TEXT ME • Kenza Jemmali – Trance Machine

TEXT.ME Young Curators

A synaesthetic experience

On Britt van den Boogaard’s ‘Trance Machine’


By Kenza Jemmali

Entering the Young Masters exhibition of the Media Art Festival, I heard many sounds, perceived light and, as I started walking through the exhibition, my attention was drawn to Trance Machine.

It sits at the entrance, in a room.  You could either start your tour with it, or end with it, or as in my case, do both multiple times! You first perceive the artwork as a projection through a glass wall. It seems that it is just that, a projection of shapes, patterns; maybe it could be a visual effect created by the artist. When you get closer, you hear the sound it produces, repeated beats that don’t quite convey from where it is coming and you can’t quite acknowledge what it is. Is it a video/sound installation? From outside, that is what it looks like. Then, you move forward and step into the room, a dark small space but with a warm feeling. The floor is covered with a carpet, there are no windows apart from the one with the projection screen, the walls are plain white and  there is no light except for the one from the installation. A small space that embodies and surprisingly reclaims  the artwork. You can now look at it as a whole, from right to left: the projection, a cosy couch that invites you to sit in it, and the ‘’machine’’ with its different parts, kind of bold and rough. It is then that you see the full work of  Britt Van Den Boogaard.

Trance Machine invites you to look into it and the more you look, the more you discover. 

The installation is a setup of something we can literally call a machine, looking very complex and technology-based. Looking very complicated, with all the cords out, and its bold aspect, the artwork becomes intriguing. Yet when you look closer, you understand that the system used is in fact a very simple circuit. The machine emits sounds and at the same time projects a pattern on the screen. It is composed of motors attached to three metal perforated meshes that overlap, and a light that goes through them simultaneously. For this, Britt Van Den Boogaard was mostly inspired by the moiré pattern, an overlapping of patterns that creates this kind of visual effect. It was the interference made by the pattern that invited her to look into it for all parts of the artwork. 

The sounds you hear are all acoustic, but produced by a machine that itself was assembled and created by the artist, experimenting each time with what a simple connection could produce as an experience. 

In a shorter way, the machine works by translating frequencies into different types of stimuli: visible, audible and tactile.

It is here that the whole piece takes its meaning. Trance Machine is an artwork that takes the audience on an experience that envelops the mind and the body. Both calming and disconcerting, the viewers find themselves between a state of hyper-attention to reality, and a state of dreaming. 

The experience starts as soon as you enter the room: the cosy couch feels appealing to sit on, look at the screen, and hear the sound created by the mechanism. In that situation, the artist wanted people to have an experience, whether to get into trance or to just feel something. 

This invites to explore trance as a concept. Trance, by definition, is an altered state of consciousness, of relaxation. Here, Britt emphasizes how we can see, experience trance in our daily life: when we see something beautiful, when we focus on a visual, on the rays of the sun, or anything else that takes us into an experience away from what we are living at that moment. 

And that is, in a way, the experience that she created for the viewer. 

This experience of trance, calmness, of a quiet moment, is created despite the complexity of the artwork that embodied different materials and mediums. 

When you are in the exhibition space, more than one sense is stimulated. You hear the sound, see the light patterns going, and could even feel the chair. By joining in a very fascinating way, human and machine agency, the viewer is invited to explore his own perception and thoughts. When experienced, the mind and the body become one. 

Britt graduated with a bachelor in Film and Photography in 2020 from the art academy AKV St. Joost in Breda, Netherlands. Her work explores the boundaries of film as a medium. Her objects and installations, like the Trance Machine, are created by hand, incorporating tangibility, craftsmanship and imperfection into her work 4

‘’I am not a storyteller, I am an experience creator’’ is what the artist states. She offers an experience, a sensorial experience to the audience, touching the limits of our thoughts and the edges that we could reach.  Britt Van Den Boogard is always in the process of experimenting how simple technical things can produce a rich synaesthetic experience for the audience. She is still working on developing Trance Machine and everything it holds, experimenting with materials but also space. 

Trance Machine intrigued me, it brought up questions of how this was made and what each part did, looking a bit like a machine, yet inviting the viewer to go through an experience. It offered me the opportunity to be physically there and mentally somewhere else.

At the edges of perception and thoughts, I was left in this explosion of stimulations—just as we all are in our day to day life. The experience offers a time to stop and think or to get into a state of trance, the more time one spends in it or the more one visits it. It also gives some sort of liberty of interpretation, a quiet moment before going through the whole exhibition or after, to understand one’s own thoughts and feelings regarding the artwork or even in general. 

At least, that’s how I experienced it.

About the author

Kenza Jemmali (she/her) is an architecture student and junior curator. She is a fellow at  TASAWAR Curatorial Studios 2 while finishing her thesis in Architecture and Urbanism. 

Strongly interested in a transdisciplinary approach that tackles art and architecture, she is always looking into the space surrounding us and our relation with it. She is starting her practice with the approach of seeing architecture from and with a different perspective while looking into different art practices. Interested in different forms of collective cultural production, her practice is driven by research, discovery and exchange.

Portrait (c) Omayma Laabidi