Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Walk-in Wunderkammer



Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
When I was little, I was obsessed with wonder boxes. I created little landscapes with paper maché, green blotting paper, sand and little animals and tiny people. The magical feeling you get when you manoeuver your eyes in front of the cut out hole and see the miniature world created inside, still makes me really happy. It feels like you're the only witness to a well-kept secret, a treasure kept especially for you. I got the same feeling when I walked into Doina Kraal's In de Rarekiek, a life-size wonder box of nine meters long, four meters wide and two and a half meters high. An extraordinary place that looks like you just walked into a real life fairytale. There is something amazing happening in every corner, on each of the shelves and there is an exciting vista in every wall. I don't know where to begin describing the feeling you get when entering Kraal's 'Wunderkammer'.

Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
'Wunderkammer' is the word Kraal chose to describe what she created in her project space at the Voormalige Stadstimmertuin. Wunderkammers were produced in Europe during the Renaissance.  It was a portable room full of curiosities where objects and strange articles were collected and classified. The word fits perfectly because 'wonder' is all you can do in Kraal's version. Small objects are exhibited in glass cases and on shelves, lasered flowers lit by a photographic projection, a hologram of a boy singing arias, see-through landscapes, a cloud caught under a glass bowl and stained glass windows. There is a lot to discover. Kraal wants visitors to experience it all by themselves. The exhibition booklet gives background information about her inspiration, but the individual stories of each particular object are there to discover and create your own story around. Just the way she did.


Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
When I visited In de Rarekiek I had the privilege of a personal introduction to Kraal's work. She explained how she started this two year project creating her perfect micro cosmos. Taking the cloud, a notable work in the installation, as an example of her working method, Kraal wanted to create a vertical cloud and started researching this phenomenon. She found volcanic eruptions, cumulonimbus and stars. Kraals wants things to become more than they first appear. To attach multiple interpretations to an image or object. This way existing categories fade and meaning becomes subjective. This is why Kraal does not prescribe her vision to the viewer. You are free to make you own perfect universe inside Kraal's wonder box.

Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
Writing this blog I realized how difficult it is to find words to describe Doina Kraal's installation. I think the best way is to invite you to experience it for yourself. And if your own version is not enough, you can also visit In de Rarekiek on a Friday afternoon. Then Kraal will be there in person to let you in on her well-kept secret.

Installation view In de Rarekiek, Doina Kraal, 2012 © Gert Jan van Rooij
Eva Bremer

In de Rarekiek by Doina Kraal can be seen from 14 September to 21 October 2012 at the Voormalige Stadstimmertuin 4 - 6 in Amsterdam. Open from Thursday- Sunday 12 am - 6 pm.

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