Els Opsomer, SNOW/today, 2006, Double slide projection
Shadows and Snow
28 September - 28 October 2006
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 2 -7 pm and on appointment
Preview: Thursday 14 September 6 - 9 pm
Erna Hecey is pleased to present the exhibition Shadows and Snow, the first (solo) exhibition of Els Opsomer in the gallery.
Els Opsomer travels around the world, updating an 'urban archive' of pictures that she keeps on expanding. The slide installation SNOW / today presented at Galerie Erna Hécey is a result of documenting her New York, Brazil and China sojourns. Opsomer photographs ordinary fragments of urban reality, elements we no longer notice. They are snapshots in the margin of an ever-changing world. In this respect, her observations bear some resemblance to phenomena defined by anthropologist Marc Augé as 'non-lieux': places characterised by a mono-functional use, leading to a high degree of anonymity. Examples of these 'non-places' are parking lots, highways, motels, airports, etc. These 'non-places' deny the specific uniqueness of a city while contributing to the likeness of all cities. The phenomenon of mutually exchangeable cities leads to what Rem Koolhaas has called 'the Generic City':
'The generic city is the city without history, without layers, superficial like a film studio, in a process of never ending self-destruction and renewal. This city is liberated from the captivity of the centre and of identity. In this city you see homogenisation, endless repetitions of the same structural module, still more varied boredom, redundancy, and déjà vu, but also a city that is fractal, discontinuous, made up of enclaves, seemingly accidental and disorderly. (...) The generic city is also multiracial and multi-cultural, flexible diversity, aesthetic 'free style', and lots of mirrors. It may have mass tourism, but the streets are dead and the public realm has been evacuated in the favour of cars, highways and speed.' (Bo Grönlund about Rem Koolhaas' Generic City)
-Opsomer's universe is devoid of people and time seems to be suspended.
Just like: the agony of silence (2003), a movie that gives a personal view of the daily life in Palestine, there is an underlying threat. The series she presents here does not have a narrative course but evokes a cinematic atmosphere. The succession of the images, as presented in a slide show, creates a reinforcing effect that causes an indefinable feeling of melancholy. The anonymity evoked in Opsomer's work should not, however, be perceived as problematic, as it leaves options open for one's personal development. In her work, the city fulfils a utopian role; there is always the promise of new opportunities and the possibility of individual projections.
Other work presented in this show consists of a series of pictures in which the anonymous, urban character acquires a personal touch. In these works, we see the neck or back of people bearing a personal, tattoo-like inscription. The anonymity of the metropolis, where people and places are replaceable, gets an unexpected, intimate dimension. Whereas the slide show focussed on architecture and its physical impact on us, the emphasis in these pictures is on the human body. The body is functioning as a signifier among many others in the city: neon lights, advertisements, traffic signs etc. Opsomer does not, however, use language to transmit general information, but to communicate ambivalent feelings. The tension between public and private, anonymous and intimate, known and unknown is a recurring element in the work of the artist. The visual aloofness goes together with personal inscriptions, observations or meditations leading to a deliberate, hybrid genre.
The work of Els Opsomer has been exhibited worldwide at various museums, art centres and festivals. The artists has had solo expositions in MAC's in Grand Hornu (2006), Bergen Kunsthall in Bergen (2005), Witte de With in Rotterdam (2005), Mariantonia in São Paolo (2004), Badisher Kunstverein in Karlsruhe (2001), Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea in Santiago de Compostela (2000), the Soros Centre in Sofia (1998), Trafò in Budapest (1998), etc. She also took part in various group exhibitions including Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (2005), MUHKA in Antwerp (2004), >Zugewinngemeinschaft< 5 Werkleitz Biennale (2002), Galerie am Parkhaus in Berlin (2002), hArtwareprojekte in Dortmund (2001), [art image]- IV Biennale on Media and Architecture in Graz (1999), etc. She was Laureate of Prix jeune Peinture Belge, Palais des Beaux- Arts in Brussels (1997). Her videos were shown at various international festivals including IFF Rotterdam (2004 /2005), IDFA Amsterdam (2004), European Media Art Festival, Osnabrück (2004/2005), Ann Arbour Festival, USA (2004/2005), 22nd Documentary Film & Video Festival, Kassel (2005), Festival rencontres internationales, Paris / Berlin (2003/ 2005), Viper Basel (2005), ...
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