Vanessa van Dam and Martine Stig (with a lecture by Norman Klein)

Any resemblance to Existing Persons is Purely Coincidental (Stories of Mr. Wood)

18 October 2006

On the occasion of the launch of the book Any Resemblance... by Martine Stig and Vanessa van Dam in Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, the cultural theorist Norman M. Klein will present a lecture. In addition, Hripsimé Visser, curator of photography at the Stedelijk, will provide a brief introduction to the book by Stig and Van Dam.

Prof. Norman Klein, from the faculty of the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, is known for publications and projects in which he deals with cultural questions from a multidisciplinary approach. His breakthrough came with his studies Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon (1996) and The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory (1997). In the latter Klein, as a sort of urban archaeologist, goes in search of lost symbolic memories and deeply anchored myths about an old city in a Los Angeles now saturated with expressways. These mental images are in part defined by the omnipresent film culture. His work takes many forms, and his approach is multidisciplinary. For instance, Klein was also responsible for the touring exhibition ‘Scripted Spaces’, which was to be seen in 2000 in Witte de With in Rotterdam, and investigated the phenomenon of carefully designed and controlled spaces, often designated as the something-or-other experience. Recently, for ZKM in Karlsruhe, he realised the CD-rom project Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920-86.

In his lecture in SMBA, Klein will primarily deal with the themes that he broached with The History of Forgetting and ‘Scripted Spaces’, and later developed in the book The Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects (2003). The lecture is provisionally entitled ‘The Future of Forgetting’.

Klein’s issues regarding the threadbare perception and experience of the urban environment, influenced by factors of all sorts, are illuminating for the project ‘Any Resemblance to Existing Persons is Purely Coincidental (Stories of Mr. Wood)’ by photographer Martine Stig and graphic designer Vanessa van Dam. A search for Mr. Wood, an imaginary person who is ultimately an alternative embodiment of a city, seeks to place views about reality and identity in a new light. It is not so much the question of ‘what city do we live in?’ as ‘what is the city we allow to exist?’ that is central to this search, which plays out in Bombay and Los Angeles, where, in each case, the pair stay for ten days. The book is a documentation and photographic report of their visits.

From October 15 to 24, the project will also have its Amsterdam counterpart, with the aid of the city planner Heather Flood from Los Angeles and actor/artist Johnny Vivash from London. The results of this will be seen daily in the Motive Gallery.

The book Any Resemblance..., published by Revolver, will be launched after Klein’s lecture. Hripsimé Visser will provide a brief introduction to the book, at which time the first copy will be presented to Klein.