fig: info folder docu/demo dvd


fig: schematic drawing variant DisMalebolge





fig: Dis, video pit (photographic work)






fig: monitors video pit








fig: sccreen with the constellation River of Night


fig down: a realized and an unrealized version








In the abyss is a place known as the 'angry Bellows'
made up of stone, and the colour of iron.
(Dante, Inferno 18.1-2)


Malebolge is an installation created for the retrospective exhibition TERRA MORALE - Malebolge (Jan/Feb 2000) at the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/TBA in Amsterdam. This work includes the first phase of execution of a plan from 1994/96, for an interactive video pit and two video projections under the working title Dis/Malebolge. This does not mean that the present version is no more than a component of a 'work in progress'. Malebolge is an autonomous work, even though certain elements will recur in the version with the interactive video pit.


The plan from 1994/96 was based on Canto 16-18 and 32-34 from Dante's Inferno. Moreover, the form planned for the installation was an allusion to the huge waterfall on the borders of Dante's seventh and eighth rings of hell, to the deeply frozen pit at the centre of the ninth ring, and to the stream running down-hill at the end of the Inferno. The bellows-shaped eighth ring, which Dante called Malebolge, was not to be represented directly, but rather, incorporated indirectly in the multi-stage design of the video installation.
The waterfall, the frozen bottom of the pit, and the stream, are all part of the same huge water system that is interwoven throughout the Inferno. A kind of reversed, inverted water volcano, with rivers, streams and other water currents, which are also encountered in classical mythology.
After the Acheron ('the mournful') on the border of the first ring, the Styx ('the dreadful') on the border between the fifth and sixth ring, and the Phlegethon ('the seething') of the seventh ring, the huge waterfall plunging down from the seventh into the eighth ring is a continuation of these underworld rivers to the depths of Hell. The ruddy Bulicame stream - the subject of my first video installation, Bulicame - is a canal connecting the river of fire from the seventh ring with the waterfall on the borders of the seventh and eighth. The frozen pit at the deepest point of hell refers to the Cocytus ('the river of lament'), another classical underworld river. The down-hill stream is an outlet of the Lethe ('forgetfulness') - in the classics, the stream of oblivion.
What is remarkable about Dante is that the deepest point of hell, which, in La Divina Commedia, is in the centre of the earth, is not boiling hot, but ice cold - "like a lake so cold that it seemed more glass than water' (Canto 32, 23-24). In the middle of the ice floor, frozen fast and crying inanely, we find Dis, the Prince of the Underworld. This grotesque figure has three faces, each with its own colour; the face in the middle is red, the one on the right is yellowish-white, and the one on the left, black. Opinions differ on the meaning of these colours. Some have construed them as symbols of hate, ignorance and impotence, others as those of wrath, greed, envy, while others again as the races of humanity. Dante's depiction of Dis is concise, 'which in visions was tradition, but, from an artistic point of view, was also sensible. When it comes to monsters, the difference between impressive and ridiculous is dangerously small.' (A.K. Turner, The History of Hell.)
While I was writing the fable for the multidisciplinary project HEKATE - Trivia, Selene, I discovered that, already in the stone age of Ancient Greece, the three colours of Dis were being used symbolically. This discovery has made it possible for me to interpret the three colours in a graphic, and therefore less moralistic, manner.


Dante, Inferno, Canto 34, the deepest point in the earth and the bottom of the ninth ring of hell. Opening line: Vexilla regis prodeunt inferni (The banners of the King of Hell are advancing).
Elements: the frozen Cocytus, Lethe and the opening back to the earth's surface, with the star-studded sky. But moreover: the waterfall from the seventh to the eighth ring of hell, which, in Dante, could be heard from a long way away, and must therefore also have been distantly audible in the ninth ring.
Character: the three-headed figure of Dis, which Dante described gruesomely, albeit mostly by comparison and in his depiction of the surroundings; he hardly elaborates upon the creature itself. In order to give this creature more 'content', I studied another literary source: Comte de Lautréamont, Les Chants de Maldoror - brought to my attention by Pien Stades, who, at a later stage, will compose a 'work of sighs' for Dis/Malebolge. It was particularly the deliriant passages, in which Maldoror addresses the reader in direct speech, that proved to be useful in various way - even for the cycle to which Malebolge belongs.


