The Great Escape
The videowork The Great Escape by Jeroen Offerman has an affinity with the landscape paintings of the German romanticist Caspar David Friedrich. The Romantic School revolved around the artist’s personal feelings and longings – romanticists wanted to escape from reality and were inclined towards what is faraway, foreign and unfamiliar. Offerman takes romanticism to an extreme, because here, everything is about ‘Sehnsucht’, or in the artist’s own words: when a man is offered the possibility to change his life expectations for good, he doesn’t hesitate a moment and seizes the opportunity. We see a landscape of a beach and the sea on a remote coast. There is not much ‘movement’ in the image, because the camera is in a fixed position and the video virtually consists of a single shot (Offerman regards his work as a ‘living painting’). During the projection, the small speck in the distance slowly changes into an approaching hovercraft. The sound of the engines also builds up more and more, heralding the arrival of the vessel. Once it has landed on the beach, the rear-loading ramp is lowered, and a young man runs into the craft and sails away into the distance. Eventually the image is back where it started. We could interpret this work as being rooted in a romantic inclination for individual freedom, with the vessel the symbol of human destiny, a mysterious yearning for distant journeys in both the geographical and spiritual sense, and with the young man as a repoussé figure with whom the viewer can identify by looking over his shoulder into the immense world that is out there. At the same time, The Great Escape refers to science-fiction films in the genre ‘Extraterrestrial life comes to earth to save mankind from its destruction’, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg or The Day the Earth Stood Still by Robert Wise, in which extraterrestrials come to earth in spaceships to save mankind. The hovercraft can easily serve as a metaphor for a spaceship. Both interpretations (romanticist and sci-fi) have an influence on Offerman’s work. The theme of man versus nature also plays a central role in both interpretations.
(Vinken & Van Kampen)
Courtesy of Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/TBA
NL 2000, 10 min, video