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Nicole O'Niel

In conversation with
Maaike Gouwenberg

As part of the exhibition: By Daylight
This took place before the opening on 26/04/2013

The artists invited to realize a project at 1646 are asked to engage in conversation with a correspondent via email or DM, be it someone previously unknown to them or whom they’re already familiar with.

This conversation spans the period before an exhibition is completed. 1646 invites the correspondent at the other end of this exchange to ask questions so they may be guided through the artist’s decision-making process and how their initial ideas develop toward completion. It provides insight into the artist’s body of work and is intended to paint a picture of the otherwise untraceable choices that constitute the artist’s practice.

APR 1: Nicole O’Niel [NO] – Maaike Gouwenberg [MG]

Dear Maaike,

I would like to take this opportunity to fill you in about my preparations for the show at 1646.

The idea for the exhibition is based around the question: ’emotion  exists, why?’ Should this be simply ascertained or is there more significance. My intention is to appeal to the intuitive understanding of the observer. The works are reflections, or documents – however you want to interpret it – from research to the source of the  psyche. In this I focus on emotion as purely a transcendental phenomenon and I attempt to capture and accentuate the latent understanding of human reality. Regardless of how incomprehensible this  understanding might be.

In order to give myself more insight into this phenomenon, I study  emotion and behaviour through observation and experience. Emotion  and ’the situation’ is a self-contained fact which never allows an  understanding of anything but itself. I personally believe that it  can therefore never be fully explained. It is exactly this magic or  confusion – or whatever you might call it – that I would like to bring  into the light of day as a kind of ‘Ding an Sich’.

The ambivalent title ‘By Daylight’ refers to a feeling. Disappointment,  the confrontational economic forecast, an end to atmospheric candle light. The feeling you get when the illusion has vanished and  the curiosity is gone. It refers to the awakening and the subsequent, inevitable daily duty within which the longing for a state  of sleep is concealed.

The exhibition consists mainly of video work, both fiction and  real. I choose for a sober and relatively formal form and use of  space which, from my background, can be interpreted as a form of  aggression.

The distinct individuality of the works convey an emotional consciousness as the consciousness of the world. An example of such is,  for instance, fear. When we are afraid, we are afraid of something.  This means for the world we perceive. In that sense I don’t interpret  emotion as coincidence. It is a means for consciousness to exist,  a means through which its ’existence in the world’ is understood.


APR 3: MG – NO

Hello Nicole

Before leaving the house this afternoon I started writing you an  email. Now I open my laptop and your email addressed to me appears at the top of my inbox.Do you think this is due to telepathy? Or is it just  a matter of timing within our schedules – or maybe  prompted by Nico – so that the magic of a coincidental  moment of telepathy is instantly debunked.

My initial questions to you were uncomplicated. I wanted to know about your idea for 1646 and how you were  thinking to present your work. I was particularly interested in what you might do with the possibility offered  by 1646 to adapt the space so that the work would be  presented in an optimal and challenging way. Thank you  for your explanation of this. Your description is quite  cryptic in places and I believe it to be an excellent departure point for a conversation.

Emotion and sensation and the investigation of the  source of the psychic are challenging themes. Courageous  of you to attempt it.

You write that an emotion which belongs to a specific  situation is a self-contained fact which never allows an  understanding of anything but itself. For the exhibition you intend to create a ’Ding an Sich’ of the magic  of the confusion which lies within this. Could you tell  me a little more about how you might capture this confusion or magic and secure it in a ’Ding an Sich’ and  how you intend to involve the intuitive understanding  of the viewer.

What does the intuitive in relation to emotion and sensation mean to you. All are intangible situations, they  are speculative.

I can almost imagine a situation where the spectator’s  personal emotions are immediately addressed. An almost  physical confrontation between the work and the viewer, between your orchestration and the reaction of the  public. Is it this directness which is important to you  or is it your goal to comment – through the work and the  specific way of exhibiting – on what you consider to be  the magic and the confusing.

