Tropism emerged in the 1980's as a collaboration between an artist who wanted minimal music to accompany his paintings (Bob van Walderveen), a philosopher who wanted to create text, image and music (Alfred Marseille) and an animation filmmaker who had installations in mind (Robin Noorda). The three of them shared the opinion that a certain degree of humour in art provides the necessary perspective.

They met in 1981 in a studio for experimental electronic music (CEM). The first pre-Tropistic events took place mainly in audiovisual and poetronic spheres. This was also the time that the first four-dimensional paintings were created. The collaboration culminated in a bizarre party in the overgrown garden of the burnt down house of WWII criminal Pieter Menten, located opposite the ancestral home of Robin Noorda.

In 1986 the Tropist Manifest was released and the Tropism Foundation was established.

The legendary first exhibition took place in 1987 in artists' centre 'De Vonk' in Bussum. Tropism was heralded with a much too long-winded opening speech that, certainly also to the relief of the speaker, was interrupted by the roar of a passing train. The roar continued, long after the train had disappeared. Very slowly it dawned on the public that with this act the exhibition had been opened.

Two highlights from the first exhibition:
'Tropism around the Axis', a 12-channel piece of music, whereby on entering, the visitor will switch on one of the 12 audio channels, and on leaving will switch one off.
The 'Plant Project', consisting of a simple houseplant on a Greek pedestal, connected to an EEG device and responding to the touch of the visitors.

The exhibition 'Zwaar Licht' (Heavy Light) in De Fabriek in Eindhoven (1991) marked a new phase in the Tropists' work. A large machine in the middle of the hall controlled the light and the sound in that space. Within 21 minutes the hall of De Fabriek transformed from a hellish cacophony and bright light to a deathly silence and total darkness. This happened so slowly that nobody noticed. Part of the installation, were a number of large-size Tropistic texts and an unsightly mound of dirt that, only when nobody was watching, suddenly rose and fell.

1994 was a peak year for Tropism with the Tropistic manifestation 'Het raadsel in de Oude Kerk (The Riddle of the Old Church)' in Amsterdam, participation in the festival 'Interazioni' in Sardinia, the great Hermit III event in Plasy, Czech Republic and the sculpture route in 'Beek in Beeld'.

For 'Beek in Beeld', the Tropists placed a 30-meter long river of glass shards in a barn. An old computer generated patterns of light among the shards and controlled pounding hammers on the beams of the barn's roof.

The installation 'The Mess-age', realized for the 'Hermit' festival in Plasy, Czech Republic, consisted of 3 camera obscura projectors with mechanical animations and 3 floating audio parabolas.

'Het raadsel in de Oude Kerk' (The Riddle of the Old Church) was, just like 'Zwaar Licht' based on a cycle of 21 minutes, from light to darkness and from deafening to silence. The sound composition and the lighting were especially designed for the extraordinary space of the church. The 'Shadow Harp', a web of laser beams that encompassed the whole church, influenced the sound mix based on the movements of the visitors.

Other Tropists

Founder Bob van Walderveen died suddenly in 1995. With his death, Tropism, after 10 years, seemed to dissolve. Paul Godschalk was involved in Tropism until just before the first exhibition in 1987 and has recently become active again. Sam Samshuizen was a Tropist from 1987 to 1994, Bo Andrea and Marian Schoettle (USA) were active in 1993 and 1994.

Exhibitions and performances

1987   Art house De Vonk, Bussum
1987   Provadja theatre, Alkmaar
1987   Spiegeltent, Ede
1988   Art house De Vonk, Bussum
1991   'Zwaar licht' (Heavy Light) De Fabriek, Eindhoven
1992   Theatre Zeebelt, Den Haag
1993   Time Based Arts, Amsterdam
1994   Manifestation 'Beek in Beeld', Groningen * group exhibition
1994   Interazioni festival, Sardegna, Italy * group exhibition
1994   Hermit festival, Plasy, Czech Republic * group exhibition
1994   'Het raadsel in de Oude Kerk' (The Riddle of the Old Church), Oude Kerk, Amsterdam

2012   Museum night, Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
2013   'Photosynthesis' - summer exhibition, Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
2014   'Sneaky Serpents' and 'This is it, be here now', Amsterdam Light Festival
2015   'Photosynthesis', Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
2015   'Sneaky Serpents', Norrköping Light Festival
2016   'Sneaky Serpents', Noorderzon Festival, Groningen
2016   'Sneaky Serpents', Shenzhen, China
2016   'You lookin at me?', Amsterdam Light Festival
2017   'You lookin at me?', I Light Marina Bay, Singapore
2017   'You lookin at me?', Vivid, Sydney

Amsterdam museum night 2012

(November 3) in the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Feeding the Giant Carnivorous Burping Pitcher Plants
( 8 minutes )
Flora Sonora
( 10 minutes )
or watch it bigger
or else watch it on YouTube
or the Dutch version on YouTube

Art movement Tropism provided the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam during the 2012 museumnight a 'feeding the carnivorous plants' act & film. By Robin Noorda, Bethany de Forest, Paul Godschalk, Alex van Zanten, Menno Schrap, Margot van de Stolpe, Alfred Marseille. Camera: Erik Schut.

or else watch it on YouTube

Flora Sonora
Or the singing plant, or rather the whining shrub
is a performance by Susanne Ohmann based on an installation by Robin Noorda. Small current variations on the skin of the leaves, caused by interaction, are being sensed and amplified by an E.E.G. module which controls a synthesizer. Camera: Erik Schut.

Robin Noorda made this Tropistic installation 25 years ago, using the same modular Synton synthesizer, by now a vintage apparatus. The performance was created specially for the Amsterdam museum night 2012 as part of the Tropism Art program.