The Amsterdam-based artist couple Driessens&Verstappen, Erwin Driessens (1963 Wessem) and Maria Verstappen (1964 Someren), will soon open their first solo show “Deep Dive” at Young Projects Gallery in West Hollywood, California.
Deep Dive (2016) is an interactive computer program that offers an endless zoom into a digital picture. The image refines itself according to information that is extracted from the image concerned.
The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Mondriaan Fund, which promotes relevant Dutch visual art and heritage in the Netherlands and abroad.
Based in Amsterdam, Erwin Driessens and Maria Verstappen have been working together since 1990. They graduated from the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and the Rijksacademy in Amsterdam and shortly thereafter began a multifaceted practice that touches on sculptural practices, installation works, bio-art, new media and more.
Central to their practice is the exploration of natural systems and how they operate as self-organized environments. Many projects involve never-ending systems of their own; systems that either replicate themselves repeatedly ad infinitum or evolve—almost imperceptibly—over long periods. “We like to create systems that themselves create other things,” say the artists. “It’s meta creation.”
They’ve applied the process of cell division to video imagery, for instance, where a viewer can continually zoom deeper and deeper into the core of the image’s pixels (or bit map) without ever reaching an end point. That idea, as seen in works E-volved Cultures (2005-2011) and Formulae E-volver (2015) is to breed animations by applying artificial genetics and evolutionary techniques. In a continuous feedback loop between man and machine, infinite variations of computer code can evolve from a ‘primordial soup’ of elementary building blocks. “We create an art that is not entirely determined by the subjective choices of a human being,” says the artists, “but instead is generated by processes that operate more or less autonomously… [for us] few things are more satisfying than seeing a process unfold, seeing something that has not been seen before, no longer under our control.”
The artists have used a similar process of artificial genetics and evolutionary techniques to create sculptures as well. Breed (1995-2007) for example, uses a computer program to generate physical objects by incremental multiplication, starting with little more than a single cell. (On the basis of selection and mutation, a code is gradually developed that best fulfills a “fitness” criterion). Similarly, Accretor (2012) is based on accretion of small particles (cubical grains or voxels) to ‘grow’ sculptures that are so highly detailed they surpass any human capability. By executing these works with 3D printing techniques, the process from design to execution is fully automated. Thus, the unique nature of the sculptures, which results from industrial production methods, seems to contradict classical notions that uniqueness can only be achieved by personal style and manual labor. For the artists the process also comments on the ever-increasing consumption of mass produced goods, as opposed to the increasing desire for sustainability and a hyper individual lifestyle.
Given that their work hones so close to nature it uses similar ideas of emergence, complexity, form theory, dynamical systems and chaos. What’s more, it also touches on the subject of the sublime, in particular the sublime’s relationship to the infinite. in many ways, Sam Taylor Coleridge’s remark about the sublime beauty of the circle could easily be used to describe Dreissens & Verstappen’s generative works. “The circle is a beautiful figure in itself,” he wrote. “But it becomes sublime when I contemplate the eternity under that figure.”
Driessens & Verstappen’s work has been exhibited at museums and galleries worldwide, including the Central Museum Utrecht, Netherlands; Cordoaria Nacional, Lisbon, Portugal; IVAM Centre, Valencia, Spain; George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; Aperture Gallery, New York; and many others.