. The man and his lover do not escape the real, perhaps it is that which disturbs but also that which keeps us languid in front of this imagery. Our own lingering fantasies and delicate needs seem to have found an eloquent interpreter here, making it difficult to pull away, anxious to hold on to every last, tattered piece of this enchanted devastation.

there is a woman lying in a bed on the other side of the curtain I hadn’t noticed before.
She speaks to me softly, her eyes resting on a spot exactly between my two selves …

… as if there lies the truth.

She is awkwardly holding a pair of surgical scissors to her chest …
and I hover closer hoping that she can cut the silver cord …
that will separate me from my confused self.

Notes: Placebo as well as Interloper are based on the amazing life of a Frenchman who carried out the fraud of being a doctor with the World Health Organization in Geneva for 18 years, while in reality he spent days on end in highway restaurants and airport hotels, reading travel guides on the countries he pretended to visit. From Patricia Ellis , Now That Part Of Me Has Become Fiction (catalogue for the exhibition of Saskia Olde Wolbers at Het Domein, Sittard (NED) and Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (SUI). Artimo: 2003).

To illustrate her narrative stories, Saskia Olde Wolbers (the Netherlands, 1971) combines an attention to the architecture of imagination with a particular ability to visualize emotional turbulence . After being awarded the Prix de Rome Film & Video Basis Award ( Amsterdam, NED, 2002), the Charlotte Kohler Award (NED, 2002) and the Baloise Prize Art Basel (SUI, 2003), she was recently honored with the Beck’s Future Prize ( London, GBR, 2004). Her work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (NED, 2000), Gallery Tydehalle ( Helsinki, FIN, 2002), SMAK in Gent (BEL, 2003), Art Basel (SUI, 2003), Tate Britain ( London, GBR, 2003), Museum Het Domein, Sittard (NED, 2003) and Kunsthalle St. Gallen (SUI, 2003), in addition to which she has participated in numerous group exhibitions worldwide. Saskia Olde Wolbers lives and works in London, Great Britain.

DVD, video projection on 350 × 262 × 30 cm box, 6 min. loop, stereo sound, seats.
Voice-over: Sukie Smith