Enter New Babylon Q&A

Now that Enter New Babylon at Over het IJ Festival is a wrap, it might be a good moment to answer some questions about this project and how it relates to Constant’s work and idea’s.

Q: What is Enter New Babylon?
A: ENB is a mixed reality experience in a theatrical installation. It combines the ideas of the Dutch artist Constant (Nieuwenhuys, 1920-2005) with the work of young contemporary spoken word artists and designers. The installation consists of four different experiences. The project premiered at Over het IJ Festival 2021 at A Lab, Amsterdam.

Q: What is mixed reality?
A: Mixed reality is when what you see in the virtual world overlaps with what is present in that physical space.

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Echo's 2 | Foto Kim van der Horst

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Blooming New Babylon-1 | Foto Kim van der Horst

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Verleden 3 | Foto Kim van der Horst

Q: How will I see Constant’s work or ideas back in the experiences?
A: That actually differs in every experience. In the experiences ‘We willen onze dagen niet vullen met spijt’ en ‘Echo’s van het vergeten’ New Babylon has become an echo from the past, existing only in memory. In ‘Het verleden van een toekomststad’ New Babylon has become a dystopian place. And in ‘Blooming New Babylon’ you get a tour through New Babylon model, de Grote gele sector, 1967.
In ‘We willen onze dagen niet vullen met spijt’ the designers have used actual furniture from Constant’s house in their experience and in ‘Echo’s van het vergeten’ the designer based her choice of colours in the experience on works by Constant.

Q: What is de Grote gele sector and how is it involved in Enter New Babylon?
A: Grote gele sector, 1967 is a model that Constant made for his New Babylon project. It turned out to be the second last model he would make for the project the last one being Fragment of a sector in 1969. De grote gele sector is an elaborate model of stairs and connections elevated off the ground. Slabs of yellow plexiglass give the model it’s yellow shine and its name.
When peering into the model one could imagine elaborate climbing and skate activity in the space. In 2018 it caught the attention of Dennis Molema who wanted to create a virtual version of the model. It is that virtual presentation of the model that would become the surroundings for the different experiences in Enter New Babylon.

Q: How does Enter New Babylon relate to the Theorie Collages Constant made in 1974?
A: In 1974 Constant concludes his New Babylon project with an exhibition at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. As a thank you gift to his long time friend and the director of the museum, Hans Locher, he made the Theorie Collages series. In the collages he uses fragments of texts from his New Babylon manifest.
Several of the writers and designers in the Enter New Babylon project used these collages as a reference or as source for the experiences they created. Also scenographer Guus van Geffen used prints of the collages in the beautiful scenography he build for the installation at A Lab.

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Spijt 4 | Foto Kim van der Horst

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Theorie collage New Babylon nr. 1, 1974

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Theorie collage New Babylon nr. 1, 1974

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Verleden 2 | Foto Kim van der Horst

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Theorie collage New Babylon nr. 7, 1974

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Theorie collage New Babylon nr. 7, 1974

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Echo's 5 | Foto Kim van der Horst

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Theorie collage nr. 6, 1974

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Theorie collage nr. 6, 1974

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Installatie Enter New Babylon-1

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Grote gele sector, 1967

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Grote gele sector, 1967

Q: How does Enter New Babylon relate to Constant’s practice as an artist?
A: When Constant started working on his idea of a future city that would be the home of the nomadic and creative homo ludens, he was always looking for ways to let the public experience his work. He created immersive exhibitions in which he hung his models at different heights on a black background to create a sort of space staging. He worked with architect Nic Tummers and they created these monky town like installations in which they urged to public to discover their playfulness.
In that sense Enter New Babylon is a continuation Constant’s own practice. One can imagine that had VR been around in the sixties Constant would have jumped on the chance to use it to present his ideas and work.

 

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T-T √2 Omgang, 1965

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T-T √2 Omgang, 1965

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Ruimte + kleur, 2016 | Cobra museum-2

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Labyrinth, Taal en Teken, 1965 | Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

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Labyrinth for Taal en Teken at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 1965

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T-T √2 Omgang plan, 1965-3

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T-T √2 Omgang, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1965

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T-T √2 Omgang plan, 1965-4

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Ludiek trap at Amsterdam Museum, 1969

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Ludiek trap at Amsterdam Museum, 1969

Q: Can I bring my grandmother?
A: Grandmothers up till 80 years old have been known to enjoy the experience, so ‘yes’.

Q: Can I bring my children?
A: We have tested the installation on children as young as nine years old and they came out entertained and unharmed.

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Echo's 1 | Foto Moon Saris

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Photo Moon Saris

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Echo's 4 | Foto Kim van der Horst

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Echo's 3 | Foto Kim van der Horst