For three years now, we have been working as an artist duo. Our collaboration began with a shared interest in photography’s relationship to culture and heritage. This interest was not surprisingly and directly influenced by our prior studies in psychology and history. Photography’s attraction as a medium, its historical connection to the production and fixation of identity, the politics of representation, power relations and debates over what exactly is pictured have inspired us. Explorations of contemporary socially engaged art in relation to (post)colonial, cultural and photographic theory led to the development of our collaboration – which has the main focus in our current residency at HISK (Higher Institute of Fine Arts, Ghent).
In general, the work explores a central paradox in our culture: the excited denial of racism and colonial violence coexisting alongside aggressive racism and xenophobia. For hundreds of years the Netherlands, as well as Belgium, was a colonial empire. What is the impact on contemporary issues of ethnographic othering? Can we still say that there is nothing more to find back of colonialism in the consciousness and behavior of people nowadays?
Within the context of our ongoing project several works emerge and manifest themselves as performances, photographs and films. Issues of (in)visibility, issues about who decides who is welcome somewhere, issues about who has the power to let his or her voice be heard and issues on which view of society is dominant and which is oppressed, have occupied our minds for some years now. Projected into space or unfolding simultaneously on multiple screens, the works resonates with discomfort – focusing at questions of cultural identity and its clichéd (mis)representations of our multi-ethnic society.
By focusing on our own surroundings, we try to be aware of (well-hidden) assumptions about the other and social and behavioral remains from our past that are continuously passed on. Therefor, our project is not only a mirror of reality, but rather a mirror of prejudices - including our own. To openly research this self-criticism, our works are not really orienting a certain reading. We employ irony, juxtaposition and repetition to strengthen the potency and symbolism of our dominant Western point of view and try to reframe the familiar with minimal means. The multiplicity of opinions and voices that potentially arise from our works interrogates our own position as an artist as well as the position of the viewer.
We perceive the works as confrontations that throw sand in the politically-correct system of thought. They sow confusion and compel reorientation. For us, it feels like an unpleasant but important conversation. A conversation that resides in memory and ultimately in change. Hopefully - afterwards, the scenes feel uncomfortably real.