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Sara Culmann
Aaro Murphy
On show from 06.09.2019 – 29.09.2019

‘Semantics’ is a science that deals with the meaning of symbols, in particular the building blocks of languages used for communication. It studies the relationship between ‘signifiers’ and what they stand for in reality. Semantic Noise explores a state in which these signifiers – concepts, signs, cultural imprints – become fluid in meaning, logic and interpretation. Rather than providing clear narratives and univocal explanations, the project is a testimony to incoherence, complexity and polyphony. It aims at showing the porosity of knowledge production, rationality and control, stressing the multiplicity of truth, identity and reality.

Operating across sound, image and scent, The Birth of Asset (2018-19) by Sara Culmann and Commuter (2019) by Aaro Murphy question an external point of view from which ‘structures of meaning’ might be evident. This becomes especially clear within the context of De School: a nightclub as a place open to multiple perceptions of time and space, where different behaviours and identities can come forth and have being.

We invite you to travel to unknown worlds that are emerging at the intersection of digital networks, corporal presence and imagination. Come and immerse yourself into semantic slippages and liquid experiences.


Aaro Murphy, Commuter, 2019
5 channel audio, 3 channel video, scent, steel, aluminium, computer code
In collaboration with Thom Driver (composition), Niklaus Mettler / In’n’out Fragrances (scent), Marcel Smit (creative coding).

Motors zooming past
Liquidly gliding into each other
Vibrating into one
Groaning and moaning
Thumping in and around each other
As I watch behind the steamed glass
in my air conditioned condo

You find yourself in an artificially constructed spatial narrative – a collage of ephemeral perceptual cues. I invite you to become part of this mechanised ecosystem.


A series of custom speakers hang from the ceiling at head height programmed to spin at varying intensities to a looping audio composition. Spinning faster and faster the speakers and audio begin to evolve from pure mechanism into objects with sculptural agency – acquiring characteristics of robotics, jet engines, and surveillance apparatuses.

Composed out of both field recordings and computer-generated samples, the sounds begin to twist and merge into each other. At moments the audio is clear, with specific sounds and voices projecting from each speaker. While at points the audio becomes entirely abstract developing into textured noise. This fluctuation between high definition and fractured audio is an attempt to create fault lines, or a shift, within the narrative – a kind of ‘amnesic device’ dislocating a linear timeline.

I’ve lost track of information

As the rotating speakers stop performing, a deep humming drone echoes throughout the space. A looping video depicts a series of fleeting images of airports, train stations and deserted streets zooming past and gliding into each other. As the audio composition transforms, these images begin to morph in synchrony. A synthetic aroma, reminiscent of latex, solvent like qualities, fills the space. Fragmented immersions and unstable sensations. Playing with disperse sensory and digital cues that construct a polyphonic game-like setting in which different situations dissolve. In this augmented space, definition blurs and things start to develop new meaning.

These faceless surfaces keep me calm

Sara Culmann, The Birth of Asset, 2018-19
video, acrylic plaster reliefs, vinyl stickers
* This installation contains images that might be experienced as shocking or triggering.

My name is Biped and I am a representative of the organic, DNA-based form of life. Well, it is pretty unfair to make a human an ambassador of all organic species. I suppose viruses are more representative. This is a typical problem within the mechanism of representation; the lobby of two-legged creatures always wins. I play for two conceptual teams: organic chemistry and the three-dimensional world. I am an expert in structures, subordination, orders and different ontologies. I reduce phenomena to a battle of opposite notions. However, my restless exploring nature complicates everything. So, this is life (for all bipeds at least): in between simplification and entanglement.

I am Sheme, an agent of the two-dimensional and the world of illustrative representation. Despite the two axes, schemes and drawings can depict very complex notions and describe invisible forms and forces. My two-dimensional form is just a diplomatic gesture for human vision. People are proud of their three-dimensionality, but prefer to explain ideas on a flat surface. 

In The Birth of Asset Biped and Sheme present a semantic study from the point of view of computer programming language, the basis of the digital universe. The examined signifiers/building blocks of this efficient binary language based on zero’s and one’s, called ‘assets’, demonstrate different forms of ‘semantic entropy’ – a state when concepts, signs, or cultural imprints become ambiguous in meaning.

Assets are empty containers waiting to be filled with meaning. Any idea, ideology or object can be moulded into an asset and, subsequently, be customized, augmented and used in different ways. Although they may take on an identity in a certain situation, assets have no meaning in itself. By extending the notion of asset as a hybrid signifier into the material world The Birth of Asset illustrates how the strife for objectivity and order in structures of meaning simultaneously creates the conditions for unforeseen breakthroughs in subjectivity and chaos.

Sara Culmann’s (b. 1981, Soviet Union) artistic practice is focused on technology and digital media and often employs narrative to emphasize the connections between society, culture, and history. Much of her work explores how economic and scientific changes give birth to mixed feelings of frustration and excitement, anxiety and seduction. In her videos and installations, she reflects on the existential impact of the cults of high-definition resolution, scientific knowledge, and total digitalization. She uses ironic narratives and works with cultural clichés and imprints. More broadly, she probes contemporary iconography based on a vocabulary of new signs. Sara lives and works in Amsterdam and has been a resident at the Rijksakademie since January 2019.

Aaro Murphy’s (b. 1991, Finland) site-specific installations question modes of virtual architecture and apparatuses of artificial spatio-temporalities. Working across disciplines – with sound, light, video and scent – he examines how these immaterial media manifest in an augmented physical space. A recurring theme in his work is the ability for contemporary virtual medias to embed themselves in our everyday environments. In turn, Aaro attempts to find ways in which these media and mechanisms can be manipulated, collaged and hacked to produce uncanny devices and spatial hybrids – where the boundaries between the animate and inanimate become partially indistinguishable. Aaro is currently an artist in residence at WOW, Amsterdam.

Curated by Robbie Schweiger
Semantic Noise is supported by the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK).

06.09 VanMorgen #3 –Semantic Noise
On Friday September 6th we open Semantic Noise, the 3rd exhibtion of the VanMorgen series. Through VanMorgen we focus on the artists "of tomorrow". From September 6th until September 29th the work of arists Sara Culmann and Aaro Murphy will be on show.

For the festive opening on Friday, September 6, 19.00  – 21.00. We invite you to morph, meet and mingle at Cafe DS. 

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