I hope to mail you more questions soon

Greetings, Maaike


It was my intention to send this mail on April 1st which  might explain this strange beginning ;-)


Hi Maaike,

How amusing… telepathy? Nico? Let’s leave it up in the air. Psychic occurrences are indeed challenging themes. As  we know, science doesn’t have adequate tools to investigate these occurrences. Which is the reason that research into the human being is so different to other investigations. It doesn’t allow itself to be studied with  one or other ’Traumdeutungs tabel.’

When you discover the boundaries of language, you increasingly believe in concepts, emotions, behaviour –  without subtitles. This also happens to be the manner in  which I am motivated and inspired. ’Art’ offers me the  space to play with this. Unexpected, novel enhancements  of ’knowledge’ concerning the psychic surface in and 

through the work.

To answer your question on how I try to capture the magic, it’s not something I actively pursue. By referring to  something different and not isolating or embedding the  phenomenon, I approach that which intrigues me. It simultaneously does and does not arise from a specific composition of manifestations. As the transcendental consciousness/ factor forms a common thread in the work,  I attempt to clarify this transcendental type of consciousness in a ’Ding an Sich.’ In this I don’t want to be  too tied down to concepts and try to be careful with the  words I use.

I mostly direct myself to the individual in the situation  or onto themselves. We live in a time when we hardly dare  and are hardly able to be alone. We are being entertained  everywhere. This is why we fail to learn to be alone and  it is the reason we underestimate the reserves of our in

ner strength. This is exactly what fascinates and, simultaneously, distresses me. It is especially the psychological and mostly nonverbal situations which I create in my  work that lead to a longing of the intuitive understanding of the spectator. I believe that intuition – just like  emotion – can tell us about ourselves and creates a tangibility of ’human reality.’

It is intuitively that we understand the meaning of something, as if it imposes itself in a direct abstract manner  and penetrates us. By calling on the viewer’s ’intuitive  understanding’ I long for a specific communicative in dependent stand in relation to the work and subsequently  an abstract understanding of the essence which act within the hidden/transcendental field.

I hope I have answered the question concerning the importance of directness in my work. I am in fact particularly fascinated by the directness of music as the most  abstract art form (and in my opinion the highest.) I have  the tendency to compare my work with compositions as  rhythm and repetition are important factors in it. The  directness is definitely important, together with a certain layering and meaning in the work.

I will choose a sober, formal form for the presentation  in 1646. This might be interpreted as a violent simplification of the lively or dynamic. I view the desire to  systemize as a form of aggression expressed (neurotical ly) in precision.

I will hear from you :-)

APR 12: MG – NO

Hello Nicole,

Time flies. Maybe because I am attempting to get to  know New Orleans by surrendering myself to what is happening in the city at the moment. This means I am spending a great deal of time with artists and cultural producers without directly seeking results or filling my  schedule. The Big easy (as this musically rich city is  called) takes its time and because everyone appears to  have time, it eats time. Efficiency appears temporarily less important.

To return to the various ways you try to capture magic. Could you use an example from the coming exhibition of a ’Ding an Sich’ and how the transcendental threads  through your work. Do you think that the essence of that  which you seek emerges by referring to something different and could you share your thoughts behind this  with us the reader/ viewer?

I find it fascinating how you strive to allow the viewer  to trust their own intuition and understanding. Do you  want to know whether this works for the viewer, for instance when you are at the exhibition and see the spectator looking at the work? This question arises from  your apparent desire to involve the viewer by making a

direct claim on their manner of interpretation.

The work almost becomes a research tool to capture the emotion

of the viewer.

