The policeman’s fear of the valley

The works of the artist Arnott Meek, born in Groningen, the Netherlands in 1962, always radiate sacred solemnity, although representatives of state power, such as the Swan Lake ballet dancers, often perform surreal choreography. In this regard, it does not seem far-fetched that the video installation “Threshold Barriers” from 2022, designed specifically for the exhibition and divided between two and three screens in the large dark hall of Frankfurt Schirn, as well as the “Double Bind” “from 2018, inspired in the hall From a diagonal separated pew, to be seen as a semi-sacral binary and a triptych. Like the massive altars of the Passion and the images of martyrs in churches in earlier times, Mick’s two large-volume, multi-part oscillating panels display images of violence, omnipotence, and vulnerability.

Half a century of impotence

Mick explores the suggestive images of the threat one faces every day on television and in newspapers: images of terrorist attacks and the reactions to them, or the powerlessness to confront them, as they have been since the Palestinian assassination attempts on the Israeli Olympic team. In Munich in 1972, the murderous and helpless botched police around her were burned into German visual memory.

Impeccable amazement: a gallery view of


Impeccable amazement: An exhibition view of Aernout Mik’s “double bond” from 2018 at Schirn Kunsthalle.
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Photo: Norbert Migolitz

In the two-part video Threshold Barriers, which really evokes fear of the unknown and barriers, Mick, with the intention of over-identifying, heightens the often conflicting confrontation between society and state power, and here he specifically shows citizens and police in surrealism: In the open scene after the fight, completely exhausted protesters and police officers mingled in a Kafkaesque fashion through barricades and bamboo pipes in a maze of views, expressing solidarity and seeming to meet at eye level. One demonstrator wears a metallic protective mask like Doctor Doom from the Marvel Comics universe, while others appear to be made of parachutes recreating a Roman army turtle formation or using an umbrella wand to simulate a shooting gun.

In contrast, in the three-part “Double Bind” video, whose voices continually reverberate in silent “thresholds”, Mick says he wants to question the failure of institutional structures of power and security that he promises. Specifically, the anti-terror unit in Rennes, France can be seen on three parallel imaging channels, militarily armed as it is inoperative and fending off an invisible enemy. Only at the end of the film Mick appears to the viewer briefly half a dozen terrified civilians at the entrance whom the surrounding special unit claims to be protecting. However, judging by the terrified faces of the survivors of the alleged attack, she could not fulfill her promise.

The pictures repeat themselves in a fatal way

The fact that sheer chaos reigns in the video and the lack of an understandable plot for coordinated action by police forces makes the impotence of the state’s responses to “invisible”, at least asymmetric terrorism all painfully clear. For example, Mik allows anti-terrorists, dressed in black, to crawl out of a police car at extremely slow speeds, so that in their combat equipment they look like giant insects with hard chitin shells. They moan repeatedly, as if overwhelmed by their helplessness and pressed to the ground, writhing on a ledge or street, rubbing their faces along the asphalt or pressing their heads against the wall of a granite house.

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