Translation from an interview (2013) & book (2021) of Hilde Van Canneyt, “4,3,2,1 questions to 123 artists”
(Borgerhoff & Lamberigts)

1. Hilde Van Canneyt: Could you describe the evolution in your work and yourself as an artist?

Alda Snopek:
‘The fact that I have developed a specific kind of abstraction in my imagery, plays an important role in my artwork. Since I graduated from film school I was at first influenced by story driven narratives and structures. Because of the complexity of filmmaking, I soon realised that it was not the medium that I wanted to work with, although I am still fascinated by some aspects of it: the magical black box environment, the instant immersion into a different world, the strong emotional impact of a face, the simple gazing of someone.
Later when I started to work with video-and editing software in the period where it became affordable for any one, I gained greater control over my working process: I could make my own video’s at home, so to speak, and I wasn’t depended on the machinery of classical filmmaking.
By working with artists from the theatre and performance fields, my work started to become more hybrids and it liberated me from sticking on one medium. For instance, in the work ‘Vers’ (2004), I combined for the first time theatre with performance and video arts, which one can call ‘ an installation-performance’, an artistic form that integrates performance, video, and installation. It was a kind of walk-through circuit (landscape), where the visitor was immersed by sound, touch, smell, images, and in interaction with people. Each visitor could generate its own perception by wandering in the landscape for the senses. This made me realise how one can create a physical experience to space by using the codes of different media. Video-installation art for instance, has a lot in common with theatre because of their use of the ‘mise-en-scène’. Both occur in a black box where you can choose which aspect will be lit; you can control the lighteffects, the intensity and its direction. One can imagine how the visitor will experience it. In ‘Vers’ I used my body as a projection screen, to project images on. I discovered the potential of video projection by using different materials to beam on. I put objects in various depth from the beamer, thus creating the illusion of depth in the video image and thereby creating a three dimensional picture. I soon realised that I could manipulate and animate any kind of object or material just by beaming light on it. In that way ‘Fresh’ was an important step.

Later I continued to work on these discoveries in ‘Tunnel vision’ (2005) where I focused mainly on creating depth of field with projections on transparent screens, my body and the space itself. In a small corridor of the art space I hung up a large translucent screen on which I beamed this corridor. Through the screen though, one could still perceive the ‘real’ corridor. This simple intervention created the notion of a shifted, double reality, a splinted representation of the image and the space.... When you walked around one could perceive different angles of the optical illusion which raises questions on how we relate to what we call ‘reality’ and how it alters according to one’s viewpoint. Quantumphysics have shown us that there is on one, or ‘stable’ reality and that people project and create one own visionfields.
This subtle interplay between illusion and reality would be at the basis for all future works, because art for me is an adequate tool to question the (d)elusive nature of things. Video allows me to penetrate dense materiality’s.
It is well known and proven that our perception on reality is limited by our senses. Even the mind, the intellect, or science even is not able to grasp the authentic substance of matter or map the metaphysical world. What we call ‘reality’ is simply a construction of the mind. That is why I constantly want to strip down these constructions by approaching the ‘truth’ through ambiguous, transforming and double-layered images, so that one is seduced and invited to reflect on these notions.
In ‘Tunnel vision’  I contributed as a performer behind the screen in the corridor. The actions were very simple and subtle: leaning against the wall, slowly pushing down and off the walls, making almost yoga like postures until finally the walls slowly started to expand and shrink back to their original position. It was of course only in the projected image that I was able to move these walls. This poetical fight with matter and gravity, trying to move dense and solid walls, is like a dance with condensed matter or an unrealizable desire to interfere with reality, challenging and exploring its boundaries.

2. And how did you come to that abstraction that you were talking about?

- That occurred in different steps. The video-installation performance ‘Sofah’ (2006) ended with the abstract image of energy circuits (meridians) circling in and through the body, making connections with intergalactic constellations. The body was transformed into a galaxy-like landscape. The idea of an invisible body still being connected and co-responding with its surroundings by showing only the environment, inspired me to make ‘Hugr’ (2007).
Having a physical and corporeal experience while looking at an abstract image is something I used in all my recent works and which I call ‘matter-scapes’: topographical maps, geological or rock formations, moutainscapes, animistic aerials or archetypal shapes. All seemingly ‘spiritless’ material could literally be ‘animated’.
‘Hugr’ was the first work where the body wasn’t explicit present anymore.
I edited and composed city maps into an abstract web that could be seen as an extension of the body, making connections with urban webbings.The grid of the city map which is normally used to divide and display borders, is transformed into a interconnecting field that transcends the notion of spaciousness. It all comes down to the same themes: what are the boundaries of the self, the other, a place, an object, a face, and a  viewpoint? In what way are we connected or can we make a connection? How can we create an open space to that which seems to divide/limit us? How can we create openness to ‘otherness’ in times where the other is seen as threatening and where we end up in patterns of conflicts as a result of exclusion of that which is different (on a personal, political or intellectual level). A lot of my work is about creating border-shifting images, and can be seen as an invitation to make openings and connections, with the different, the unknown, the unseen, inner and outer worlds.

