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May 21st 2002: Christian Yde Frostholm
[May 21st 2002]

Christian Yde Frostholm Vigilance PropretÚ 2002

Garbage revisited and cleanliness on the Web
Interview with Danish artist Christian Yde Frostholm. Even though the theme for the interview is virtual, we decided to meet up in the real world. The meeting spot planned - a cafÚ in Vesterbro in Copenhagen - is crowded even though it is still early in the afternoon, so we decide to move on. We find a spot further down the street with fewer people but very loud music and a very noisy child. However, it works out anyways, and when I return home later and listen to my tape recording of the interview there is more on the tape than background noise. There is a nice and interesting talk with Christian Yde Frostholm about his new digital work Vigilance PropretÚ and about the Web in general. By Kristine Ploug.

Vigilance PropretÚ is photographs of Parisian garbage containers. As a part of the French precautions after September 11th 2001 the garbage containers in Paris got clear plastic bags.

Christian Yde Frostholm (poet, web designer and a central person in the Danish Web project Afsnit P) was in Paris during that time and was fascinated by the clear plastic bags with a green glow and the words 'Vigilance PropretÚ' (in English: cleanliness and attention), that made the garbage a different part of the street.

The garbage in the transparent bags is visible to the passer bys and at the same time the words Vigilance and PropretÚ becomes mantras of the city. CYF spent more than three months this winter walking around the streets of Paris photographing garbage containers. The result is 49 close ups of garbage made into a work of art exhibited at the virtual exhibition space of Afsnit P.

Christian Yde Frostholm

How did you get the idea to photograph garbage containers? "Well, I was travelling when the terror act happened on September 11th, so I hadn't been sitting by the TV experiencing it all. And then I came to Paris and saw the new garbage containers, and it's an amazing thing. They are beautiful! They are standing there gleaming. And then there is those very uncanny words. Imagine if throughout Copenhagen it said 'cleanliness'. At the same time all the stuff that is supposed to be hidden all of a sudden becomes very visible. There was someone that saw one of the photos with a can of beer on it and said that you almost felt like picking it up and drinking it. All the stuff that has been thrown out becomes consumer items again."

Detail from Vigilance PropretÚ

The photos are very similar. They all have a clear blue-green glow and there is garbage in each and every one of them. They are structured in 6 ways. On one page you find all 49 arranged in a grid. Another page has all the photos with text that seems very poetic and in a third all the photos without text looking like little abstract paintings. You can zoom in on each photo and when you do you get information about when (date and time of day) the photo was taken. There is also a selection of photos that is not part of the 49 close ups, but is instead taken from a further distance, so you can see the whole garbage container. CYF calls it "a few darlings" and continues: "Maybe they should have been killed (laughter) but that is the kind of stuff you get to keep when you do solo project!"

The photos look a like just like two feathers or two drops of water. They appear to be the same but are fundamentally different. They are different garbage containers located different places and holding different garbage. When you see them together they look like an ornament....
"They are not the same. I could have sat down at a cafÚ and photographed the same garbage containers again and again, but my method is walking around the city. That it is a series is important, it clearly holds a resemblance to people photographing water towers etc., where each photo in it self is not art, but the series makes it art. The photos are only interesting together. The series creates new connections, i.e. in the version with all the photos with text on them. When you read the fragments of vigilance and propretÚ on the bags it almost becomes lyrical. It almost turns into a poem."

And that is what you do? (CYF has published a number of poetry books ed.) "Yes it is!"

Detail from Vigilance PropretÚ - almost poetry.

When you zoom in on the photos you get the date and the time when it was taken. It would have been interesting also to know where it was taken, and CYF says he could have put that information down as well. He states "Garbage reveals a lot" and points out from the print of the grid I brought with me, the photo from the colorful and multi ethnic Belleville, where CYF stayed during his months in Paris (Belleville is the part of Paris probably a lot of us remember from visiting the grave of Jim Morrison at the Pere Lachaise-cemetery). The photo shows garbage containing nerve medication packaging, champagne corks and Chinese soups.

The photo from Belleville, taken on December 8th 2001 at 3.37. pm. Find the champagne cork!

The Internet's second wave: You don't have to just because you can.
Vigilance PropretÚ is not a very extensive work of art. It is quite easy to find your way around it, which is refreshing in a time where the Internet is loaded with lots of huge digital artworks, where the user gets lost in all the hyper linked levels. Vigilance PropretÚ consists of only 7 pages (6 with photos and one with text). Furthermore you can click on each photo, but essentially it is easy to comprehend. "Obviously I had a little more than 49 photos to begin with (laughter). But I had a lot of time to do this project, so it has all become very organized. I have done very extensive things before, where everything was linked in weird ways and where people got very confused and got lost on the site. You don't get lost in this one."

Is it also because time is changing? Because we are past the euphoria of the possibilities on the Internet and thus feel that we no longer have to do something just because we can?
"I think we are moving into what you could call the 'second wave' of the Internet. We are a bit tired of things being able to do stuff just to be able to do stuff. I think Vigilance PropretÚ is a very clean, pure and simple project, and I like that."

My definition of is works using the technology as part of the work and where the work in no way can be exhibited as tangible art. There are clear examples such as when the National Gallery put paintings online, but with a work like Vigilance PropretÚ I can't quite use my definition because the photographs could be exhibited as tangible art. What do you think - is Vigilance PropretÚ
"Only to some extend. But then again. I think, the navigation is used in a creative way. And then there is the virtuality, the fact that you can have a number of exhibitions in one - that makes it But at Afsnit P we have definitely done things that are way more"

Why did you choose a virtual exhibition space and not a physical?
"That is mainly the fact that I could make versions. And the photographs are all taken with a digital camera so there were born digital, so to speak. And then there is the very gleamy green color - it just shows up so well on the computer screen.

I considered if you artificially made the photos green after they were taken.
"No no, it is real."

See Vigilance PropretÚ

CYF is not the only one photographing garbage. Alexandra Martini has photographed garbage containers throughout the World and published the photos in a book. Click here to read more.
CYF himself
Afsnit P 

The Streets


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