il faut que je sois
King’s Art Centre delivers a vision with precision for RUTH MARINER.
King’s College Art Centre, 29th April – 13th May 2012, FREE Entry
Stylish, surreal and laced with a subtle wit, this week’s exhibition at King’s College Art Centre, il faut que je sois, presents a delight for the eyes and the mind.
The exhibition – a collaboration between photographer Roeland Verhallen and writer Simeon Koole – takes us on journey through a set of polished prints with a philosophical message. The exhibition oozes a nostalgia for an age most of us have only experienced second hand through film. Shot in black and white, city rooftops and stone stairways, canals and Parisian architecture create a backdrop for the antics of an extraordinary man with a bowler hat and pocket watch – items that once belonged to the photographer’s grandfather.
Although the turn-of-the-century Parisian theme cut a little close to a cliché to be truly original, Roeland’s delicate photographs were refreshing in their precise yet playful manner of composition. In photo four, the protagonist, framed by a cul-de-sac of tall townhouses and a lamp post, leaps from (or towards) a stone step, neatly leaving a two-inch gap between his feet and the pavement. Elsewhere in the exhibition he stands like a statue in an alcove, plays the violin from the rooftops, and steps on a folding chair, perfectly balanced on one leg, extending his arm to try and pick leaves from a tree. In all cases, the astute visual logic of the images creates a sharp counterpoint against the absurdity of the actions.
Unfortunately, however, the light, theatrical veneer of the images was smothered by the accompanying text – a 5 page essay containing a mishmash of of french poststructuralist philosophy, Heidegger, Benjamin and Bergson. Although the interpretations were intelligent in their own right, they consumed the audience’s attention and turning the photographs into asides to the text.
It is ironic that Koole suggests, in the introduction, that meaning is created through a dialogue between the image and the viewer since he then proceeds to hijack and solidify the meaning of the photos through a series of lengthy monologues. His closing suggestion that the audience should go back and repeat the process of interpretation with new eyes, comes too late: they can’t; his words already own the image.
All in all, il faut que je sois is a quick and witty little series, which asks questions of its audience through its subtle and subversive brush with the absurd. But I wish there had been more space for the audience to directly respond to the images, rather than the interpretation being served up on a large and unavoidable plate.
More of Roeland’s work is available to view here.