2016 days of awesome photo books


10 december 2016 – 04 februari 2017

Ontelbaar en niet te vermijden zijn ze: de ‘zorgvuldig samengestelde’ selecties van de beste / meest indrukwekkende / belangrijkste / veelbelovende (vul in uw favoriete click bait) van het jaar. Begin december duiken ook steevast de lijstjes met de beste fotoboeken van de wereld op. Sommige lezers maken daadwerkelijk gebruik van deze lijsten als cadeausuggesties voor de feestdagen, voor de oom of tante die van fotografie houdt, of voor die artistieke collega met zijn Instagram account. In het geval van het fotoboek – nog steeds vrijwel een insider affair – zijn deze lijstjes voornamelijk een kwestie van erkenning voor publicaties die zich boven het maaiveld of buiten het gebaande pad begeven. Maar meer dan dat zijn dergelijke eindejaarsopsommingen oefeningen in trendspotten, waarmee zowel critici als fotografen hun scherpte kunnen bewijzen. Meta-lijsten van lijsten worden aangelegd om de scores bij te houden welk boek het hardst geroemd of het best verkocht wordt, en dat is niet vanzelfsprekend een en dezelfde titel. Koortsachtig houden fotografen en uitgevers via social media hun fans en stakeholders op de hoogte waar en door wie hun boek vermeld wordt. Boekprijzen van reeds uitverkochte limited editions worden door kopers en verkopers bijgehouden alsof het aandelen op Wall Street betreft. Als dit allemaal ietwat hijgerig klinkt: dat is het ook, maar de nodige zelfspot en humor ontbreken gelukkig nooit. Dit jaar publiceerde Rudi Thoemmes van RRB Publishing zijn Marmite lijst, met daarop de slechtst verkochte boeken.

Met het einde van het jaar in zicht, vroegen het team van LhGWR en Hester Keijser van Stead Bureau zich af van wie zij ditmaal graag advies zouden willen krijgen over de beste fotoboeken. Misschien moeten we ons wenden tot de ideale kritische consument, een veelvraat die put uit een welhaast alomvattend assortiment van titels bij het afwegen van keuzes, van wie de smaakpapillen zo uitgebalanceerd zijn dat we blindelings de boeken die hij of zij aandraagt, kunnen vertrouwen? Voor de tentoonstelling 2016 days of awesome photobooks hebben LhGWR en Stead Bureau zes mensen die van het wikken en wegen van boeken en/of kunst een dagbesteding maken gevraagd een lijstje samen te stellen. Zes verzamelaars van de buitencategorie (zoals dat in de wielersport heet), wier namen bij menig boekwinkel de deuren ook buiten openingstijden doen openen, zijn uitgenodigd om een top zes te maken van de fotoboeken die zij hebben aangeschaft of gekregen in de afgelopen 2016 dagen, wat neerkomt op ongeveer 5,5 jaar. Daarbij waren zij volledig vrij om invulling te geven aan de begrenzingen van het fotoboek en kwam het bij de 2016 dagen niet op een dagje meer of minder aan. Ben je benieuwd? Kom kijken naar het bijzondere resultaat en geniet van de vrijheid die ze hebben genomen in hun keuzes.

2016 days of awesome photo books presenteert de favoriete boeken van Peter van Beveren, Flip Bool, Christian Caujolle, Paul Kooiker, Suzanne Swarts en Reyn van der Lugt. In aanvulling op de boeken zelf is een beperkt aantal kunstwerken van de gepubliceerde fotografen in de tentoonstelling opgenomen.

