Palinuro
Nol de Koning, 1989

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and Palinurus, to you he went, though you had no sin,
and he came carrying to you a sombre dream.
(Virgil The Aeneid 5.840-41)

The video work is based on the story of Palinurus, the helmsman of Aeneas, who, overcome by sleep while ta­king the watch, fell over­board and for three days long was at the mercy of the stormy sea. When he eventu­ally managed to reach the Italian mainland unharmed, at Velia, he was murdered by the inhabi­tants of that town, after they had vainly tried to rob him. The title of the work comes from the name of the head­land near to the town where they abandoned his unburied body.

In 'Palinuro' everything revolves around the nocturnal hour of fate before his fall into the sea, when Palinurus is keeping watch, contemplating hi
situation. Before him lie the shore and lighthouse, whose beam of light sweeping around we see on the middlemost of the three monitors. The light that derives from the monitor illuminates a photograph of the sea on the wall facing the monitors. The lighthouse light is the main theme of the installation, throwing light not only upon the destination of the odyssey, as it were, but also upon Palinurus's fearful forebodings, upon the somnia tristia, the sad, ominous dreams, memories and obsessive thoughts spinning around his mind, the video images of which are combined with the lighthouse theme, the cross-cutting determining the rhythm of the alternating shots. The installation never presents Palinurus himself; only his desperate imaginative universe is made visible. In order not to reduce the representation of this universe to an illustrative sequence of images, Nol de Koning did not use the story itself as his main guideline, but instead applied the form principles of Virgil's 'Aeneid'. [Based on: Maurice Nio, exhibition catalogue 'Imago' 1990] [This installation was part of the exhibition "Imago, Fin de Siècle in Dutch Contemporary Art" (1990) and is featured on the DVD series "Installations 1975-2006" (2007).]

The installation consists of three video screens and a photograp­hic work and is set up in a darkened room. The revolving beam of a lighthouse at night constitutes the main motif on the middle of the three video screens. Palinurus himself is not depicted anywhere. He is only discernible in the images of his mind's eye, which glide across the monitors, while his gaze is fixed on the coast. On the wall opposite the monitors hangs a highly enlarged photograph of the sea, which is brief­ly illumina­ted when the beam of light from the lighthouse swi­ngs round the the front (and the middle monitor itself become the source of light). In this way, PALINURO is based on two forms of projecti­on: a physical one of central monitor on pho­to-grap­hic work, and - in the opposite direction - a psychologi­cal one of Palinu­rus' mental images on three moni­tors.
The main motif - lighthouse and sea - consists of images re­corded on location. Palinurus' mental images, which are in­terwoven with the main motif in multiple layers of ima­ges, are drawn from a collection of TV images which were construc­ted specially for this installation during the first half of 1989.

In the first part (Te Palinurus Petens) the lighthouse repre­sents the coast at Cumae, when Palinurus is keeping watch. In the second part (In Unda), the coast at Velia, which Palinurus will reach three days later.
To bridge the time that the installation is not running there is a fourth tape depicting only a lighthouse beam, playing on the middle monitor. The physical projection is then at its stron­gest. This tape is turned off as soon as the installati­on is started up by the viewer
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  • Date: 1989
  • Type: Installation
  • Copyrights: All rights reserved (c) LIMA
  • Genre: poetry
  • Keywords: installation - multi-channel video installation, literature, movement, mythology