By Nicky Broekhuysen & Mine Kaplangi
When the Dust Settles
An unsettled experimentation on a 2016 exhibition The Digital Archaeologist
Keywords: media archaeology; binary code; collaboration; digital archive; experimentation
How do we remember [ex]hibitions? Feelings of the day, [art]work, space?
Time runs in various ways in digital realms. I always wonder how we will recall the space when it’s [meant to be] temporary.
a hot soup
on a cold Berlin night
where we came out
record of time
please hold the space 2m between
forms of memory
temporal length of an existence
how can we learn
unstable, constant change in place
the Depth of Delusion Ensemble
dream of a wind
resistance [of the ink]
when breaking the codes
unfolding the layers
a warm soup
on a cold night
how to write
how to read
how to dream
a story within the distance of a metallic sound
whales carried the books
we will figure out the rest
As an independent curator and art practitioner, my understanding of digital event programming, archiving and recalling previous exhibitions changed drastically in the last years, mostly due to the pandemic, an event which has consequently changed many previously held perceptions. As a means to further explore this change, I offer Nicky Broekhuysen’s exhibition The Digital Archeologist, as a pathway to guide us as we meander through these far corners of the digital realm in our search for understanding.
I wrote this text Dig Deep in 2016, three years after the Gezi Movement in Turkey, where due to the political situation, digital spaces became safer places to gather yet still we tried to hold on to the physical as long as it was due. Since then, many things have changed in my hometown Istanbul where various [art] spaces have closed and been forced to move or transform themselves—a familiar phenomenon currently occurring in London, my new hometown, thanks to state-led gentrification, the financial crisis and other inhumane policies put forth by the current Tory Government.
What is our responsibility with these memories, then, these artefacts? Just because you remember them, will you be able to hold them when the time comes or when they are urgently needed? Or should they perish into the [in]visible archives of the digital? Does the past become present when you recall them? Who has the keys to the ongoing archiving of the internet lockers? Mckenzie Wark rightfully and beautifully suggests that “we need another worldview, one drawn out of what is left of the actually collaborative and collective and common practices via which the world is actually built and run, a worldview of solidarity and the gift. A worldview that works as a low theory extracted from worker and hacker practices, rather than a high theory trying to legislate about them from above.”
Sustainability works differently regarding individual memories and storytelling, yet websites need budgets for eternal open-sourcing. We all do have our open and private libraries of knowledge productivity in the arts, yet when shared in social media, newsletters, forums or even diaries, one can lose their way in the maze even with the help of keywords. The Matrix is expanding, and binary codes are now similar to recipes; all we need to do is to cook with the taste of our own hands. Therefore experimentation, iş birliği, collective-collaborative practices and repetitive acts of making kins are essential for our times to bound the time with the work and resist the destruction of our worlds in the making.
How our paths were crossed with Nicky Broekhuysen
a short story within a story
BLOK art space, where I first worked with Nicky, has been closed since I moved to London, right before the pandemic started in the winter of 2019. The Bumiller Collection’s studio, which generously hosted The Digital Archeologist, has also since closed its doors to contemporary interventions instead of continuing as a nomadic space. So we follow a phantom of stamps that echoed inside the walls of an Islamic Art Collection’s project space that no longer exists. When I think about apparitions and recalling archives, I always find myself thinking about artist Patrick Staff’s work, The Foundation, which takes place around the iconic Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles, an archive dedicated to protect erotic arts. Even though the preserved art and works are different, the methodology of Staff’s response to this archive as building relations and stories between objects, artworks and the foundation’s space rather than categorising them is quite spellbinding, a term I frequently use to describe Nicky’s practice.
It was a vociferous Istanbul afternoon when I met Nicky; we found our peaceful moment in an antique shop next to BLOK art space, where we would work together in the following days. Nicky had a Turkish coffee; I made a silly joke to break my social anxiety by offering to read her future [reading one’s future from the coffee cup is a way of saying for future-telling]; Nicky accepted it gracefully as she is always ready for a midday seance. She closed her cup, turned it upside down, and handed it over. I put a cold 1 Turkish lira on it and waited for a while; we talked about our passions, families, and many others. Time passed impatiently; I opened the cup and immediately realised it was not just another exhibition experience with a temporary companion. Nicky was quite special, and so was her cup, showing me a giant ‘0’ next to ‘1’. Such a poetic way of starting a journey with a magical artist like Nicky, who works with binary codes, intuition and repetition as methodologies that create magic when combined. I smiled and laughed for the entire day as the proper grinagog of the project space I was working at the time couldn’t handle the flow of emotions I was receiving through Nicky’s presence.