 3. Art critic Sofie Van Loo wrote about you:  “The artist wants to penetrate into the invisible clusters of person, a thing, a moment, realising at he same time the disillusionment, its impossibility to fully grasp it in all its nuances and subtleties, without wanting to destroy it.”
Does this stand for your idea of clinging, holding on to a certain image or people?

Absolutely. Video allows me to penetrate the impenetrable. Everyone and everything is a secret, and I use video to unravel its mysteries and invisible layers. I use it to manipulate space-time reality. You can shorten time, prolong it, freeze it, enlarge it, and shift it. Most of all I would like to create a unified image of all the facets of reality compressed into one single image. As if looking at something from different angels at the same time. I don’t really know how this image will look like but I carry it somewhere inside of me.
The notion of space and matter is getting thinner and more expanded as the works evolve. I started off with the body, architectural boundaries and cityborders, going over to moutainscapes and floating meteorites. It’s as if matter is trying to liberate itself from it gravitational forces.

4. What is the idea behind ‘Metramorphoses’ from 2007?

- ‘Metramorphoses’ (2007) is a diptych, derived from the performance-installation ‘Sofah’ (2006) and the video-installation ‘Underground’ (2006) and became an independent video that can be seen without the context of the installations. For the installations I was lying on the floor in black box and the images were projected from above upon my body, and again on a transparent, rasterized screen, so that you could slightly perceive other perspectives (or dimensions) behind the screen. ‘Metramorphoses’ is about dealing with space. Spaces in the body. Spaces outside the body. Invisible spaces. Mental spaces, feelings, thoughts, contradictions. It’s about how some one is formed by inner and outer forces that influences and penetrates him/her and how it forms the body and your identity. It shows how all these invisible fields flow and resonate in and out of the body and how they are constantly changing, transforming and interacting with one another, subtly trans passing and neutralizing the borders of what is called ‘outer’-and ‘inner space’.
In ‘Sofah’, the first part of the diptych, I ‘zoomed-in’ the body until its cel structures, in ‘Underground’ I zoomed out, so to speak, until the body is connected with galaxy structures. That way ‘Metramorphoses’  is a representation, through the body, of a simultaneously micro-and macroscopically viewpoint of the layers that are hidden beneath the surface of material existence.
It is obvious that from the installation set up in ‘Sofah’ , I can reveal more of these invisible, elusive layers by the use of the transparent screens, creating depth of field (which is not possible in the video itself) and double images.  The installation was made in analogy with an anatomic theatre where people looked from above inside a cut up body, and which acts in the work as a metaphor for insight, overview and understanding. The viewer could climb into the black box in which I was laying in a black hole beneath their feet. The box acted as a huge CT scan, whereby each scans movement, revealed a hidden body part or other element. Little by little all sorts of ‘entities’ were ‘scanned’ which slowly started to wriggle and wrestle over one another, as if force fields were revealed between the physical body and the mental, non-material body. At the end it results in an obscure and intricate knot of nerve circuits in which no one can’t recognise anything. The underlying thought is that science wants to give insight and explanation in the smallest molecule but as they dig and penetrate deeper into matter, it all becomes more mysterious and unexplainable. The viewer looks down on the body, from a height, like the doctors from the anatomic theatre – but they find themselves in a state of confusion, due to the hypnotic interplay of illusion and reality of the installation. People left the installation totally disoriented and reacted very emotional. They didn’t know if they had seen real bodies, a projected image, or both at the same time. You really couldn’t know because of the double effect of the transparent screens.
But if you really looked attentive you could see the twinkling of my eyes behind the screen. This discovery was for some people almost like a choque because they didn’t know that somebody was lying there! The people were literally sucked in the ‘black hole’, where I was lying, because I played a subtle game with the movement of the image: I let the image rise and come down softly, shrink and expand so that the viewer’s body was co-responding with that rhythm, almost like breathing.
This idea of letting the image ‘ breath’ I also added in ‘Hugr’, where I added holes in the image and where I let wind blow through it as if blowing life force directly into the image.

