Aesthetics of Power

This paper presents an interpretation of Landfall (2005–10), a site-specific work by Hiryczuk and Van Oevelen. In Landfall the scenery of Surtsey, an island that emerged after a volcanic eruption in the 1960s off the south coast of Iceland, is exposed on ten large billboards in a newly developed area in Amsterdam, the Dutch main business hub called Zuidas. Conceptually Landfall is based on a single action—“Surtsey is superimposed on Zuidas” —yet the work in situ requires a second action: “The recreation of Surtsey on Zuidas through projection” (Hiryczuk and Van Oevelen 2011, 16). One action will be considered in more detail: the superimposition referred to, which folds two maps into one construction, thus enabling us to frame and to reflect on the architectonics of capitalism. Recreation may thus be considered to be a critical power relationship of difference with itself.

A close reading of Gilles Deleuze’s Desert Islands (Causes et raisons des îles désertes) (2004) should provide sufficient reference points to be able to analyse the (in)tensions between the distinguished strata of Landfall. Guided by the French title of Desert Islands, the aim is to clarify the differences and relations between the “causes” and “reasons” of islands. More in particular, what could be the reason (taken as motive) to “superimpose” the frame of “Surtsey” upon the “Zuidas”? Certainly, a “frame is transposed and forced in to be imposed on,” but in this case one of the consequences, that it “fits badly,” seems not only to be regarded as intended but also as desirable (Derrida 1987, 69).

Some basic artistic techniques and tricks could be grasped, yet first and foremost this paper aims to gain insight into the status of “the island” in art and philosophy. To gauge the philosophical depth of Deleuze’s concept of “desert island” a detour to Kant’s distinction of phenomena and noumena seems therefore indispensable (Kant 2007). One of the three sources of (sublime) aesthetic power referred to above—of nature, art, and architecture—becomes the main matter of philosophical as well as artistic work: How can Deleuze’s notion of “desert island” be understood as a critique and repetition of Kant’s noumenon? Which site-specific projections does the frame of one desert island affect and effectuate, both as a tool of critical recreation and as a point of focus, in an actual state of a body politic?


Deleuze, Gilles. 2004. “Desert Islands.” In Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953–1974), edited by David Lapoujade, translated by Michael Taormina, 9–14. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).

Derrida, Jacques. 1987. The Truth in Painting. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hiryczuk, Elodie, and Sjoerd Van Oevelen. 2011. Landfall. Jap Sam Books.

Kant, Immanuel. 2007. “Of the Ground of the Distinction of All Objects in General into Phenomena and Noumena.” In Critique of Pure Reason, edited by Marcus Weigelt, based on the translation by Max Müller, 251–64. London: Penguin.