Singing in the Dark

You can see the work of Giny Vos everywhere—if you happen to live in the Netherlands. A prolific public artist, Vos has produced 11 works since 2005. Her new book, Singing in the Dark, spans her 25-year career, focusing primarily on public artworks completed in the last decade. For anyone unfamiliar with Vos’s work, including myself, Singing in the Dark is a successful introduction because it leaves you wanting to see more.

The large, sewn paperback is beautifully produced. Interspersed between six critical essays, many works are illustrated over multiple pages. Examples of inspiration—a film still from Nosferatu, an Arabian bathhouse, a still-life by Chardin—appear among sketches and installation photos. While most of Vos’s public works are more than adequately illustrated in the book, her LED and light works warrant a visit to her Web site <www.ginyvos.nl>, where the images can shine (or sing) more brilliantly.

All of the essays in Singing in the Dark discuss Vos’s work in relation to public space and the nature of public art. Each one focuses on a different aspect: the art (Christophe Van Gerrewey), the process (Sandra Smets), public space (Dirk van Weelden), the city (Jeroen Boomgaard), art and architecture (Daria Ricchi), and language (Ilse van Rijn). When reading the texts together, certain works seem over-discussed and others neglected. The authors clearly have favorites, but the repetition does succeed in showing how her work can elicit myriad interpretations.

Christophe Van Gerreway’s essay offers an astute reading. The subtitle of his essay, “The Work of Giny Vos as Solo Exhibition in the Netherlands,” aptly describes her career. She has produced projects for nonprofits, local governments, and corporate clients, while seemingly avoiding the compromises that can plague the public art process. Sandra Smets’s article provides a rare glimpse of this process. She gives a behind-the-scenes look at the production of White Noise (2009), a stunning light work that sits atop the KPN telecommunications tower in Amsterdam. Describing meetings with architects and corporate reps, discussions with collaborators, and test runs with assistants, Smets reveals the artist’s day-to-day operations, stating, “It’s a strange profession in which Vos engages.” Most notably, we see how Vos engages with high-profile clients in order to realize her vision: “Vos’s work has the glamour that is associated with money. All the same, White Noise seems to draw the Icarus moral: the hubris of big money that wants to conquer the world and the whole universe. Two years earlier, Vos had made the door of a safe for Shell that opens slightly every now and then to transmit the energy from which the company makes its money—solar energy, which actually belongs to us all. Clients like shell or KPN need Vos for their showpiece, vice versa Vos uses them to make her dreams comes true and to deliver implicit commentary.” It may be a strange profession, but it is one that she seems uniquely suited for.

Singing the Dark, which was printed in 2010, only includes work through 2009. It opens with White Noise, and the illustrations continue back to Vos’s first public work, Work to Do (1985). In the last year, Vos has completed two more public art installations, Seeing without being seen (Utrecht) and Glorious Experiment (Purmerend), created an installation for a solo exhibition, and started another public piece in Amsterdam. Vos is clearly at a very exciting point in her career, and Singing in the Dark declares that she has no intention of stopping.

Beth Wilson

Book Description:
Singing in the Dark
by Giny Vos, et al.
Amsterdam: Valiz, 2010
180 pages. € 29.50
ISBN: 978-90-78088-33-2

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