GALLERIA SKIN Arte Contemporanea

Installation: ‘No Photo, fragments of agony / agitation’ by Robin Kolleman


Noli me tangere















Robin Kolleman, 2011


Vert. Guus Vreeburg



Robin Kolleman’s spatial installation ‘No Photo, fragments of agony / agitation’ 1(2010-2011) that she is now presenting in Galleria SKIN Arte Contemporanea, challenges, provokes and seduces the visitors.

At first glance, the installation presents itself as an ‘installation in space’, occupying part of the space of the Galleria, filling it with a well-defined yet fragile volume made up of separate white objects, rather small in size, that seem to hover in the air in vertical ‘columns’, and collectively creating a transparent yet more or less solid mass.

Upon closer inspection, all these objects appear to be made out of medical gauze, normally used to dress wounds and injuries, but here sculpted, kneaded and molded – much like a sculptor would do using clay – into more or less solid objects. These evoke various parts of the human body: a hand, a spine built out of individual vertebrae, intestines, a brain, lips, a heart, etcetera – all of a sudden, the installation seems to transform into an ‘exploded view’ of a body, a human body, right before your eyes…

In other cases, the experience of body parts hovering directly in front of you might be quite disturbing, even frightening and appalling, yet in this particular case visitors might be attracted to these objects and find them even appealing: these objects are not ‘real’ fragments of the human body, plastinated or otherwise; they are not even photographically ‘precise’ or realistic representations; they don’t even resemble the crude ‘life-likeness’ of ‘ex votos’, offered to saints and gods to ask for their help in healing injuries and illnesses… Kolleman’s body parts are merely suggestive and evocative in their shapes and ‘skins’, made up as they are out of gauze…

Maybe you don’t find them ‘revolting’, but rather vulnerable and pitiable, and entitled to our sympathy and compassion – in stead of ‘not wanting to touch’ them, keeping away from the horror, visitors may want to stay close, be supportive, comfort and even touch these fragments of body – of óur bodies… we might even remember the feel and softness of the delicate yet firm gauze fabric from moments it was applied to our own body, when it was bruised or wounded… we may re-feel how, after the cold and brutal agony of pain, the dressing-of-the-wound provided warmth and comfort, the solace of ‘being taken care of’…

Ooooooh, that touch, forbidden to us as experienced visitors to museums and galleries, fully aware that normally the artworks on display there are ‘for our eyes only’: we know that we should just look at them, never touch them… however close one moves one’s eye to inspect a work, that always keeps at a distance, ‘outside’ it… Kolleman’s installation, however, provokes us, tempts us, even seduces us to ‘touch’, to not just ‘feel-with-eyes-only’ these soft fabrics, loose threads sticking out of them: you might want to really touch and feel – would you dare? is anybody watching you?

When you do ‘reach out and touch’ the objects, you may experience your hand penetrating the outlines and confines of the installation; before you even know it, you yourself find yourself bodily ‘entering’ the installation – you are now inside it, inside that maze of hovering objects gently moving upon the touch of your body carefully passing through them, past them (are you aware of their soft touch upon your own body?) – it is now inside this ‘human body’… To other visitors, watching from the ‘outside’, your body and Kolleman’s ‘body’ might seem to merge…


Robin Kolleman

From the beginning of her career as a visual artist, Robin Kolleman (1960; the Netherlands) has been fascinated by ‘closeness’ and ‘distance’, by ‘reaching out’ yet ‘never touching’, by places in space or moments in time that are precisely defined yet impossible to get to. Titles of early installational works include “L'asteroide B 612” (1988) / "The shadow of the moon. A situation” (1988), “East of the sun, West of the moon” (1989) and “When Easter and Pentecost coincide” (1988).

"Within my work I touch upon the possibilities of the perception of space. Always there is the confrontation of two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. The results of this confrontation vary between infinity within the space for the artworks and infinity within the space of the work itself. This infinity ensures that the space and place taken by the spectator remains undefined. This theme: ‘the undefined definition of space and place’ is the essential to my work. Points of departure to embark on new works I often find in language, sometimes in poetry, sometimes in prose, and sometimes even in a single word. These, however, just remain what they are: starting points. Alongside my spatial ambitions, the ‘language of words’ is transformed into a ‘language of imagery’.

Robin Kolleman, 1989


In recent years, Kolleman has redirected this fascination from large scale and distant ‘places’ and ‘times’ into a very much more intimate range – that of the human body, including her own body, and of the presence it takes up in space, in social space. She has been focussing her attention upon ‘closeness’ and ‘isolation’, upon ‘touching’ and contacts, and upon the (im-)possibilities or even (in-)desirabilities thereof. Thus, Kolleman manages to redefine these issues, which originally she researched on a plane and scale where they have abstract philosophical or artistic meaning only; she now shifts them into a level where they have very acute social impact, given trends and tendencies within contemporary society, in which issues regarding physical ánd digital contacts – the nature, status, and protection and privacy thereof – are becoming more and more questionable.

“I explore the (border-)area of social acceptance within the physical social contacts, the area in between closeness and vulnerability, in between violence and innocence. I examine forms of contact between bodies, my very own body, bodies of others, and bodies of animals, or even materials.

Central to this research are the various forms and phases of contact, such as sight, touch and degradation.

How can my place or your place be defined, what is distance, and what is our relationship with the physical environment.

And how, in its turn, can it be caused / determined / disturbed / managed / damaged or averted.


Every stroke has a sexual feel”

Robin Kolleman, 2011


Kolleman’s discovery of common medical gauze as a working material might be symbolic for this shift of attention. Using hundreds and thousands of rolls of this fabric, normally just to be found within the doctor’s office, hospital emergency rooms or First Aid kits, Kolleman, exploring and exploiting both the physical and psychological qualities of this rather non-artistic material, moulds and kneads these humble two-dimensional textiles into solid-yet-precious three-dimensional shapes that have great visual and emotional impact, that evoke our imagination and that seduce to contact.


© Guus Vreeburg / Het OOG, Rotterdam/NL; 110917