Jaap Pieters at Spectacle

How art can reveal the truth is a debate that will never end. Depending on who you ask, fidelity has been correlated with formal abstraction’s ability to reveal raw feelings, the eye’s capability to expose ontic faithfulness, or sometimes the artworks function in the social or political spheres. Some artists try to reveal truth, wherever they see it. Often unwilling to limit what makes truth, they trust their base instincts and aim themselves at the things that they think are genuine, trusting we will see the honest moment that they see.


Jaap Pieters, who is touring America for the first time with his silent 8mm films (he will be accompanied by electro-acoustic performances most nights), seems like one of the last types. He began to release his films in an art context during the mid 90’s. The first assortment of works filmed the street outside of his apartment in Amsterdam. He captured fleeting moments outside his window, asking questions about seeing and watching. He consciously captured homeless and drunks as they danced, bummed cigarettes, and staged mini-dramas for an invisible audience.

Kopjesdans (The Cupsdance), Jaap Pieters, 1992. Super 8, 2 Min 20 seconds.

These works challenge you to define them. They are slippery and dispute any single denotation that you provide. How they function is easier to explain than what they are. The assertive voyeurism that underpins these works creates an intimate dreamscape rather than an uncomfortable embarrassment. The images you see– a homeless person moving his or her (it’s hard to tell) collection of shopping carts filled with random detritus for example– are mini dramas, that begin and end as they move out of his window’s frame. Instead of feeling like you’re using them to entertain yourself, you feel like you’re finally actively paying attention to the people involved.

Blikjesman (The Tincanman), Jaap Pieters, 1991. Super 8, 3 min 20 seconds.

Pieters early films are almost all single shots, with no cuts or attempt at symbolic narrative, but there are some later works that have not only cuts, but were not framed by his apartment. 1994’s Raumschiff Schweiz (Spaceship Swiss) begins with what looks like a grey distant mountains surrounded by thick clouds. Slowly a tall cliff is revealed and the camera focuses on a series of waterfalls, trees, and turbulent water. The meaning and significance of any given shot is complicated by the cuts and constant shifting figurative ground that supports Pieters’s images. In the end, the most concrete, formal presentation of an object allows for the most abstract removal for the artist. His concrete surroundings are the least solid. The genuine is the least sturdy.

Spectacle, based in Boston, is a collaborative performance space for the under-programmed edges of music and visual arts.

Jaap Pieter’s travel schedule can be found here. Pieters is traveling and collaborating with musicians/sound artists Evan Lindorff-Ellery and Travis Bird.