From Bits to Paper, Cardboard and ABS

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Droit de Suite.

The artist couple PolakVanBekkum, invited for the residency and exhibition From Bits to Paper (March 8-June 5 2016), will be behaving like digital location-trackers. They will be moving through Strasbourg and target people who are walking in the streets and follow them anonymously. The pursuits stops when their signal gets lost.


On entering the darkened space a glimmer of light reveals a table set with upright standing squares of glass, shining faintly. The squares are grouped like a platoon, no, more like a crowd. As if they are awaiting an event.
You grab one of the flashlights. When the light shines through the glass squares, shadows appear and an amazing world of lines and buildings arises. As you move your light, it feels like you’re moving through a three dimensional world of a first-person game.
The voice that is audible in the space begins to make sense. A city is described, or rather people. Somebody must have been following people. What was the subtitle of the work again? “A tribute to Sophie Calle”? The artist that became famous following people?

more information: Le Shadok, Fabrique du Numérique
25 Presqu’île André Malraux — 67100 Strasbourg
Tél : +33 (0)3 68 98 70 35

Press Coverage:


Au Shadok, les données d’internet détournées par des artistes

“Le couple d’artistes hollandais Polak & Van Bekkum a ainsi suivi plusieurs strasbourgeois – peut-être vous ? – pendant un mois afin de retracer leurs parcours quotidien. L’hommage à Sophie Calle est annoncé – l’artiste française avait déjà suivi des inconnus dans la rue dans les années 80-90, mais ici les artistes incarnent les trackers insérés dans les smartphones.
Ils se conduisent comme des stalkers – ces pervers qui exploitent les informations rendues publiques sur internet pour localiser, voire agresser des personnes – mais préservent l’anonymat de leurs « victimes ».

Ils se livrent ensuite à une tentative d’interprétation des parcours des personnes : où se rendent-elles, quelles ont été les activités de la journée ? Ici, la subjectivité entre en jeu et pose la question de l’interprétation des données archivées automatiquement.”


We thank the following institutes and persons for their help and advise:
• Filipe Pais, curator
• The incredible team of Le Shadok Fabrique Numerique
• Papier Gâchette, Imprimerie artisanale, édition en Typographie, Sérigraphie, Gravure et lithographie and Pascale Willem and Thérèse Patriot in particular
• Casas, Collectif pour l’accueil des solliciteurs d’asile de Strasbourg
• Mahwish Anwar Butt, voice
• Nele Ysebaert, reseach
• Marja Feltkamp, text editing
• Lucie Guillemin, etching help and advise
• Rento Brattinga, etching and print ideas and advise
• Our fellow residents: Julien Fargetton, Thierry Verbeeck, Martin de Bie, Iwan Twohig, Alexandre Saunier
• The city of Strasbourg and its inhabitants for being the stage of our project


practical information
Installation consisting of 24 polythene laser etchings (10 x 10 cm.), two rechargeable flash lights a and a sound track.


“Making of” experiences:

Ivar in Strasbourg: I pick the first person in sight. I describe their journeying, their clothing: the colour, the materials. Brands I don’t mention, as I hardly recognize brands. The days that I follow people are cold, zero, at the most eight degrees Celsius and everybody is heavily clothed. I describe what people hold in their hands, a bag, a phone, things. I try to follow their gaze, to get a clue of their purpose, their thoughts.
Scrutinizing the direction of their gaze, I assume what occupies them, at least for that tiny moment. I notice their heading, their pace. This reveals something, about their destination, their attitude and the amount of time they have or don’t have.

During the act of following, unintended conclusions impose themselves upon me. It feels as if I become interested in people individually. But for now this is not the case. I am experimenting with creating a “stage for everybody”. An unconscious role play, where everybody is participating.

Looking trough the players eyes, I automatically look wherever they look. As soon as somebody is looking at his or her phone, it makes me crave for mine, to check my email, my messages, news… Another one is peeking in a shop window displaying expensive watches, this makes me implicitly doubt their integrity.

After four hours of following continuously, a feeling creeps upon me: I become convinced, more and more, that everybody around me knows what I am doing.

Esther in Amsterdam: Vondelpark in twilight. I select a woman who is running in front of me, in the direction I was intending to go anyway. Her locomotion and running style suggest her age something around forty. I should be able to keep up. Red jacket. I accelerate, slow down, accelerate into running again…self-willed I act, contradicting my own intentions of following and obedience. On arriving at the western end of the park, she heads to the right, the north. To my own surprise I continue following her. At the traffic lights I get an opportunity to approach really close. Could I dare to get so close as to maybe smell her? Just a thought. We continue. We share the same pace now, my feet abandon their earlier waywardness.

We continue. The Baarsjesweg changes its name for Admiralengracht. I try to run inaudible in the quiet darkness. I slow down. By now the red jacket is hardly visible but it signals me: we change into a walking pace. After a couple of minutes of capturing my breath we move on, up-beat again. How long do I continue this pursuit? This is like an evening of swapping tv channels and lingering in a stupid story and stay put against my will for its unfolding. How northerly will my reluctance to stop following her sustain? I decide that the Jan Evertsen-street must be enough for tonight. I should be able to accept a story without closing. The red jacket crosses the street with an irregular curve. I scent that the showdown is near. And so it is: At the most northern part of the Marco Polo-street, she stops. Her key opens a door and a line of lamplight, quietly, shortly extends over the pavement. Restful I return home without even checking the house number.