We are delighted to announce the Museum’s recent acquisition of a striking hologram self-portrait by the Dutch artist Folkert de Jong, When H2 leaves O (2015). The work comes to the BCMA through the generosity of the Collectors Collaborative, a group of Bowdoin graduates who meet twice a year in New York to look at contemporary art. (If you would like to join this fall’s gathering in New York on November 19, please contact the Museum for further information.) Each member of the Collaborative who offers a contribution of any amount has the opportunity to vote on an acquisition towards which the joint fund is applied. This work represents the first hologram to enter the BCMA’s collection. A medium of artistic experimentation since the 1960s, a hologram produces the illusion of a three-dimensional projection on a two-dimensional surface and is notoriously difficult to reproduce.
A recipient of the Prix de Rome for Sculpture in 2003, de Jong has had his work exhibited internationally, and he is well known for his use of unconventional materials to create works that communicate social and philosophical commentary. To create this piece, de Jong worked with imagery produced from an MRI made of his head, creating the illusion of a seamless progression from the artist’s skull into the cavity of his brain and eyes as one walks around the work. This hologram thus creates fascinating resonance between contemporary and historic works of art, particularly those contemplating human mortality. De Jong’s piece reads as a contemporary memento mori, combining new technology and science with the representation of the human body in a state of transition.
As de Jong has explained, the work required much problem-solving on the part of the artist in order to transform medical imagery into a work of art. As he explained: “The transfer from the MRI scans into the hologram was in theory quite easy, but practically rather complex. The computer in the hospital was not programmed to export information…to protect the patient’s [privacy], but with the help of a computer [scientist] we managed to extract 250 stills from the three-dimensional rotation of my head … going from the outside to my inside. The 250 pictures were projected next to each other [and etched with a] laser beam into a light sensitive emulsion. This created the three-dimensional image with an animation inside of it. When you move your eye from left to right, you literally see the movement of the head, and the zoom from my exterior to the interior.” The process of the work’s creation thus models interdisciplinary collaboration that will make the work relevant to many different disciplines and teaching contexts from art and art history to biology, computer science, and philosophy.
Look for it next summer when the Museum mounts The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe (June 24 -November 26, 2017), a show to which it will represent an intriguing contemporary counterpoint.