‘Sea of Tranquillity’: on an eerie cruise to Hans Op de Beeck’s stylized dreamworld

Some artists just love rawness, others prefer chaos and then there are those that strive for perfection. Take Hans Op de Beeck for instance. It’s just uncanny how immaculate his short movie Sea of Tranquillity – a combination of acting and digitally generated 3D animation – looks. It adds to the eerie feeling you get from watching it. Or take those two statues in the Sea of Tranquillity exhibition: they’ll make anyone working at Madame Tussauds faint. Again: perfection and eeriness. Op de Beeck’s show at Argos (Brussels; through April 2) is a must-see. Even if you’re not a fan of his work, you will have to admit that his craftmanship and this gloomy combination of movie and exhibition (Op de Beeck has constructed a darkened exhibition space and filled it with aquarelles, maquettes, display cases and statues) is impressive. Perfection? Even the song he has written for Sea of Tranquillity (the movie) sticks in your head.

Entering Hans Op de Beeck’s Sea of Tranquillity feels like stepping into a dream. A dream about the biggest ocean liner man has ever built. Certain elements and images are handed to you, but then it’s up to you. I really like the set-up of Op de Beeck’s exhibition: you have to walk through that strange museum past his aquarelles, maquettes and display cases, in an almost straight line, to get to the movie screen you already catch a glimpse of in the back. And once you’ve seen the movie, you have to take the same way back. And the objects you’ve seen before seem to take on another life.

‘Cruise ships celebrate emptiness’. That’s the thought that holds all of this together. Op de Beeck got inspired during a visit to the French town of Saint-Nazaire and its shipyard, where the Queen Mary 2 had been built. But don’t expect Op de Beeck to force an opinion or philosophy upon you.  Sea of Tranquillity is all about mood. ‘I try to summon up a given, rather-hard-to-pin-down mood, rather than tell a streamlined story’, he tells art critic Emmanuelle Lequeux in an interview in Argos Mag.

Mood is important, but time as well. ‘I want to make films that you can look at for two seconds and somehow understand what they are about, but also that you can look at for a longer time and dig deeper and discover details.’ What he adds to that is important too, for those who might want his work to be edgier. ‘I think a video should be an open invitation that exerts as little pressure or irritation on the viewer as possible. (…) It’s like timelessness in a painting: a fixed image that doesn’t force itself on you and that lets you decide for yourself how long you want to stay mentally in that fictive world.’

So, do step into Op de Beeck’s Sea of Tranquillity. Highly stylized and gloomy, real and not real, and a world in which the combination of warmth and iciness will confuse you.

‘Sea of Tranquillity’, Argos, Werfstraat/Rue du chantier 13, Brussels (Tue-Sat 12.00-19.00; 3/2 euro). Info here. You’ll find more images at Op de Beeck’s site, here. ‘Sea of Tranquillity’ will be shown during the International Film Festival Rotterdam (Jan 26 – Feb 6). The exhibition will travel to Kunstmuseum Thun (summer 2011) and Centro de Arte Burgos (fall 2011).


One Response to “‘Sea of Tranquillity’: on an eerie cruise to Hans Op de Beeck’s stylized dreamworld”

  1. […] ‘Sea of Tranquillity’: on an eerie cruise to Hans Op de Beeck’s stylized drea… […]

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