Na pele da terra

Wout Berger, Wim van Egmond, Gerco de Ruijter

28 November 2010 – 15 January 2011

At 15 December, 2011 an artist talk took place with the artists and Wim van Sinderen (curator Photomuseum The Hague).

This exhibition is about observation. This may seem obvious, since one could argue that the crux of every exhibition is the viewing of the art therein displayed and that without observation there is no art, without observation there is no way to compare, and without observation there is nothing to understand. This exhibition, however, is about a different kind of ‘seeing’ that takes place through the eye of the cameras of three well-known (photographic) artists: Wout Berger, Wim van Egmond and Gerco de Ruijter. It is their cameras that dictate what we are able to observe and the way in which the camera is employed opens our mind’s eye to new ideas and imagery. The camera shows us a world that is not ordinarily visible to the naked eye and reveals images that are beyond normal human observational capabilities. Although ordinarily blind to these images we nevertheless recognise them as they show us a reality with which our brains are familiar. This strange enigma becomes apparent in the work of these three artists.

The camera of Wout Berger is fixed on a certain point at the edge of the IJsselmeer or on the Brittany coastline near Roscoff. At every moment of the day or night at any point of the changing seasons the camera is able to register an image. The constantly changing landscapes of the IJsselmeer and the sea are captured by a machine that goes beyond the physical capabilities of the human eye, unhindered by blinking and by our lack of patience to observe the slow changes in nature. Wout Berger’s photographs of the Ijsselmeer challenge and entrance our eyes with beautiful shapes, structures and remarkable surreal colours. Our brain tells us that this cannot be the Ijsselmeer because our stored visual memories of that place do not correspond with the photographic images that our eyes are seeing. It is an inland sea familiar to us but we do not recognise anything. And is this not the point of good photography, to make us challenge our perceptions and make us think hard about what we observe?

Wim van Egmond’s camera has the qualities of a microscope that enable him to achieve an incredible proximity to his subject. A sea anemone in a tidal pool on the Brittany shore is so tiny that walkers pass by it unwittingly, simply unable to see this small sea flower. This flower is not sensational, it is a tiny creature that, even if glimpsed, would barely trigger a memory impulse in our brain. Therein lies the photographer’s interest; an insignificant world, inconspicuous in its own small habitat on the surface of the earth. The art of Wim van Egmond lies in the unexpected whimsicality of form and colour and unexpected beauty of this mini life form among the scant waterside vegetation.

The camera of Gerco de Ruiter hangs suspended in the sky attached to a kite at a height and level of mobility that we humans could only rarely experience in a hot air balloon. This artist’s camera therefore delivers us images of a world from an entirely unfamiliar viewpoint. Suspended beneath the kite, rather than fixed to a static high point such as a church tower or crane, the camera’s bird’s eye perspective registers the surface of the earth below and the images taken are as much ultimately affected by the varying elements of wind, sun and rain as the choice of the photographer of which frames to exhibit.

In Na pele de Terra, ‘On the Skin of the Earth’, all three artists direct their camera downwards to the surface of the earth affording the viewer an unequalled richness of nature, structure and colour. This is what they choose to show. This is what their cameras allow us to observe.

In Na pele de Terra, all three artists collaborated on one spot in nature into which the viewpoints of all three cameras are used. The result of these astonishing photos and the other images can be seen from 28 November to 15 January 2011.