The exhibition Collage and Photography just opened last week at Brugge’s photography-leaning Gallery 44. Showcasing the works of three photographers and collage artists, including that of Word-family member Miles Fischler, the exhibition presents an ensemble of works that tend to tilt towards the surrealist, with reinterpretations and re-contextualisations being the show’s recurrent themes. We talk to the gallery’s founder Luc Rabaey to ask about first intentions, selections and moving away from showing photography per se.
Can you talk to us about the exhibition? What were its starting points? Did you have any pre-conceived intentions / directions you wanted to give the show? Where did the research initially take you?
I was amazed by the handmade collages by Sammy Slabbinck. As I only show photography in the gallery, I started thinking about making an exception and combining photography related work with photography.
How does the exhibition’s name help to evoke its content?
It was quite simple. The exhibition ‘s name tells us it is about where photograpy meets collage art.
How would you describe the majority of the works on show? In a more general sense, how would you describe the artist’s work, his approach and aesthetic?
While Miles Fischler presents a nostalgic and dreamy series consisting of image crops from her own archive, Sammy Slabbinck creates surrealistic collages using vintage photographic illustrations. Wolfgang Zurborn is known for his collage-like, multi-layered images as well as his surrealist approach. He pays special attention to the signs and characters of the entertainment culture. His colorful images look like collages. However, he makes spontaneous one-shots in which he mounts in different layers various aspects of the observable complexity. Presumably, he scans the surroundings as if it were a flat plane. He aims to activate viewing itself as an experiment. You can consider the images as being three-dimensional, but you can also view them as a one dimensional plane. This produces graphicly compelling photos, with an ambiguous, surreal aspect. We can find facets of his approach in Lee Friedlander’s, Robert Walker’s, Tokyo Ito’s and Harvey Benge’s work. Sammy Slabbinck makes dynamic hand cut collages. He uses fragments of forgotten images from magazines and books from the 1960s and ‘ 70s and places them in a contemporary context. His surrealistic proportions often add a humouristic touch to the images. Miles Fischler shows a selection from her series Token, for which she used photographs from her own archive, combined with that of her family. In a very intuitive way, she selected enigmatic fragments and enlarged these. The image collection calls to mind a very familiar, but also alienated world. The viewer can consider the images as autonomous works, but is especially invited to make associations between each of the images. By putting the different images together, they form a type of collage, a typology of human behaviour and attitudes. So, the photographer’s personal imagery is transformed into a collective memory and universal experience.
In terms of approach, how did you go about producing the show? How involved was the artist? Can you talk to us about the selection process?
The works of the artists were ready for presentation. Let ‘s say we had the opportunity to make a selection out of existing images. For Miles Fischler, it was up to her to make a selection and a presentation plan according to the available space. I proposed Wolfgang Zurborn a selection of 10 really collage-looking images and he accepted. The presentation was my choice. I put the frames next to each other, creating one big collage. Sammy’s frames are shown in a more classical way.
As a curator, how important is your relationship with the exhibited artist?
It is important in order to get a right feeling about the motives and choices of the artist, for having an open talk about the way to show the work.
What do you feel is the exhibition’s main statement? And how do you feel it fits in with the artist’s oeuvre in a more general sense? What do you hope viewers will get from visiting the show?
I hope the exhibition is questioning, surprising the viewer. Things are not as different as they seem. Things are more different than they seem. The main issue and concern is about imagination, experiment and development.
On a more personal level, how has working on this exhibition enriched your understanding of the artist’s work? And of contemporary art more generally?
I like when the understanding does not stop, When something mysterious remains.
As a curator, how do you select the artists whom you’d like to exhibit? Would you say your shows all have somewhat of a common denominator to them?
The selection is based on surprising ideas, strong images and artist ambition.
Collage and Photography – Sammy Slabbinck, Miles Fischler & Wolfgang Zurborn
Until 5th April 2015
44 Gallery, Brugge44gallery.be