Push the button: Kormeling’s compliment machine

knopkormelingThis is an artwork that is a great example of (my idea of)  ‘artistic play’.

What you see is a red alarm button, what you get when you are curious and courageous enough to press it is the text (in Dutch): ‘Je bent geweldig – You are great”. Spoken in Kormelings voice, with the soft ‘g’ that  identifies him as coming from Brabant. Try a version of it at Kormeling’s website.

Why do I like it so much? I’ll try to explain. It is the way the work  plays with expectation  (red button, alarm system), the exitement of the forbidden ( what happens when I push the button) and release (getting a soft-spoken voice with a pleasant message). It is humorous (‘you are great’) and poignant at the same time (yes, you are great, you idiot that pushes buttons).

The setup reminds me of a kid I once saw playing with a bucket full of eels. When left alone, the eels in the bucket lay still. When the kid kicked the bucket, they started moving violently. This was scary, so the kid ran away screaming. Then he came back to the bucket to kick it again. Ran away again. Came back, kicked once more, ran away, ……  The game was to play  around with something that’s scary on the one hand, and fascinating on the other. So the kid played with being just-scared-enough.  Mix in some humor and I am  close to the appeal the red button, the compliment machine,  has for me.

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