They are innumerable and unavoidable: the ‘carefully curated’ selections of the best / most impressive / important / promising (fill in your favorite click bait) of the year. Invariably, come December, the lists with the best photo books of the world join the queue. Some readers actually do use these lists as suggestions for the holiday shopping season, for the uncle or aunt who really digs photography, or for that artsy colleague with his Instagram account. In the case of the photo book – still pretty much an insider affair – these lists tend to revolve around recognition for publications that were the tallest poppies in the field, or which blossomed off the beaten path. But more than that, such end-of-the-year tallies are exercises in trend spotting with which both critics and photographers can prove their acuity. Meta-lists of lists are compiled to keep the score which books are praised the most or sold the best, and that is rarely one and the same thing. Feverishly, via social media, photographers and publishers keep their fans and stakeholders informed where and by whom their books are mentioned. Book prices of already sold out limited editions are monitored by buyers and sellers as if they were stocks on Wall Street. If this all sounds somewhat exhausting: indeed it is, but self-mockery and humor are never far away, thankfully. This year, Rudi Thoemmes of RRB Publishing published a so-called Marmite list, revealing his worst-selling books.

With the end of the year drawing near, the LhGWR team and Hester Keijser of Stead Bureau pondered whose advice on photo books to follow this time. Perhaps we should turn to the ideal critical consumer, a glutton who draws from a comprehensive range of titles when weighing choices, whose taste buds are so balanced that we can blindly trust the books he or she puts forward? For the exhibition 2016 days of awesome photo books LhGWR and Stead Bureau invited six people who practically have a day job in selecting and evaluating books and / or art, to compile a list. Six collectors of the highest ranks, whose names open doors after hours in many a bookshop, were asked to provide the best six books they purchased or received in the last 2016 days, which equals roughly 5,5 years. In addition, they were totally free to interpret the boundaries of the photo book, and the 2016 day limit could – no matter – well be a few days off the mark. Curious? Come visit the eclectic collection that resulted, and enjoy the liberties they took in choosing their favorites.

2016 days of awesome photo books showcases the favorite books of Peter van Beveren, Flip Bool, Christian Caujolle, Paul Kooiker, Suzanne Swarts and Reyn van der Lugt. In addition to the books themselves, a limited number of art works by the published photographers is included in the exhibition.

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impressie tentoonstelling

Rune Peitersen | Safe Distance

Rune Peitersen | Safe Distance


5 maart – 23 april 2016

In de tentoonstelling Safe Distance toont Rune Peitersen (DK, 1971) vier series van werken die je brein kwellen. Ze confronteren je met een dualisme waarin esthetiek en inhoud tegenover elkaar worden geplaatst. Peitersen verzamelde online beeldmateriaal van rellen in Turkije, van bominslagen op piratenboten voor de kust van Somalië, van drones die missies uitvoeren boven Afghaans en Irakees grondgebied, en van ruïnes die de oorlogen in het Midden-Oosten in het landschap markeren. Vervolgens bewerkte en interpreteerde hij de beelden om het dualisme aan te jagen en een innerlijke dialoog in gang te zetten. Peitersen bevraagt zijn eigen positie als maker (én die van de toeschouwer) in relatie tot het afgebeelde, met als kernvraag; Wat is onze rol in al deze gebeurtenissen die we vanaf een veilige afstand observeren? Nemen we een actieve houding aan of blijven we onverschillig, en laten we deze beelden van ons afglijden? En dan is er ook nog de rol van kunst ten opzichte van de actualiteit – is kritiek nog mogelijk binnen de kaders van ‘de kunstwereld’, of is de traditionele tentoonstellingsruimte de ultieme ‘veilige afstand’ geworden?

Rune Peitersen studeerde in 1999 af aan de Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunst en in 2001 aan de Masteropleiding van het Frank Mohr Instituut in Groningen. Sinds zijn afstudeerjaar wordt hij gerepresenteerd door Ellen de Bruijne Projects in Amsterdam, waar hij ook woont en werkt. Zijn werk is te zien geweest in internationale tentoonstellingen op uiteenlopende podia. Naast zijn praktijk doceert Peitersen aan de AKV|St.Joost, geeft hij regelmatig lezingen en gastlessen en is hij mede-oprichter en voorzitter van Platform Beeldende Kunst.

