Chloé Op de Beeck. Variations of Presence

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Three photographs, printed on wood and found in the family archive, are positioned in the space as tactile objects. In every picture, a posing woman, staring back into the camera. A model for the photographer. Time passes between these travel photos; they look like portraits of a fleeting existence that needs to be packed, captured as proof: “we were here”.

But where is here? Does the specific site matter? Or are these tourist attractions – then still spared from the masses – merely interchangeable decors?

The stilled body and landscape seem detached; the act of photographing and experiencing disjoint. It is a regrettable thought that the photo may well settle in memory, but not the moment itself. It is the fragility of being present. The remembered disconnection is all the more unfortunate as it coincides with the desire to connect, to relate people and environment, the sensory and the contemplative.

The sculptural objects in the space enhance the staging of the images. The platform and the tribune are not only invitations to observe the poses, they also provoke visitors’ movements, which become part of the total installation. A subtle projection plays into the composed constellation, simultaneously unfolding and interrogating it.

Irish playwright Samuel Beckett once said: “Do not look for meaning in the words. Listen to the silences.” The same holds true here. Do not look for meaning in what is there. Listen to what is not. Is it the presence in the photo, in the moment, in the space that matters? Or the absence?

Chloé Op de Beeck (b. 1986, BE) lives and works in Antwerp. She studied photography at the Royal Academy for Fine Arts in Ghent and Film Studies at the University of Antwerp. In 2017 and 2018, she was a resident at the HISK in Ghent. She had recent solo exhibitions at, amongst others, Atelier Arthur Rogiers, Brussels (2020); IKOB, Eupen (2019); and De Garage, Mechelen (2019). She participated in group exhibitions such as Artefact, STUK, Leuven (2020); Switch Lab, Bucharest (2020); SMAK, Ghent (2018) and De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam (2014).

Text: Eline Verstegen