Constant Escapement

Fries Museum, curated by Eelco van der Lingen

Constant Escapement is a concept in watch making. It is also the title of Lennart Lahuis's first solo exhibition in a museum, which is devoted to the passage of time, transience and erosion. Lahuis uses a wide variety of materials and techniques that balance contemporary texts and images between appearance and disappearance, integration and decay.

For example, a depiction of a clockwork is manipulated until it is disintegrated: its image eventually dissolves, like time itself. A text on the floor describes a river’s changeability. The words are written with water that evaporates. The combination between material, technique and representation reflect the content of the work.

The exhibition concludes with recent work in which Lahuis explores Europe as a concept. Weather maps and impressions made by an animation artist of a land ridge that once connected us geologically with the United Kingdom were burnt and then preserved. They allude to the tension between integration and disintegration and take the elements, such as water, land and fire as a lens to look at political concepts and their consequences.

Fries Museum

Installation view Constant Escapement

Saying Water is the title of a text written by Roni Horn and has been performed as an audio piece only, it has never been published. Three excerpts of this text are reproduced in water and evaporate throughout the day. This transformation allows for the text to be read, but respects the temporality of an oral performance or audio piece in the same time. The words disappear into the air as they would have when spoken.

Personal annotation

Wet Scene Study No. VIII Saying Water [Roni Horn], Three Excerpts, detail
Wet Scene Study No. VIII Saying Water [Roni Horn], Three Excerpts. 2018-2019.
Water on cast epoxy floor. Approximately 450 x 400 cm
Fluid Skin. 2015. C-print on wood, wax and paper on glass. 70 x 60 cm

In 2015 Lahuis was awarded the Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst (the Dutch Royal Award for Contemporary Painting). He was awarded this prize for a number of works that showed different kinds of ‘stand-in’ imagery from picture frames, glooming behind a thick layer of beeswax on paper. The depictions were conceptually related to the idea of representation; an image of a parrot that functioned as a colour test, an image showing the metric size of a passe-partout, generalised skylines or famous people from another era, etc. But above all the images were subtly shimmering out there in the distance, from behind the wax. 

For his most recent series Lahuis incorporated a technique normally used to stabilise pages from burned books. This is a method that intends to slow down the transient nature of the damaged material, whereas Lahuis’ work is normally all about the very temporary nature of materials. 

The volatile and temporary character of the work make it seem like it wants to constantly escape our reality. Even though the wax is hard and solid and even though the burned images are stabilised, it still feels like the work constantly wants to evade time, as if all it wants to do is amalgamate back into nothing as soon as possible. One might even argue it wants to remove itself from the artist.

Eelco van der Lingen A fleeting everlasting monument for a moment that has yet to become history-defining

Installation view
Installation view
Installation view

In 2016 an article was published that described a restoration technique for centuries old, burned paper. This technique was developed by the Anna Amalia library in Weimar, Germany after it was struck by a large fire in 2004 that had destroyed a large part of their collection of unique books and hand written sheet music. After the fire an international team of experts, as well as volunteers, worked together to save as much as they could from these (partially) destroyed books.

This series of works applies this specific restoration technique for centuries old paper to contemporary images. These images show a variety of histories related to erosion and the tension between integration and disintegration.

Personal annotation

Two-Stage Opening of the Dover-Strait and the origin of Island Britain [Chase Stone], detail. 2018.
Burned silkscreen print and Kozo Whisper Tissue on handmade cotton fiber paper. 235x114cm
Installation view
Installation view

The region of Friesland ( in north-west NL) is famous for its history of timekeeping and astronomy. The Eise Eisinga Planetarium is the most famous example in that tradition.

The work in this exhibition with the title Mechanismus IX [Midnight Planetarium] pays tribute to that history. It consists of sunlight shining through semi-transparent window foil. The images that are applied on the window depict different parts of a watch that has been produced by the most well known Dutch watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw, whose studio is based in the same region as the museum and the Eise Eisinga planetarium and whose studio is faced in the same direction as the view from the exhibition spaces. In this work the sunlight shining through the foil turns images of their time keeping devices, into sundials. Through this gesture representation and real time meet.

Personal annotation

Mechanismus IX [Midnight Planetarium], detail. 2018.
Sunlight through and C-print on transparent film. Dimensions Variable
Mechanismus IX [Midnight Planetarium], detail. 2018.
Sunlight through and C-print on transparent film. Dimensions Variable
Mechanismus IX [Midnight Planetarium]. 2018-2019
Sunlight through and C-print on transparent film. Dimensions changed over time
Mechanismus IX [Midnight Planetarium], detail. 2018.
Sunlight through and C-print on transparent film. Dimensions changed over time
Installation view

This fleeting quality of his work can be traced back to the exhibition of ‘Airspeakers’ at his final presentation at De Ateliers in Amsterdam in 2013, an installation with transparent cone bags filled with Listerine. Visitors were met with the fresh but sickly scent of slowly evaporating mouthwash. Towards the conical tops of the bags the mass of coloured mouthwash gradually diminished and a gradient appeared from a deep Listerine-colour at the bottom to a transparent liquid at the top. The Listerine not only evaporated, but it also disappeared into nothing visually. 

Eelco van der Lingen A fleeting everlasting monument for a moment that has yet to become history-defining

Air Speaker I, detail. 2013/2018.
Listerine in custom made container. 122 x 22 x 7 cm
Installation view
Installation view
Installation view
70 x 100. 2015
C-print on wood, wax and paper on glass. 100 x 70 cm
Mechanismus VII [57 Complications]. 2016.
Pulped color laser prints on wall. 220 x 220 cm

‘Mechanismus V’ consists of a wall filled with pulped laser prints through which the original image of the clockwork can be faintly made out, like some distant memory, rendering it more personal and fleeting rather than monumental and overwhelming.

Eelco van der Lingen A fleeting everlasting monument for a moment that has yet to become history-defining

Mechanismus VII [57 Complications], detail