East Contemporary

Van Abbemuseum: Sissel Marie Tonn “The Intimate Earthquake Archive”

Eindhoven, November 10, 2016 – April 30, 2017, http://vanabbemuseum.nl

Sissel Marie Tonn presented a technically complex installation that had the goal of simulating earthquakes experienced by people in the Groningen region of the Netherlands where natural gas extraction takes place. These Earthquakes are a consequence of the extraction processes, i.e. there are man-made. Someone makes money, and someone has to suffer earthquakes. A negative externality. Tonn’s project tried to raise awareness of this situation. Visitors got an electronics-laden vest and were let into a small courtyard where they were moving between cylinder-shaped stone-like objects hanging down from a scaffolding. As one approached these objects, a vibrating mechanism in the vest was activated and visitors could ‘feel’ the earthquake.

The installation was well designed, yet I saw it mostly as an exercise in teamwork and interface/interaction design. The simulation of the earthquake was not very realistic. For simulating an actual earthquake, making the floor (and walls) shake would work much better than making the vest shake.

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