I could lament on a narrative that these images might convey – a sort of comment on the very conception of human life, of birth and rebirth and memory and the way each of us will find a different meaning for these images – but that would, I feel, be missing the point.
By Joanna Cresswell, ASX, February 2015
I was having a conversation with my Father recently, in which we were discussing the time he spent living in Berlin as a young horticulturalist in the 1980s. As he regaled me with tales of felling trees in graveyards and crossing the border, we spoke of his involvement in helping to bring down the wall in 1989. Ah yes, I remembered aloud, I have a vivid memory of that framed black and white newspaper cutting depicting my Father, pickaxe in hand, in front of the Berlin wall on the day it came down, hanging in the stairwell of my childhood home. You must be mistaken, my Father had responded. Yes, there was a photograph of him in the newspaper he said, but that was taken in the Tiergarten some years before. It wasn’t in black and white and there was certainly no axe. But I can see it, I said, it’s so clear in mind. It never happened, he said. My mind remembers an image that never existed.
Some time later and even more recently, a copy of Anouk Kruithof’s The Bungalow landed on my desk. It’s a good-looking book, hardback, perhaps 300 pages long. It’s full from cover to cover of visually alluring images worth their weight in instant gratification, with the first of Kruithof’s ‘chapters’ (of which there are five) setting the tone for the book – there are telescopic moons and magic tricks, raging seas and nebula. Obscured faces become masks become cloaks until the people are just figures, and shadows and hands and bones give way to laboratories and sanatoriums, until the figures are specters that dip in and out of digital frames, with infants haunting the end of the chapter. I could lament on a narrative that these images might convey – a sort of comment on the very conception of human life, of birth and rebirth and memory and the way each of us will find a different meaning for these images – but that would, I feel, be missing the point.
At the very beginning of the project, Brad Feuerhelm pre-selected 2000 images from his colossal archive of vernacular imagery and gave them to artist Anouk Kruithof to have free reign of. She moved into a bungalow and spent an intensive period of time with them, making them her own. The five chapters each interact with the archive in different ways, with all of them united in their exploration of our perception of images. The book is a flood of sliced and spliced images and the spaces that used to hold them in their digital canvases, collections of nebulous preview windows on desktops and the graphic lines of the edges of photographs and their editing perameters.
After working my way through the book and devouring each image, and each slice of text, I’m exhausted. I wonder if The Bungalow should have been a smaller book, or taking into account the five chapters that Kruithof has split the project into, perhaps several smaller books in a series. But the more I look, the more I realize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that this exhaustion is the whole point of the object.
a view from The Bungalow @ Anouk Kruithof
a view from The Bungalow @ Anouk Kruithof
Rarely do we encounter the sublime image and often the images that trickle into our consciousness are imperfect – in the glitching on our television sets, in the smattering of saved images on the desktops of our computer screens, in the blogs and re-blogs of the same images over and over again until we feel like we know them, intimately. Until they become a part of our own story. Until they become ours.
Kruithof’s preoccupation is to reflect upon the onslaught of imagery we encounter on a daily basis and the shifting status of our image-memory as a result. The Bungalow begins to become a physical manifestation of the myriad ways in which we encounter images in the digital landscape and the changing ways we process them. Rarely do we encounter the sublime image and often the images that trickle into our consciousness are imperfect – in the glitching on our television sets, in the smattering of saved images on the desktops of our computer screens, in the blogs and re-blogs of the same images over and over again until we feel like we know them, intimately. Until they become a part of our own story. Until they become ours.
The book feels like a published collection of digital notes working towards a whole and I tend to lean towards this sort of deconstruction of the image – to see how things are built, the components, the sets. None of this book is about the images themselves – Feuerhelm himself speaks of his disinterest of seeing the images published in their original ‘straight’ format – but about the process, and that’s what’s really gripping. It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey, right?
The delirious flow of images in The Bungalow are edited into chapters that I’m not sure I fully understand, and there is so much going on that our minds work overtime in trying to create some sort of order. But that’s OK by me, because wading through the flood of images we encounter each day is much the same, and before we know it, we’ve assigned photographs to the wrong photographers, scenes to the wrong films in conversations, and images to the wrong memories.
Forget Thomas Demand’s warning that you cannot trust what you see anymore. You cannot trust what you remember anymore, and that’s a far more terrifying realisation.
(All rights reserved. Text @ Joanna Cresswell. Images @ Anouk Kruithof and Brad Feuerhelm.)