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installation views
Rune Peitersen Safe Distance 1
Rune Peitersen Safe Distance 2
Rune Peitersen Safe Distance 3
Rune Peitersen Safe Distance 4
Rune Peitersen Safe Distance 5
text by Vincent van Velsen
There are at least two sides to every story. A brief outline of a narrative would show an exchange between the object(ive) and the subject(ive). The latter being the watcher, the executioner or the actor; the preceding equals the one undergoing an action, a passive recipient or the direct object. They are entangled, as the one always implies the other. These two positions are united in the spectator. As the spectator actively watches, judges
and demands action; at the same time he/she is on the receiving consumer side of a spectacle.
In Safe Distance this double sided position of the spectator is of main importance. On the one hand, it addresses a consumerist passivity; while on the other it appeals to one’s ethical standards – demanding morally induced action. The subject matter of the overarching Safe Distance series by Rune Peitersen – which now consists out of four parts in total – deals with our daily feed of news updates by ways of pictures. The series reflects on what is provided to us and highlights certain important, frequently featured imagery. News has become a form of en-tertainment, and thereby is highly aestheticized. This tendency includes turning up the shock value of images, instigating fear and excitement at the same time. As a logical outcome, the process simultaneously made us – the viewers – increasingly familiar and numbed. Boundaries of awe have to be continuously increased to still remain attractive and relevant to the viewer, and to remain able to stand out in the daily stream of images; turning the news into a visual spectacle for the masses. In this process, we – the average citizen – have the ‘privilege of being a spectator’, as Susan Sontag calls it. Safe behind the well secured walls of ‘Fortress Europe’ we are direct, although mostly passive, accomplices to turning near parts of the globe into vivid war zones, signless cemeteries and instant ruins. Exactly this framework, its consequences and the human position, form the subject of Peitersen’s images.
Rune Peitersen is the Operator; the Barthesian maker of a photograph. According to the French philosopher, death is the essence of the photograph. Next to its eternal present tense, death is an intrinsic part of the medium. All due to an eternal nowness that makes one aware of the passing of time, turning the photograph into a visual reminiscence of a moment and/or person. In the Safe Distance series this can be viewed quite literal. The images show moments of sheer upheaval and death, interspersed by remnants of air strikes, protests and haunted genius loci. In the High Grounds series, the decisive moment gains an extra meaning: the moment when someone decides life becomes death. The direct actor determines whether the one perceived will remain alive or seizes to exist.
The direct objects can be called victims of our political actions that are set in place in order to keep ourselves in the safe zone. They do not have ‘the luxury of patronizing reality’ through media. They are the ones confronted with the Light of God – the laser beam that guides the drone missiles, or marking the spots for the allied forces to engage on – and might be vaporized by a mouse-click of an actor who is physically safe behind a screen in Nevada.
The intense and direct influence that is felt through mediating screens is highly underrated. Their means to mediate reality, despite the safe bodily distance, does not exempt the viewer-actor from mental distress: distance does not equal detachment. Aside this direct PTSD causing involvement, on a media level, according to Sontag, our chronic voyeuristic relation leads to ignorance due to repeated exposure, and our culture of spectatorship neutralizes the moral force of photographs and its content of atrocities.
Similarly, those who are labelled as pirates are done away with ease. It is only justified to blow them up, while we look through our camera phone lenses or at our laptops and TV screens. Related, ruins remind us of the grandeur of a world long gone. For those who glance swiftly at the pictures, it might seem an approaching army of battle droids at Naboo, a herd of strolling Strandbeesten at Scheveningen beach, or Constant’s New Babylon from afar – the latter two being highly possible in the The Hague context. However, the ruins depicted by Peitersen are recent. The footage used shows the almost completely erased airport at Gaza, Palestine by means of the Israeli army. The specific location does not really matter here, as the works address a common image that creates an interchangeable scenery. The pictures include a sense of generic universality, and therefore also include an archetypical aspect. This could be any day, anywhere – except here. So in that sense it could have been the archaeological site of Samarra, as much as Sir John Soane’s Bank of England depicted as a ruin by Joseph Gandy (1830). Or The Abby in the Oakwood (Abtei im Eichwald, 1809-1810) by Caspar David Friedrich that indicated the end of the German culture during the Swedish invasion. Both paintings deal with the splendour of the past and poetics of the picturesque. The ruin suggests the relentless passing of time, and the nostalgia attached to it. A Piranesi-like picture that puts affront a ‘melancholy that comes from reflecting on the decayed magnificence’ as William Shenstone calls it.
