saskia olde wolbers: the falling eye
23 Jun - 24 Sep 2006

‘The Falling Eye’ is the first solo exhibition of Saskia Olde Wolbers (Breda, 1971) in Stedelijk Museum CS.

“Olde Wolbers is a fabulist in a class of her own”,Artforum, New York, 2005

“Film art doesn’t get much better than this”, BBC Art Review, London, 2005

‘The Falling Eye’ is the first solo exhibition of Saskia Olde Wolbers (Breda, 1971) in Stedelijk Museum CS. The museum has followed the work of the London-based artist since her debut ‘Mindset’ at StedelijkMuseum Bureau Amsterdam in 2000. Olde Wolbers creates videoworks structured around fantastical narratives and hallucinatory images.

The exhibition focuses on her latest video film Trailer(2005), recently acquired for the Stedelijk Museumcollection, and from which the exhibition derives its title ‘The Falling Eye’, which refers to a fictional medical condition afflicting one of the characters. In a more general sense, ‘The Falling Eye’ references the way in which the protagonists in Olde Wolbers’ films experience their lives: as an intricate tangle of illusion and reality. 

The Stedelijk Museum CS is presenting Traileralongside three earlier videos: Kilowatt Dynasty(2000), Placebo (2002) and Interloper (2003). 

In terms of length and narrative complexity Trailer(10 min.) marks a departure from Olde Wolbers’ previous films. The camera alternates between two spaces: an impenetrable, gently undulating Amazon jungle and a crimson cinema interior. Protagonist Alfgar Dalio, who recently moved to the small town of Wadena, Ohio, visits the local film theatre where he sees a trailer, a preview for a film. The story centres on a flesh-eating plant named after a relatively unknown actress from the nineteen-twenties, Elmore Vella, who survived a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle. Intrigued by the trailer, Dalio returns to the cinema to see the film over and over, particularly the two actors who make a brief appearance. He can’t help comparing his own features with those of the black and white images of the on-screen faces. One day, Dalio gets into conversation with the old lady working at the box office, who reveals the secret of his identity.

Olde Wolbers’ video films blend the visual with the spoken word. The protagonists’ most intimate personal details are divulged by a mesmerizing voiceover. Mysteriously, we never actually see the main characters, although their presence is palpable in the desolate, science-fiction interiors, landscapes and underwater worlds that captivate our gaze. 

Olde Wolbers’ tales are pure fiction, but have their origins in newspaper stories, television documentaries and everyday conversation. Although seeming to rely heavily on digital technology, every on-screen detail is hand-crafted. Olde Wolbers films miniature decors submerged in aquariums. A small camera glides through the tiny models fabricated from plant forms and architectural structures fashioned from fishing wire, packaging and everyday objects. By immersing the sets in paint, Olde Wolbers creates a viscid world where shapes multiply in a pulsing, rhythmical labyrinthine space.

At a time when boundaries between the artificial and the authentic, the fictional and the real, are becoming increasingly blurred, Olde Wolbers occupies a unique position with her videoworks in which nothing is as it seems.  

Since her debut in 2000, Olde Wolbers’ body of work has garnered considerable acclaim. She has been honoured with various art prizes including the Charlotte Köhler Prijs, and Beck’s Futures, the British prize for young artists. Her work has been acquired and shown by national and international museums such as the SMAK, Gent, Het Domein, Sittard, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Connecticut, Kunsthalle St Gallen, The British Art Show, South London Gallery, ICA London and Tate Britain, London. Olde Wolbers is represented in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum with two works: Kilowatt Dynasty (2000) and Trailer (2005).