A darkened rectangular room. In the centre, a three-part irregular-octangular video construction with a raised, sloping edge, which incorporates three video monitors. At the bottom, inside the video construction, a layer of synthetic material which looks like ice, under which a photo of a threefold, anthropomorphous figure is shimmering. The raised edge, which includes such materials as iron and dried red clay, has an opening on one side, which thus enables the visitor to enter and step onto the 'ice'. Black walls are placed around the video construction - the video pit - with here and there an opening: so that people can enter the area inside, can look out once they are inside, and to allow projection.
This central area is not precisely in the middle of the rectangular room, but rather, to the right of the middle point. In the empty space on the left-hand side, five scattered sounding boards are suspended (four of them black, one gold-coloured), and, in a line, three transparent projection screens, on (and through) each of which is a single projection. Behind the opening between the walls, in line with the opening in the video pit, hangs a black projection screen, printed with a star-studded sky.


The three video monitors built into the raised edge of the video pit show the three rivers of the underworld flowing out: Acheron/Styx, Phlegethon, and Cocytus. The 'red', 'white' and 'black' light streaming out of the monitors spotlights the threefold, three-coloured figure locked up beneath the (semi)transparent bottom of the pit.
By means of a mirror object, the video projection is split up into two different projections. These two separate images, in upright format, are projected in two directions, onto screens just outside the circle of black walls. The projection with the widest upright format consists of a chthonic primary image and a secondary image layer, which, among other things, includes images that refer to the 'primaeval' foursome (Tityus, Tantalus, Sisyphus, and Ixion) who, according to classical mythology, were punished in Hades. These are TV images from collections accumulated for earlier projects. This projection is pointing at the 'banners' hanging one behind the other. The projection with the narrowest upright format represents the opening back to the earth's surface, and shows the Ancient-Babylonian constellation 'Night River'.

In contrast to my other video works, Malebolge is uncannily quiet; a silence that is enhanced by the rumble of a distant waterfall, and - at the opening back to the earth - the gentle murmur of the Lethe. From time to time the silence is broken by the crash of a single thunderous, blaring chord. During those brief moments, it turns out that some 'clamorous' texts from Maldoror are also present in this space - texts which the visitor cannot actually read, and of which only shreds can be digested.


As mentioned above, the title of this installation is in fact the name of Dante's eighth ring of hell. At this stage of the project, I chose strongly to reduce the deepest point of hell ('ice' floor and 'photo' work at the centre of the video construction), and to elaborate on the theme of Dis by other means (the lay-out of the room, the spatial video images, those in the video construction, the sound, 'hidden' fragments of text, etc.). This elaboration encompasses both the entire waterway arsenal from Dante's underworld and the area where hell ends. This enhances the presence of the eighth ring, more than that of the ninth ring itself. Moreover, the whole form of Dante's inferno is in a certain sense a large 'angry bellows', while the 'cleft' is one of Maldoror's hallucinations in what for me is a crucial passage.                       

(ndk 1999)


schematic drawing of the version executed in jan-feb 2000, as part of the Terra Morale - Malebolge exhibition


concept and script Nol de Koning, camera Louk Vreeswijk, editing and sound Ramon Coelho, editing monitor images Nol de Koning, music two chord clusters by Luciano Serio SINFONIA III - In ruhlg flieszender Bewegung, co-conciever Pien Stades, graphic desugn Wim van Klaveren, postproduction Nederlands Instituut voor Mediakunst Montevideo/TBA, Amsterdam

four videotapes (17 mins 30 secs, colour), one sound disc (17 mins 30 secs, stereo), one video projection, a video construction with three monitors, a photographic work, 100 x 100 cm, six dividing walls (one with words from Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror), one translucent projection screen, a projection screen with a constellation imprint, five sounding boards (one gold coloured)



See for more illustrations: > remaining projects > Dis (text in Dutch, English text in preparation)


> Bulicame   > Palinuro   > Miseno   > Palinuro and Miseno   > Vulcano Eolico
> Hylas' Song   > Nox Umida   > Malebolge   > Versions of the Blue Hour
> Terra Morale   > The C of Scylla   > Old Ocean
> Not from Land any Longer   > remaining projects