“One year after the calamity of Bijlmer, Crombag interviewed the locals through a ‘suggestive survey’. Non-neutral questions which tend to a confirmative answer like “Have you seen the tv-images of the crash?” were asked. Two thirds of the respondents said yes, although there are no images from the actual collision of the plane into the building. There was no amateur film from somebody standing coincidently at that spot.”(‘De kracht van ons krakkemikkige geheugen’, Observant, Jrg. 20, Nr. 30, 13 april 2000)
(Geheugenonderzoek door Hans Crombag | Universiteit Maastricht)
Images fight for our attention.
On a daily basis they try to seduce us, to chock us or –rightfully or not- try to make us believe in their authenticity. In this fight for our attention, within the multiplicity of offered images, only very few of course crystallize into icons, into “stereotypes of our history” (Jameson).
Very often we don’t take notice of the fact that images are strongly determined by culture and that the truth quality can -to say the least- be doubted.
In the Western world for example, the name “Jesus” automatically recalls a more or less univocal image, but the same “Jesus” becomes a coloured man in Africa. Even the “scientifically” reconstructed facial traits of Jesus raises questions. A truly trustworthy image of Jesus based upon historical data will always be approximate; it’s one of the possible faces Jesus could have had.
How strongly can we therefore trust the meaning of images? The iconized image tends to immediately absorb the truth, the total rightfulness. And in a time where according to Baudrillard our daily life is replaced by “a network of communications”, we are entitled to question and slightly undo some of the iconized images of our collective memory.
The search for an alternative meaning is a central issue in my photographic work. Now that the public world imposes her icons without constraint to the individual and our physical reality has to step aside in favour of a diffuse culture of pictures, I look for a different possibility behind our collective images. To reach this purpose I essentially walk two complementary ways.
On the one hand I try to capture the relativity of -or even the lie behind- the images through the framing and contextualisation in series with a nearly documentary character. In Brussels | Marrakech | Peking I analysed this theme in depth. This series provokes the so called “truthful reproduction of reality” still seen as one of the most important characteristics of the (non digital) photography. The series Nga (2002) also explored this very same issue already.
On the other hand I work directly on the transposition of existing images into a contemporary scenography, therefore “re-picturing” icons of our collective memory into a present setting. What I offer is the possibility of an alternative, breaking the dogma of the icon. It is within this framework that my picture “Io” (2005) and my latest series “Grimm” should be considered.
Reality is not reproducible but obviously it’s re-constructible.
This work refers directly to “Mercurio y Argo” from Velasquez, but the setting is completely actualized and therefore approaches the viewer in a new, alternative fashion.
The reconstruction of canonic images like this one is specific because of the setting of the scenes. Although I never manipulate in the strictly technical sense -the picture is direct- I do put a lot of effort and devotion in the composition of the picture. The pictured body is forced into the mould of the composition, directed in harmony with the scene it reconstructs and to which it owes full gratitude.
All this attention to the technical, to the reconstructable would very quickly lead to sterile images and undo them from their power of polarisation. The image flirts with perfection and then turns away from it, it refuses to become an academic product without soul. Every image tries to be a seductive icon, every image longs for the reconstruction of that icon, but at the same time it stands strong as an image on it’s own.
Io owes its existence to Velasquez, but gets a new dimension. Mercurio still has the erotic power of a god but helm, sword and shield have been traded in for contemporary attributes. The here and now of the painting lit up and this way Io claims its position as an independent original.
The images are not -never- manipulated digitally, manipulated or corrected. I never make test pictures, because I consciously want to disturb the neatness of the image. The small coincidental details that become part of the image, enhance the authenticity of the images because of their impurity, they neglect the too clinical laws of perfection. The attention of the spectator is drawn to the little spark of coincidence in which the reality claims its presence in the image.