You write that you find music an important source of

inspiration, especially the composition and abstraction of music. Can you tell me a little more about which composers or musical pieces intrigue you and might influence you in structure, rhythm or repetition? Could you see music as a choreography of tones and subsequently could you see the rhythm and repetition in your work as a choreography. Both are equally abstract or non-abstract and are systems which, through its medium (sound, movement, an object,) convey emotion of the idea which is between the idea and the spectator.

To return to what you wrote in your first e-mail:

The ambivalent title ’By Daylight’ refers to a feeling.

Disappointment, the confrontational economic forecast,

an end to atmospheric candle light. The feeling you

get when the illusion has vanished and the curiosity is gone. It refers to the awakening and the subsequent, inevitable daily duty within which the longing

for a state of sleep is concealed. It appears from this

description that, with your work, you intend to hold a

mirror up to the spectator. Is that mirror a result of

the directness of your work and its formal presentation

or is it due to the chosen subject matter? I wouldn’t

want you to explain too much however, I believe it might

also be interesting to revisit your work after reading more about your ideas. The double meaning behind the title – the loss of the illusion and also freshness/

clarity of awakening – fascinates me.

I return to the Big easy where illusion and reality are

often impossible to distinguish.

Greetings Maaike

APR 20: MG – NO

Hello Nicole

How is it going with the exhibition at 1646?

Recently I have spent a lot of time thinking about space

because I took the car through Alabama and Mississippi

and suddenly found myself driving through the same

streets as in the Fall of 2010. Except now it is Spring

and the streets give a completely different sensation.

The heavy sultry heat of October has yet to arrive. I

thought back on my 1646 exhibition in 2011 and how inspiring it was to work in the space and have the possibility to form ideas and work which have come from a

very different space.

How do your ideas develop now that you are working in

the space? What happens during your conversations with

the people at 1646? Does a detailed knowledge of the

space influence your decisions?

APR 22: NO – MG

It’s nice that you are enjoying yourself and that you had

your flashback. At the moment we are building the exhibition. It is always interesting to see how a work can change in a different space. As I have many video works

it is important to find a balance in which everything has

a voice and nothing obstructs anything else. The people

at 1646 have good ideas and their knowledge of the space

is essential in a practical sense.

To answer some of your questions. Music (and sound) are

indeed an important aspect of my work. I am often an-

noyed how indifferently it is used in, for instance, video art. I feel it serves to compensate for flaws or the fear to not be entertaining enough. Generally speaking

I refrain from using music unless it has a specific goal.

In situations we are accompanied by the original sound

and I don’t want to manipulate or idealize this realistic fact/feeling. The problem with music at the moment is that there is too much good and too much bad music. We are

being inundated and confronted by music everywhere. In fact, we are being forced to listen to music and can hardly get away from it: every shopping street, each apartment… people are being swamped and stuffed with music on a daily basis to the extent that they have lost a feeling for it. This means that listening to music has become a

mundane habit supported by the music industry.’

Repetition, rhythm and structure are – just as in music – inseparable phenomena. I can’t really explain how I adapt them as each work is different and dictated by dif-

ferent laws. I do however generally believe that repetition allows for a change in certain possibilities and intentions (this is also true for sounds and structures.)

It could, as you said, be connected to choreography. In

any case, I believe all art forms are connected. Just as

a tone can evoke a colour, sounds can be associated with

colours or feeling etc.

To deal with your questions:

’… you want to know whether this works with the viewer,

for instance when you are at the exhibition and see the

spectator looking at the work. This question arises from

your apparent desire to involve the viewer by making a

direct claim on their manner of interpretation. The work

almost becomes a research tool to capture the emotion

of the viewer.’ It is not my intention to read the emotions of the viewer when they see a specific work, I am not interested in this. In any case this superficial expression says little about the actual genuine feeling the viewer might have.

’It appears from this description that, with your work,

you intend to hold a mirror up to the spectator.’ It is

true that I want to confront the viewer. This mirror is

dependent on varying factors and differs with each work.

The choice of subject matter is important in this.

Greetings and enjoy yourself there!”



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