We Tell Stories, Story I- MOMENTS & SITUATIONS



Bas van Wieringen & Joram Kraaijeveld
Exhibition: 21/4 – 25/5
Social gathering: Friday 20/4 at 17.00

We all gain experience by encounter­ing situations we have to act upon; tiptoe­ing over the street in order to evade the puddles of water, hanging your clothes to dry from the windowsill risking them to take wing. Moments of uncertainty bring us to consider our handling in situations we encounter every day; how do you, from head to toe, fulfil your agency in the world of things. What will be told when we casually bring together these acts of the moment? How do we give testimony to the spontaneity of these situations? Could these moments and situations altogether come to tell a story? The first episode of We Tell Stories addresses, amongst others, these thoughts. Comprising an exhibition and a social gathering there will be enough to see, hear, tell and recount.










One of the worst questions you might ask a visual artist is what he or she actually means to tell with the visual work of art. Of course, it is a visual work of art that an artist would like to bring across. Whatever the story is, it should not be told otherwise. A visual artwork should not be transferred to another medium, for instance written language, and then taken to be the definite meaning. This translation of the content is the sort of interpretation that Susan Sontag refutes, since it impoverishes and depletes art and even our world. She states in her essay Against Interpretation: ‘the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities.’[1]

Our sensual capabilities are in this case overshadowed by meanings that our intellect interprets from the artwork when we solely focus on the content. The visual experiment would get lost. No longer would anyone be able to develop a Kantian play between understanding and imagination. One would put off the development of this joyful and good-natured marriage of two cognitive faculties by focussing only on one of the two. Therefore we would no longer be able to experience that what some call beauty and others visual art. In other words, to ask a visual artist to tell the story of a visual work of art could be seen as an act of being overtly intellectual and distrusting our senses. One is then too indolent to develop a colourful, multiple and corporeal story on one’s own. This would not only be overlooking one’s own potential, but also denying the numerous possibilities visual artworks have to offer.

When confronted to some visual artworks of Bas van Wieringen you might nevertheless be tempted to pose that question about a tale anyway. You might go looking for a storyline that would give you some explanations. Not that we are looking for the artist’s hidden intentions, but the artist presents himself within the framework of his photos and videos. He is part of the visual content; he presents himself as a character. And him being a character we might be interested in the narrative in which he participates. We don’t have to look for the artist as an author with a message. Instead we are confronted with his presence. We need not try to distillate for the ultimate meaning – the content according to Sontag – that the author has put in the work, we see him.

He seems to be showing us the nature of his physical being, his inescapable bodily presence. His photo series Moments shows the limited potential of his physical being by showing us an act. Here I am, there I go, look at me, this is my body. Watch how I can lean my body against a mooring pole that is standing in the water. See that since I have a body I can feel gravitational forces upon me. Every photo seems to be a declaration of the impossibility not to occupy space. He cannot escape his body. His photos seem to tell us to look at his presence, and the potential his body offers to him. His photos visualize his presence, and they are remnants of his presence. They represent his body.

This mere bodily presence is something what we see, not necessarily what we read as a story. But we could develop a play between our imagination and understanding, to read and to see. The figure in the photos is found in surprising and futile positions. If we try, we might understand these photos present pointless and ephemeral actions. They might be seen as performances that are ‘purposeful without a purpose’. This latter is what Immanuel Kant described as the crucial element in the play between imagination and understanding that gives us a sense of beauty. The photos show us the possibilities of using our body without a particular purpose. The artist performs a futile, transient action. Since the action is pointless but performed it can be argued to be purposeful without a purpose. Exactly this might surprise us as beautiful. We understand that we see a story that doesn’t make sense.

The series of photos that Van Wieringen shows in We Tell Stories seem to develop a similar play, although the artist is not present here. Instead of the futile bodily positions in these photos we see all kinds of objects in public spaces. It seems to be a series of photos of objects that have lost their particular purpose. The objects are in such a way accidently deformed, rearranged, forgotten, or left unattended that they are not performing their most common purpose. Their formal aspects remind us of the functions these objects have, but they are executing another role.

For instance, one of the photos shows us a biking lock that is left behind on a pole at the side of the road. It is not securing any bike so it has lost its purpose. Still it is a lock occupying space. Instead of focussing on the utility of the lock, the photos invite us to look at the aesthetic qualities of the object. The photo invites us to look at the lock as a form and not as an instrument. In this sense the lock becomes purposeful without a purpose. We are free to play with the lock in the way we like. We might respond to the formal aspects and create our own narrative with it, which satisfies our imagination and intellect. Then we even could take these photos as stills from a movie that we play in our minds. We might be looking at a story without words.

© Joram Kraaijeveld

[1] Sontag Against Interpretation p. 7


Social gathering & Exhibition

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