Eventually, concerning a somewhat Romantic notion of a world in demise, addressing melancholia and vanity alike. It makes the viewer aware of the beauty that might lie in the Biblical relevance of ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ In this line of thought, Peitersen’s work is deeply embedded in art history. First of all by referring to the chiaroscu-ro of the 16th-century pictorial tradition: the shedding of a ‘spotlight’ on the main subject. This is best present in the initial Safe Distance series. In extension, the Pirates series carries the references to the Naval pictures from the 17th-century that deal with marine forces that fought their battles for overseas erritory and had their victories depicted. Nowadays, territory is also at stake around Syrian, Palestinian or Somalian premises. Its casualties are extensively depicted in the media and on internet forums. In all cases, death and despair are aestheticized. The Raft of Medusa (Le Radeau de la Méduse, 1818-1819) by Théodore Géricault, with its casualties of onetary greed, relates to the Somali pirates as manifold victims of imperial ambitions from multinational and corporate fishing vessels, while the revolutions painted by Goya or Delacroix relate to the protests in Athens and Turkey that form the base of the initial Safe Distance series. Peitersen’s pictures too refer to Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea (Der Mönch am Meer, 1808-1810) which relates to the endless global waters and the puny human being in the middle of portentous nature. The critically portrayed sublime grief of loss in the paintings connects well to the way an individual is nowadays put into a precarious position of actor within the trembles of daily world politics. At the same time Friedrich’s abstract depiction of the perspective, and layering of colour relate well to the methods and soothing visual presence of Mark Rothko and Peitersen alike.
Among such art historical references it is important to realize that history itself is not the subject in Peitersen’s work. He examines real time information transfer. The screen mediates a distance: an emotional, ethical and time-based lap. At the same time the works address the idea of the two dimensional surface as a window on the world. In the series, the viewer is confronted with places where misery has happened, or is happening still – additionally taking into account Barthes’ eternal present. As domination is disseminated through representation, as Stuart Hall says, it is highly important to take notice of the consumerist side of image circulation. The sense of non-reality in the images, due to its distorted nature, still entails a reality. However partially fictional, it forcefully taps into the expectations of the viewer annex consumer, and his/her relentless hunger for ominous spectacle.
In previous works, Peitersen focused on the way our eyes process visual information. In Safe Distance his aim is to confront us with the images that are presented to us. Especially those that (over time) make us indifferent to suffering. The disturbed nature of the way we deal with imagery and the severe outcomes this could have, was described by Alfredo Jaar in The Sound of Silence (1995). The Chilean born artist here unravels a narrative about a picture by Bang-Bang club member Kevin Carter who visually captured dreadful events and afterwards being criticized for his non-involvement in the direct situation. The ‘weight and seriousness’ together with the stringent comments and actually being a firsthand witness of such sinister affairs eventually lead to the suicide of the South African photographer.
Rune Peitersen uses atrocious material himself too. It consists out of found footage from online sources among which YouTube is most prominent. The vernacular source as input for an art practice to reflect on modern media and the construction of our visual culture is part of an important line within artistic heritage. The derived (digital) images of police, private and military violence, carry remnants of physical spaces loaded with memories, references and meaning. Eventually Peitersen aims to merge the studium and punctum. The studium denoting the cultural, linguistic, and political interpretation of a photograph, the punctum implying the wounding, personally touching detail which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it. Alike Carter, Peitersen does not only aestheticizes misery, he also engages with the truth. Be it with a considerable and safe distance, he aims to simultaneously depict and displace someone’s real-time perspective and thereby provoke a connection and sincere reaction with the spectator; resulting in identification and the creation of a human connection. Stories then might have two sides: according to Peitersen, the object and subject should be equally affected: In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni (We Go Round and Round in the Night and are Consumed by Fire).

Vincent van Velsen
Writer, critic and curator;
currently a resident at the Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht
text by Hester Keijser
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