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Art as a mirror of the soul

Escher in The Palace is proud of its latest acquisition: a mechanical sculpture by Jelle Korevaar. This contemporary artist makes distinctive kinetic installations, striving for an image that merges aesthetic with social criticism. Korevaar’s work, entitled … (Dotdotdot), will be displayed this summer alongside Escher’s print Eye. This famous mezzotint is one of Escher’s reflective masterpieces, in which you see a skull reflected in the pupil of an eye. A mechanical skull is also central to Korevaar’s work, one that continuously weeps thick tears of oil. In … (Dotdotdot) Korevaar plays with the same themes as Escher’s Eye, such as death, eternity, introspection and reflection.

… (Dotdotdot) is an infinitely continuous movement: the skull cries incessantly. This infinite movement is another theme that fascinated M.C. Escher, as is evident from prints such as Reptiles, Cycle and Möbius Strip. In Escher’s two-dimensional world on paper, it is difficult to evoke the suggestion of movement. However, there is one print in which he does succeed in doing so: Waterfall. In it, he depicts water that seems to flow endlessly. If you set that infinitely flowing water alongside Korevaar’s sculpture, you see two examples of perpetual motion. Imaginary devices that can remain in motion indefinitely and through that movement can potentially also generate energy. In other words, they are imaginary and impossible in reality. Escher does this by showing the eternal movement on paper, thus creating eternity in the mind of the viewer. In Korevaar’s artwork, the work is able to continue indefinitely thanks to the inbuilt energy source and the infinitely turning wheels; the optical illusion of Escher’s perpetuum mobile is a reality in Korevaar’s skull.

M.C. Escher, Reptiles, lithograph, March 1943
M.C. Escher, Waterfall, lithograph, October 1961

With both artists, the viewers see the work, but they are also presented with their own mortality. What does it mean to be human, is there a soul and when does a human life end? These are general themes that touch everyone, but for the artist there is also a personal element.

… (Dotdotdot) came about after a friend of Korevaar contracted cancer. His own speechlessness led to the title of this work. In it, the vulnerable human and the invulnerable machine converge. … (Dotdotdot) also poses questions about the humanity of robots, our dependence on fossil fuels, humankind as creator and autonomy versus heteronomy. Do you take your fate into your own hands or do you place it in someone else’s? Korevaar’s moving objects are mechanical, but nevertheless evoke all kinds of emotions. They are beings that you can make contact with, as exponents of a new world in which man and machine come together. In the case of both Korevaar and Escher, art holds up a mirror to us.

… (Dotdotdot) can be seen this summer as part of the exhibition Playing with Mirrors from 14 June to 4 September.