EYE: The Exhibition Space of the 21st Century

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Curating Cinema and Galleries
By Anouk Kraan

More and more people want to explore art in different manners. However, most museums and theaters remain boxes. “It are introverted and mono-functional buildings that look the same everywhere”, with the result that classical exhibitions are becoming less interesting for a growing audience. Johan Idema introduces new ways of thinking about the architecture of cultural institutions. The cultural institution of the 21st century establishes a connection between the artist(s) and the visitors by making the culture more assessable. The move from the Vondelpark towards the new EYE building is a significant example of a cultural institution that chose for an update of the 19th century exhibition model.

Black Box and White Cube

The black box and the white cube: the terms already expound their main feature, namely closed and secluded halls where the one is dark and the other is light. In the end of the eighteenth century, when the art galleries opened for public, the disciplines of the white cube were already at an early stage. Different from one assumes, the public galleries were not comparable with the bountiful private salons. The exhibition rooms were sumptuously decorated, but they did not distract from viewing the art. Upward from the turn of the century, the art was exhibited against a background with the greatest possible contrast to the colors of the paintings. White as the dominant wall color started the emerge in the thirties. Constructivist artist and architects connoted white as a color of infinite space which coincided with the increasingly importance of temporary exhibitions (Maak, et al).

The cinematic black box has various roots which all finally come together in the foundation of the first permanent classical movie theater. The classical movie auditorium is a darkened room that consists of staggered rows of seats facing a large screen at the front, whereupon the film is projected with a movie projector. One considers the black box and the white cube as the places wherein the artworks (art and cinema) can be showed at their best. But we should not consider these boxes as matter of course.


EYE at the bend of the IJ river

Cinema in the Gallery

Due to the rise of television in the 1950s and 1960s, the movie theaters lost their monopoly over the moving image, leading cinema to be installed directly alongside other forms of modern art (Uroskie). In particular throughout the 1990s, film has become central in contemporary art practice. Considerable amount of research discuss this crisis caused by media art, namely how film moving into the gallery changes both the cinema and the art world (Balsom 411).

The EYE Film Institute is a contrasting case because it is a film museum and archive that both preserves and presents both Dutch and foreign films screened in the Netherlands. From 1975 until 2012, the museum was located in the Vondelparkpaviljoen. Today, the new building, located in Amsterdam-North and designed by Roman Delugan and Elke Delugan-Meissl, is in custom for a permanent film apparatus display, temporary exhibitions and four cinemas. The basement, a museum shop, and café-restaurant are freely accessible every day of the week.

Black Cube

In the first instance, the EYE building functions as a classical movie house. The building contains four black box cinemas that screen contemporary feature films, as well as classical collection pieces, for a paying audience. However, EYE is more than a regular cinema because of their knowledge and skill to screen analog film. EYE was, for instance, the only theatre in the Benelux that could screen the 70mm version of Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight (2015). For this special event, EYE acquired an Ultra Panavision lens and adapted the screen of a cinema to extend it to maximum size.

EYE Exhibition Space

EYE Exhibition Space

Inside the building a space was built especially for temporary exhibitions. The exhibition subjects varied from the oeuvre of filmmakers, to collaborations of moving image artists. At this time, EYE presents the exhibition Close-Up. “This group exhibition features numerous recent film and video works and spatial installations by a new generation of filmmakers and artist in the Netherlands, who are breaking down the barriers between film, video and visual art.” In the artworks, moving image is displayed on a single screen, on multiple screens, or as part of a spatial installation.

Notable of this moving image exhibition is how the exhibition space is adapted. The space is arranged as a white cube, but instead the light is darkened. In other words, the exhibition is designed with special consideration for the particular needs of film art. In this case, the exhibition space of EYE meets a new exhibition model, namely the black cube.


Johan Strijbos and Matthijs Munnik, UAV, 2016 (Close-Up)


21st Century Exhibition

The exhibition manners of EYE go beyond the classical boxes. According to Idema, the 21st century cultural institutions are a third place. In The Great Good Place (1987), Ray Oldenburg introduces this concept as public recreational places, next to the personal living space (first place) and working space (second place). The third space is, according to Oldenburg, a social environment which contributes to society (38).

In the basement of EYE the Panorama is located. Alongside of the permanent apparatus display, a 360 installation delivers clips from the EYE collection to the visitors. Next to the fact this is a very interactive exhibition model, the freely accessible area connect with the new exhibitions manners Idema describes. Idema aims how a museum should be open and assessable, instead of a closed box. Thereby, EYE is a meeting place. The arena is provided of a bar-restaurant and a view over the IJ river.


EYE Arena

The new EYE building is a significant example of a 21st century cultural institution. Beside the classical black box cinemas and white cube exhibition space, the exhibitions strategies move further. Because of the merge of classical art, cinema and cinema art, the new building discovered new ways of exhibiting.

Further readings
– Balsom, Erika. “A Cinema in the Gallery, a Cinema in Ruins.” Screen 50.4 (2009): 411- 427.
– Idema, Johan. Matchmaker tussen cultuur en publiek: de cultuurinstelling van de 21e eeuw. Open publication, 2011.
– Idema, Johan, and Roel van Herpt. Beyond the Black Box and the White Cube: Hoe we onze musea en theaters kunnen vernieuwen. Open publication.
– Maak, Niklas, Charlotte Klonk and Thomas Demand. “The White Cube and Beyond.” Tate. 2011. 17 April 2016. <http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/white-cube-and-beyond>.
– Uroskie, Andrew V. Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.

-EYE Exhibition Space. 16 April 2016.
Iwan Baan. EYE Arena. 16 April 2016.
-Iwan Baan. EYE at the bend of the IJ river. 16 April 2016.<http://www.dmaa.at/projekte/detail-page/eye-film-institute.html>.
-Johan Strijbos and Matthijs Munnik, UAV, 2016 (Close-Up). 16 April 2016


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