So the image could suck you in (or out!): a total immersive experience was created. I also  fine-tuned the effect of slowly shrinking and expanding certain textures so that the viewer is brought in a kind of ‘state’ beyond the familiar.

It’s as if there is an encounter with something ‘fundamental’, that is hard to define or but into words, but that you feel deeply connected with.
There is a kind of ‘oceanic’ sensing, a calling for boundless awareness that radiates from my images and that the body unconsciously responds to.  
I think in times where the senses are overloaded and bombarded with the ‘too much’ there is a lack of ‘breathing rooms’, silent spaces for reflection and introspection. I like to invent these spaces with my installations.

5. I also read that your work has a double life when it comes to presentation. Can you explain what you mean by that?

- Like I said before, ‘Metramorphoses’, for instance, is a bundle of two previous installations until it became a film on its own. That way I can show it in a different way. Sometimes also photographs emerge from the video works. Because of the complexity of some of my installations, it is not always easy to show them at certain places and that’s why I am constantly looking for different presentations. Sometimes the works grow and evolve according to the place where they are shown. That’s why I like to work ‘in-situ’ where I make the installation on the place itself. I like to feel the space and imagine how I can implement the atmosphere or the dimensions of the space. For instance the size and scale of the projected image can be of a great importance for the impact on the viewer. And by that I don’t mean that the bigger the size, the stronger the effect, on the contrary! That’s one of those surprises for instance...

6. Are you so rigorous when it comes to the set up of your installations?

- Yes, I am. The effect of the immersion of the video image is depended on the quality of the space, the projection screen and the installation itself.
Everything must be on its right place. I also work with special materials to project on. I can look a long time for the right fabric, colour, screen paint, or texture.
Also choosing the right video beamer with correct contrast values or black levels can be a time consuming activity! That’s because the black values in my image must be really black. It must feel sensual and silky, like the warm grain in a movie. I hate the way some videos are shown in some art places, cold and distant.  I treat the projection surface just like a painter treats his canvas. You have to prepare it, work on it, and materialize it. The video images must be more then just pixels, they really have to come alive. That is why the texture of the screen is so important. You must be seduced by it, you would almost want to step into it, and you would like to touch it, or even become it! I have a whole range of black fabrics of which each has its own ‘black-effect’. I used a lot of them for creating bulging shapes to create depth in the image. And then there are the rasterized, transparent screens which I use to create multidimensional views.

7. Then there is the work ‘Bound’ from 2009. How did you technically
make this?

- Before  I say something about that, I have to talk about the making of ‘Drift’ (2008), which came before. I wanted to work again with geological formations (like in ‘Hugr’), modified into abstract organisms, but on a larger scale.
I wanted to turn the skin of a landscape inside out, sort to speak. Since I was invited to do something in a very large space it gave me the opportunity to project on two screens. It wanted to give the effect as if you were watching the inside of the earth, or into another unidentified ‘being’, by creating opening and closing cave holes. The only ‘action’ you see is sensual approaching of tectonic earth plates, gliding in and over one another.

I projected for the first time on bulged, 3 dimensional screens, creating a ‘sculpted’ image (I refer to them as ‘video-sculptures’). One of the screens formed a cave-like shape which looked as if lava was streaming out of it. Yet at the same one could recognise an embryonic movement in the flesh like texture of the lava. You could call it an ode to life-force, an outburst of tectonic forces, creating new shapes. But as I always in my work, people have to use their own imagination to co- create a ‘story’. They have to absorb themselves into the world and see and feel what comes up. That why my work isn’t so easy to pin down in exact formulations. I create images that refuse to become a fixed shape or image, they don’t want to materialize. It’s about transformational imagination, triggering the limits of representation and how imagination works. I think in times where everything is classified and rationalised, people have locked down the potentialities of imagination.
Also in ‘Bound’ (2009) I challenged the analytical mind. How do thoughts and images coagulate in your mind? The image in ‘Bound’ was frozen for a while like frozen fossilation, then it became a new shape by slowly distorting, as if preventing the viewer to make any fixed interpretations. The created meanings have to melt and fade away, like cloud watching, playing with ‘stuff’ that dreams are made off.
Shrinking, expanding or breathing images create a magical experience. It’s power to transform reality, gives the viewer a opportunity to reconcile immediately with something that they don’t understand with the rational mind or where language is inadequate.