I always think Nicky works with time
repetition, decisions on how to continue
rather than what she uses, rather than the binary
0’s 1’s are not only binary code; they are Nicky’s language, shapes, tools,
addressing the potential rather than the limitation
now they are colourful
they bloom in spring
we had explosions of them in Istanbul on the walls of the gallery we worked side by side
and the drifting sound waves floating in the digital sphere
the fact that nothing in life can remain static, she says
for transitioning, for in constant fluid being
they choose to become something else other than what they are already named, constructed
Every year following the summer of 2013 was getting stranger and weirder for Istanbul; I was already convinced that Nicky and I were meant to know each other beyond time and space. Our journey was not for or about us, but for both of us to have the courage to face and to reveal something immense that you would rather prefer to have company while it unfolds.
When we make exhibitions, we respond to certain things, experiment and create spaces and stories, but these come to life through various spatial, emotional, and temporal relations. I have recently grown more tempted and interested in these relationships, more so than even at the beginning of my [art] journey. It took us a couple of years to become close friends. After Istanbul, Nicky invited me to her Berlin exhibition at the Bumiller Collection and to write about her work and practice for the exhibition catalogue as well as to moderate the artist’s talk alongside the exhibition’s programme.
Later on, we had our first lengthy dinner in Berlin and talked about parallel universes, our family secrets and how our generation should be more caring and giving, especially while working together and collaborating when it comes to queer loving. Then we published an interview where Nicky shared the details of her relationship with her grandmother and her life generously; later on, we decided to call each other and have the same conversation in a podcast format. It was during the first lockdown, and we never felt closer. It was not the physical boundaries that kept us apart; the limitations of our stories were seeking expansion, fluidity and more space. And we decided to let them have their contagion.
The Bumiller Collection held a contemporary intervention exhibition twice a year and invited an artist to exhibit their work alongside the collection, creating new understandings and relations between the works, artefacts, objects and their time. Using binary code as ‘her artistic language’ Nicky created these incredible messages that calmly ask roaring questions about language to the collection objects, the space, and the exhibition visitors. There was only one screen placed in the exhibition space that shows the video work of Nicky Broekhuysen (see video II) – ‘inserting the digital space into the physical room as part of the exhibition’s exploration of media archaeology.’ The rest of the works played their parts in fracturing our understanding of time by inviting all to meditate in front of this new language that we usually take for granted as machines and computer systems read before and for us. I never thought that binary code belonged to the machines; it is the universal code of a rudimentary understanding of time and system makings. Taking the codes out of their current use and representation and creating lustful, physically-driven languages out of them is very queering and alluring to our already complex relationship with the digital, which can still be distancing for many due to lack of sweat and spit. The objects exhibited from the Bumiller Collection were related to the early times of writing, tools of writing, manuscripts, and experimentations which were uniquely loose, open to change and to flux yet remain well-preserved in the passing of time. Inspired, Nicky recalled this freedom by reconstructing some of those methodologies yet maintaining supreme craftsmanship and experimentation. I believe the paper will hold the ink as long as it can and we will trust the printed materials as the continuation of the digital realms, which might give us new ways of looking at digital archives and their sustainability.
Watching The Matrix for the third time from Nicky’s perspective is a caring experience; Nicky uses binary code to open up [time] portals in our short yet wired existence on this earth.
