ROTTERDAM - Submarine Wharf - Sarkis

When Sarkis visited the Submarine Wharf for the first time, he witnessed the space as it will probably never be seen again. Several missing skylights had allowed snow to blow in, covering the floor with a glistening white layer. The snow muffled the acoustic, creating an enchanting silent. He was immediately reminded of the church interiors of the Dutch painter Pieter Saenredam. Sarkis is an atheist, but just like Alain de Botton in religion for Atheists, he is fascinated by the architecture of churches and appreciates their value as places where people congregate. He regrets that the decline of faith has also meant the disappearance of music, prayers, rituals, feasts and communal meals.

For years he has undertaken research into ecclesiastical architecture - the spacial aspects, the acoustic - and the social function of churches, as depicted in the paintings of Saenredam. Sarkis decided that he wishes to transform the Submarine Wharf into a spiritual and sacred meeting place and that he wanted to create a connection with the wharf's original function and with the surrounding water. He has achieved this with light, music and sculptural and architectonic objects. As discussed above, Sarkis likes to share his sources of inspiration with the public. On the wall in the lower hall is a video of Saenredam's The Nave of the Church of St Peter in Utrecht, Viewed to the West from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The camera explores the canvas as a visitor would do. 

The exhibition's English title Ballads - meaning a form of narrative verse or slow, romantic song - should not be taken too literally. The French verb "se balader" means to go for a walk or to stroll. Sarkis wants the visitors to wander at leisure through the exhibition, accompanied by the music. He offers the visitor a mental journey into the depths, where the submarines and whales meet. And just as whales and submarines periodically return to surface, so the visitor comes into contact time and again with the sky, where white feathers suggest the possibility of flying heaven. In Ballads Sarkis attempts to create a connection between the dark depths of the water and the majestic expanse of thin air.

 (c) Chavanitas