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14.11.2017 | Words by: Emma van Meyeren

The last line of the blogpost about the line-up of November pointed to the presence of “color rain” in the basement of the club on November 18th. My absolute favorite aspect of De School, taking everything from restaurant to art projects ánd music into account, is the darkness of the basement. This is a bold statement, I know. But a dark club can do things and mean things no lights can compete with. Nonetheless, the thought of a color rain makes me happy. Even more so considering the brain behind such a color rain will be Dutch artist Nikki Hock, whose captivating way of using lighting has been on my mind ever since his ‘Why, Why ohh why’ in De School last May. 
Hock, a “multidisciplinary artist who sculpts the spaces and environments around us to create experiential landscapes”, was the first and only artist to have taken over the entire basement space for an art project. His work is, in the words of De School programmer Luc “a more natural extension of the experience of a club. We don’t want to exhibit someone’s art in the club space just to make it feel edgy. That would be incredibly boring actually. Nikki’s work makes sense in a club space because it doesn’t take anything of the excitement of such a space away - it only adds to it.” 
Having worked with other multidisciplinary artists on club projects such as Torus’ Laser Club and the crew behind Rave Land (a notorious rave that took place off the grid during this year’s ADE), I’m curious what aspects of Hock’s educational background in mime (!) and his experience in nightlife will bring together. I’m ready to be surprised, but in the meantime here’s some clues and directions about Nikki’s life and work. 
Q: I heard your formal education was at a theatre school – could you tell me something about that and the ways in which it influences your work?
A: I studied mime at the Amsterdam theatre school. It’s a form of performance that departs from the body as a tool, a medium on its own. What I really like about performance in general is that it’s a live medium. A live dialogue can be realized between space, audience and performer (yes, I see light as a performer). As for mime in specific, the physical - or rather bodily - origin of it fascinates me. I actually always wanted to quit school during my time there. I couldn’t stand the self awareness and this forced spirituality. I’ve always loved to construct things, taught myself how to use every tool possible. So eventually I kind of created my own curriculum and benefited from all the (technical) facilities that theatre school offered, and eventually this made it possible to build my own installations. It wasn’t really appreciated by every teacher, but luckily some of them encouraged me to keep experimenting with the fundamentals of mime in my own way.
Q: In May, the first part of your trilogy ‘Why, Why ohh why’ took place at De School. These performances focus on ‘modern citizenship’. How did you become interested in this subject and how is your vision on it changing through your work?
This is not so much something I suddenly or gradually got interested in. Modern citizenship, and the pillars on which our contemporary society is based, is something that we are all familiar with. Something which we are constantly reminded of. We are confronted with global problems on a daily basis. Whether we’re aware of it or not. So in that sense it’s something that just happens to all of us. I just put the focus on it by choosing this as a subject matter for my work. The fact that I am over-aware of this might be a part of growing up, but it’s something that I cannot unsee. I’m not very confident of the direction the world and its  people are going in right now, with all the misery happening these days.
Q: You mention Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman as one of your influences for this trilogy. Could you tell me something about your interest in his work?
A: I have read some of his books and essays in which he discusses modern life – ‘Liquid Modernity’ – and the existence of and its relation to fear. What I love about him is how he is able to explain incomprehensible global issues or global social dynamics without using any fancy words or name dropping. When he writes or gives a lecture (do check out a YouTube video of the man speaking!) everything is just so clear. He effortlessly explains cause-and-effect and places everything within a logical timeline. And so seemingly complicated relations between socio-political matters are all of a sudden a lot less complex. His theories about how fear has manifested itself within our modern society have helped me see how it is a factor in our daily lives. Because of Bauman I understand the role of fear and that it’s constantly lingering around us.
Q: Next to your work at De School you’ve also teamed up with parties such as Laser Club and Rave Land: what draws you to work with musicians and DJs?
A: Working within a club context offers much more flexibility than the context of a black box, theatre or other type of art institution. There are less restrictions, which makes things more casual and open to experiment. People are much more susceptible and often it’s also the perfect setting to just mess around and try new things. I get a lot of positive feedback to my work during club nights, which motivates me to go all out. Also, I think what makes it interesting to work with the guys from Rave Land for instance, is that they’re all artists too. There is a mutual appreciation for one another’s work – this enthusiasm makes for a nice collaboration.
Q: Your work often asks audiences to engage in the way you shape spaces, how do you envision such audience participation during a club night?
A: I don’t think it will be very difficult to have the visitors submerge into the space that I intend create this time. As I mentioned before, people in a club situation tend to be more open to new influences. The music will be a perfect guide for them, and it will do most of the work. With my lights I hope to create this well balanced symbiosis together with the physical space and the music by which they get immersed completely, while the audience gives in to dancing. My main aim is to create a space in which people can surrender to my work, let go and just experience.
Q: Lighting in De School has become kind of a notorious subject. The darkness of the club provokes dividing opinions. Some visitors love it, others hate it. Is this something that’s on your mind while you prepare for November 18th?
A: Undoubtedly. I’m obsessed with light, which – in my case – inherently means I love the dark. Without dark, there is no light. Or at least, dark spaces offer so many opportunities to work with light. The first time I attended a club night at De School, I was really intrigued by the fact that there was barely any light. For me that was a first in Amsterdam. It allowed me to completely plunge into the music, without being aware of my surroundings. Shout-out to Children of the Light!

Pre sale tickets for Saturday November 18 are sold out, but there will be plenty of tickets available at the door. More information on the event can be found on the DS website, and here’s a link to Nikki Hock’s personal page.
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