The things we remember will stay with the works
If we are the ones who will tell the story to others
I will mention the leftovers from the opening night
The girl who drew a heart into the guestbook
My shaking hand during the talk
My cousin’s gaze, a familiar smell of a guest
Now the mountains
Now the horizon
While the stones holding the space for you
We seek other horizons
Who will be the ground
Nicky Broekhuysen was born in 1981 in South Africa. At the age of 13, her family moved to New Zealand where she completed her studies. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Auckland University, she moved to Shanghai, China, in 2006. It was in Shanghai that she first began working with binary numbers 1 and 0. In 2008 Broekhuysen moved to Berlin, Germany where she continued to develop her language of binary code, exhibiting both in Berlin and internationally for the following 11 years. Recently, in 2019 she relocated her studio to The Pyrenees in France to be closer to nature and where she continues to create and exhibit. Broekhuysen is represented by Davidson Gallery in New York.
Mine Kaplangi (she, her, 1987, Istanbul) is an independent curator and art mediator based in London. She is the co-founder of the curatorial collective Collective Çukurcuma (2015) and KUTULU (2021). She worked as an artist representative and curator at BLOK art space Istanbul between 2014-18. Together with Collective Çukurcuma, they have been curating public programmes of exhibitions and running their reading group events as an ongoing transdisciplinary project since 2016. She is currently working as a freelance editor for the Berlin-based contemporary art platform Artfridge, and publicity manager at a cross-cultural, multilingual, experimental publisher, Pamenar Press (London).
Figure 1. Nicky Broekhuysen, The Map is Not The Territory III, Oil on paper, 2016
Figure 2. Photograph of a Turkish coffee cup, taken at the antique store right next to BLOK art space, Istanbul [Photo by Mine Kaplangi]
Figure 3. Nicky Broekhuysen, The Digital Archeologist IV, Oil on paper, 2016
Figure 4. Nicky Broekhuysen, The Digital Archaeologist V, Oil on paper, 2016
Figure 5. Nicky Broekhuysen, The Map Is Not The Territory V, Oil on paper, 2016
Figure 6. Nicky Broekhuysen, The Digital Archaeologist III, Oil on paper, 2016
Video 1. The Stonebreakers, 2015, A collaboration by Nicky Broekhuysen, Maria Kamutzki and Martin Keane. Originally exhibited as part of the exhibition ‘The Stonebreakers’ at Blok Artspace, Istanbul, Turkey, 2015
Video 2. The Digital Archaeologist, 2016, A collaboration by Nicky Broekhuysen, Maria Kamutzki and Martin Keane custom-built physical modelling program and sound piece
Figures 1-4 and Video 2 are the selected works from The Digital Archeologist exhibition that took place in Bumiller Collection, University Museum Islamic Art in Berlin between 10 September – 15 October, 2015.
 Kaplangi, Mine. “INTERVIEW: NICKY BROEKHUYSEN.” Artfridge.de, 2018, www.artfridge.de/2018/10/interview-nicky-broekhuysen-mk.html.
 Hernàn’s band is called The Depth of Delusion Ensemble in Memoria. 2021. [film] Directed by A. Weerasethakul.
 Kaplangi, M. (2016). Dig Deep. On Nicky Broekhuysen’s Solo Exhibition “The Digital Archaeologist.”
 McKenzie Wark, Digital Labor and the Anthropocene, dis magazine transcript from Digital Labor Conference, New School, 2014, http://dismagazine.com/disillusioned/discussion-disillusioned/70983/mckenzie-wark-digital-labor-and-the-anthropocene/
 Taste of the hand [elinin lezzeti] is a Turkish saying that the dish will taste differently even if you follow the same recipe due to each unique flavour and taste of our hands and fingers.
 This means ‘collaboration, partnership’ in Turkish.
 Staff, Patrick, dir., The Foundation. 2015, www.vdrome.org/patrick-staff-the-foundation/.
 See Video 1.
 Kaplangi, M. (2018). INTERVIEW: NICKY BROEKHUYSEN. http://www.Artfridge.de/. http://www.artfridge.de/2018/10/interview-nicky-broekhuysen-mk.html
 Collective Cukurcuma [CC STATION]. (2020, May 12). Conversation with Nicky Broekhuysen [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wbXkwdZrTI&ab_channel=CCSTATIONICOLLECTIVECUKURCUMA
 Proust, M. (2022). Remembrance of Things Past (Complete in Two volumes) (Reprint ed.). Random House.