Skycatcher: Constantly Changing Dutch Skies


The sky has always been one of the favorite topics in Dutch visual art. Sometimes blue, sometimes grey, covered or clear, far more visually interesting than flat green polders, the Dutch sky has unquestionable painterly and poetic qualities. The most celebrated of all occupies nearly two-thirds of Johannes Vermeer’s canvas in his “View of Delft,” now in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague. In Vermeer’s painting, cumulus clouds billow through astonishing blueness and light, but the dark underside of one dominates the upper foreground. The view is both eternal and unpredictable; clearly anything can happen. The same feeling of infinite variety and constant change is perceived in ‘Skycatcher‘ an artwork created by Dutch designer Luna Maurer. The art project consists of an installation with a digital camera placed on the roof of De Balie, centre for culture and politics in Amsterdam, taking every five minutes a picture of the mutant sky using always the same shot. These pictures provide the content for the web database that can be experienced by the user with the so-called ‘sky-browser’, experimenting its infinite variety. If Dutch painters were allowed by layers oil painting technique in creating skies never similar twice, for Maurer digital camera can do that with its time programming continuously capturing different frames. The result is a version of Dutch painting adapted to digital culture. In the age of reproducibility and copyright debate, Skycatcher visitor can for example freely download the background images and use them according to Creative Common License. And the spectator doesn’t admire an artwork created in years of meticulous layers that fix an eternal instant: he is instead aware of the transient nature of images that are never similar, temporary and constantly changing.

Valentina Culatti