Kaat Van Doren is a multidisciplinary artist. Born and educated in a Western European context, her artistic practice investigates the concept of ‘nature’ and reflects on the Western paradoxical relationship with nature. Through romantic thought traditions such as the picturesque landscape, the impact of industrialization and the current capitolocene paradigm, she searches for resonance in a symbiotic world view. The dynamic of her artistic research is the romantic paradox.
Title: Fig. 15 from the series Miroir Noir
Miroir Noir (1)
Inspired by the pitch-drop experiment (2), Kaat Van Doren investigates the properties of bitumen (3). By bringing the bitumen below freezing point, its properties change: from viscoelastic to hard brittle glass that can easily break. When the artist drops the frozen bitumen, it breaks like glass and creates interesting shapes that refer to fossils, gemstones or spearheads of obsidian. Van Doren photographs a selection of 32 frozen bitumens during the romantic short Golden Hour (4). The glow of the evening sun reflects in the highly reflective properties of the frozen bitumen and transforms the residue of oil refining into a precious, seductive object. Opposite the ephemeral natural Golden Hour stands the reality of the petrochemical industry (5) in Antwerp. The petrochemical industry regularly produces persistent orange skies reminiscent of the short romantic natural Golden Hour. The sun does not lie. It shows us the air pollution. Of all the sun’s rays (6), it is only the longest, reddish light waves that can penetrate the air pollution (7). The more orange the glow during the day, the more polluted the air. This reality makes Kaat Van Doren’s longing for the natural ephemeral Golden Hour a postromantic paradox.
1. Miroir Noir.
-In the 18th century, a portable round, convex mirror with a black background was used by painters, tourists and
poets as an aid to viewing the landscape. If you stood with your back to the landscape you wanted to admire, you would see an image in the mirror that differed from reality. A wider field of vision with fewer details and colour effects reminiscent of Claude Lorrain’s palette. You saw the world as you wanted to see it. An idealised world. -The Aztecs worshipped Tezcatlipoca: the god of war. His attribute was a black obsidian mirror. Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass and is formed when lava rapidly cools. The formation of volcanic glass is strongly dependent on the viscosity of the liquid lava, which in turn is strongly determined by its silica content. The higher this content in the lava, the greater the viscosity, and the more polymerisation occurs in the lava. The color of obsidian changes quite dramatically, depending on the impurities it contains. The color is usually dark green to deep black. For the Aztecs, obsidian was an important raw material for knives and weapons because it forms razor-sharp cutting edges. But also for the mysterious “black mirrors”, an original of which ended up with John Dee through Spanish conquests and is now on display in the British Museum.
2. The pitch-drop experiment: Started in 1927, this is the longest running scientific experiment in the world.https://newscientist.nl/nieuws/pekdruppel-voor-het-eerst-op-video-vastgelegd/
3. Bitumen, popularly known as tar, is a viscous dark mixture of several hydrocarbons found in crude oil. Bitumen
can also form in nature without human intervention. Physically it is a liquid, but depending on the ambient
temperature it also has the properties of a solid. At higher temperatures, the fluidity increases; at extremely low
temperatures, the material can change from viscoelastic to hard brittle and easily breakable glass. The oldest
written mention of bitumen, or kupru, is in the Sumerian Gilgamesh epic (c. 2100 BC). The hero Gilgamesh tells
how the God Ea ordered him to build an ark against the expected flood, of which the inner and outer wall had to
be covered with kupru.
4. The Golden Hour refers to the most beautiful hour, also known as the “magic hour”, denoting the short period
after sunrise or before sunset when there is more indirect sunlight (1), making the light redder and softer.
Because the sun is at the horizon, the light travels a longer distance through the atmosphere. Red light waves
are the longest, blue light waves are shorter and are scattered more, so the red light is more present.
5. Due to the petrochemical industry in the Antwerp harbour, on 19/02/2020, the sky turned bright red as a
result of flacking. This caused a red glow in the Antwerp sky for two days.
6. Sunlight is the visible part of the total spectrum of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. The sunlight
that reaches the earth is only a very small part of the total amount, but it is essential for sustaining life on earth.
Fine dust is invisible to the naked eye. It only becomes visible due to the properties of sunlight and certain
7.Air pollution: primary particles are the result of burning, friction or evaporation. Examples are the combustion
of fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, coal and wood.