Over de expositie
Wouter van Buuren (1972) is not only a photographer, he is also an acrobat. After climbing onto cranes, rooftops and other risky locations, often challenging the law and putting his own life in danger, he makes urban and rural landscape photo collages. Van Buuren brings the world to the palm of our hands by creating globe-shaped panoramic images that give us the illusion of all-round world surveillance. His intention, as he says, is to create a new space, to offer the spectator a new perception of it. On the surface his work fits within today’s obsession with digital maps that jump from a simple, pinned down location of a street to a 3D global view of the street itself from which we can zoom out till we see a satellite image of the planet. His work can deceivably seem to be a media oriented, photographic response of Google maps but is it? What does really lie beneath the surface of van Buuren’s timely images?
The end result is the proof, the trace of an intricate process that involves finding the location, taking the risk, feeling the thrill, the adrenaline of the danger and then the satisfaction after succeeding. The importance of these elements: thrill, adrenaline and satisfaction become addictive for the maker; indeed, it is not only about taking pictures, the emotions attached to the process are of utter importance to van Buuren. He works in the same manner as a graffiti artist who breaks the law and risks his life to put his work in the streets: it’s about the pleasure of knowingly doing something wrong and dangerous, getting away with it and being able to develop his own work, the trophy of the deed. Photography and psychology come together in van Buuren’s works through what Sigmund Freud defined as a death drive or death instinct, what is known as “Thanathos”. According to Freud, this death drive compels humans to engage in risky and self-destructive acts that could lead to their own death. There must be a different essential drive between a studio photographer and van Buuren, who goes out into the world, through fences and overwhelming heights; a drive, I imagine, closer to that of the circus acrobat who hangs from a rope with no safety net but who gets a standing ovation after the end of the trick.
There is more to it than pure emotion though. In van Buuren’s work there is also a reference to photography’s relation with nature, with artist’s first steps to leave the studio and work outdoors. Prior to the invention of photography in the 19th century, the artistic gaze had started a process to free itself from official academic values. Between 1780 and 1820 the ébauche or nature sketch, gained the status of independent genre, the etude. The etude had consequences for the artist’s gaze as he is can frame any part of nature with his eyes. The world becomes an endless source of images, the artist only needs to venture into nature and assume the dangers this might bring. Van Buuren has taken upon this drive of freedom to go outside the studio in order to make his unstoppable work. The exhibited works are undoubtedly the result of a world’s explorer and his heroic actions.