THEO DERKSEN

photography & media

OGENBLIKKEN

The photographs by Theo Derksen, however, fascinate me. Even though they were made during distant journeys, and they originated in places with exotic sounding names, travel photographs, understood in the sense described above, I can not and will not mention them. Whoever wishes to consider them as such, in my opinion, passes on their most essential qualities. To demonstrate this, I propose a small exercise. We undertake an effort to view these photos by ignoring their descriptive, documentary content. We forget names and places, date and time of the depicted. Let us focus on photographic images, on what happens in these abstract spaces. After all, photographs create their own worlds. They are frameworks in which forms and objects are arranged, inter-related and placed in a new, suggestive context.

 

Situations, people and objects remain recognizable and suitable in the work of Theo Derksen. Anecdote and coincidence confess their humble origins. But at the same time they seem aware of the important role that the photographer has assigned them. With dignity they act as protagonists in a universal drama. They interpret contents that surpass the local and the instantaneous effortlessly. Everyday situations are translated into metaphors for metaphysical relationships. The individual appears as a reflection and embodiment of the general.

 

Theo Derksen uses a number of image strategies in a subtle but efficient manner that regularly recur in his work. He uses formal structures that build a relational field of tension between iconographic elements that initially seem to coincidentally coincide. Usually these structures can be understood as a form of juxtaposition. What almost inevitably suggests equality and simultaneity. And consequently also: reversibility. Mutual involvement, without hierarchical coercion or order. The photographs by Theo Derksen seldom have a single, centrally placed motif. On the contrary, the attention is drawn between front and back, characters and decor, left and right, top and bottom, light and dark, open and closed spaces. 

 

Perhaps this is the greatest quality of this photography: that it succeeds in scraping reality, as it unfolds itself in deceptive wealth for the eye, into representations of worlds that lie behind this reality. Performances that also reach us through the eye, but slowly and surely hook into the mind.

I am not a traveler by nature. 

Pool Andries, curator, photo historian, FoMu Antwerp, BE.

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The call of the tropics does not have me in its grip. What is strange and unprecedented does not exert any special attraction on me. I prefer to focus my attention, curiosity and urge for knowledge on the near, the everyday and the familiar. A reality that we are part of. That which we ourselves have given individually or collectively, and which nonetheless continues to intrigue, time and again to our capacity for understanding, our urge for deeper meaning is escaped. The ordinary as inscrutable, and therefore just so challenging mystery.

For that reason, travel photographs can usually only fascinate me. Their story and their message usually seem too simplistic. They show the exotic, that which is strange, different, and therefore usually remains misunderstood. They accept the strange as strange, the other as different, the not understood as incomprehensible. Throughout the description of the unprecedented, the strange, they define in the first place the already distinguished, the familiar. In the end they only confirm the photographer's own right, their own safety, their own comfort. Nothing is questioned. Nothing substantial is revealed. Travel photography rarely sows unrest. She is unable to take the viewer out of balance. After all, the positions are too clear and clear, and unchangeable. One-way traffic. The viewer dominates the situation. His motivation, and also his excuse, is the wonder.

The contemplated reality does not get space or freedom, should be allowed to submit to this presumptuous glance, act of exploitation and appropriation. There is no dialogue between subject and object. Distances between the two are not bridged but confirmed.

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The photographs by Theo Derksen, however, fascinate me. Even though they were made during distant journeys, and they originated in places with exotic sounding names, travel photographs, understood in the sense described above, I can not and will not mention them. Whoever wishes to consider them as such, in my opinion, passes on their most essential qualities. To demonstrate this, I propose a small exercise. We undertake an effort to view these photos by ignoring their descriptive, documentary content. We forget names and places, date and time of the depicted. Let us focus on photographic images, on what happens in these abstract spaces. After all, photographs create their own worlds. They are frameworks in which forms and objects are arranged, inter-related and placed in a new, suggestive context.