has a much more simpler composition then ‘Drift’. Its only one, long animated image, but a lot is happening in the form itself, even if the shape evolves very slowly.
I can look for a long time for an image or photograph that keeps fascinating me.
I have to fall in love with it because I have to work for a long with it. It has to contain a certain ambiguity, so that you cannot recognise its materiality immediately. If it is too recognisable, I have to make it more abstract so that the image-mystery can emerge. Otherwise the game is over. In ‘Bound’ I got fascinated by a detail of a bronze sculpture, that I could also associate with coal, volcanic rock or even with folds and structures from the baroque era. It also radiates leather like texture, as if looking at the skin of nature in all its layerdness and richness. You also don’t know if you look at it from very far or very close. Bound also explores the limits of associative imagination, organic and transformative abstraction.
A stone/sculpture-like' transition-scape' slowly moves between seemingly liquified fossilisation and volcanic solidification. The coagulation process appearing in her two phases in one single image was my goal. It is proven that substances that look solid, are in reality, liquid. Also from the perspective of science, it is proven that solid matter is an illusion, which brings be back again to the illusion of matter and reality...
8. What inspired you for making ‘Mu’ (2010) ?

- I took a picture from an object that looked like the substance of meteorite, yet at the same time it revealed traces of cobalt, quicksilver and molten wax. Liberating this primal shape from its heavy weight, I came to the idea of letting it float on the upper corner of the image, in a black space. It just stays hanging there, making minimal movements. You never see ‘it’ in its whole, you have to image the rest of the ‘body’ of the meteorite. It slowly shifts from a compressed state to a more expanded state. The liquid quality that emanates from it, lets it stream in an everlasting evolution process. It’s another process of ‘mattering’ or states of ‘becoming’ (some one, something).

9. Is this a standard procedure for your work?

- It is not fixed but it’s a way of working that I feel comfortable with and
that corresponds with my thinking and feeling about the world. I spend a lot of time developing that kind of abstract imagery. As I said, I have to fall in love with a certain image that’s strong and ambiguous enough to work on for a long time.

10. Some of your works are interwoven with dark motives and spheres.
Do you do that deliberately to suck the viewer into your imagery?

- I don’t experience them as ‘dark’. It is not my intention to make it deliberately ‘unheimlich’. I just like the instantaneous emotional surrender when you enter the space of a black box and you see mysterious images coming at you. You can never achieve this in a white gallery space.
It’s as if you can open more in the dark, get deeper and quicker contact with subconscious feelings. It is well known that all fundamental things are hidden in the subconsciousness, how rational one may act or seem. For me the clear, the light and the explainable raises more questions.
To me the images emanate a rather meditative tranquillity. I call them rooms of reflection where one can meditate on form and matter, drifting away in another time-space reality. Consciousness-expanding imagery, I also like to call them. That’s why I make subtle soundscapes, which allows people to surrender to the image and which brings them in a certain mood or trance. The videos have to be experienced, not so much ‘explained’ or put into narrative structures. Nor is it about what you think you recognise in the forms: just become the image.

11. Now you are working more with photography. Did you need a new direction?

- Maybe. I have attained certain stillness in my video images. It was as if the next step was the still image itself, which is strange because the starting point of a lot of my video works is a still image or a photograph. I see it as a kind of transitional phase where I can reflect on my tools and myself as an artist. Photography is a very direct and concrete medium, in contrast with the long hours I editing behind the computer when making a video.
I am interested in the way photography can be used as a medium to explore the representation of reality. Obviously, I use it the same way as I have explored the medium video-installation. My research on transformational imagery continues but with a different medium, with different tools.
For instance the malleability of the substance of plastic fascinates me. How you can melt it and create any type of forms. I made a series of topographical images of modelled plastic-shapes, which under certain lighting conditions looked like
perfect imitations of geological formations. I linked this to the fact that today we treat the landscape as something that can be modelled in any way we want, how we can manipulate it to the extend that we no longer can distinguish between that what is real and what is artificial. Even seabirds can’t distinguish anymore between shining micro plastics and real food, in a sea that doesn’t belong to them anymore, or in a landscape that will be patented soon.