“He talked of fore-grounds, distances, and second distances – side-screens and perspectives – lights and shades… and by and easy transition from a piece of rock fragment and the withered oak which he placed near its summit, to oaks in general, to forests, the enclosure of them, waste lands, crown lands and government, he shortly found himself arrived at politics: and from politics, it was an easy step to silence.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, ed. R. W. Chapman (Oxford, 1980), 111. ‘In a green shade(Fritids areal)’ began with a series of images I took in a Danish summerhouse area. In the first instance I was drawn to work with this area because it was a place I had spent so much of my childhood exploring and thus felt very at home in. But I grew to question what was it about this area, and the images of it, that resonated with how I felt a ‘natural’ area should be. This lead me to look at historical models of landscape design endemic to central Europe and the ideology behind them. I was interested in two particular moments in the history of gardening; the late-model English Landscape Garden of the second half of the eighteenth century and its morphing into the ‘picturesque’ style, and the Baroque French formal garden of the seventeenth century. This particular area, like most of its type, was divided and planted in the 1960s. There was a small forest before this but over the last fifty years, as each owner sought to hide their property inside a picturesque paradise, the area has transformed into a large romantic forest, much in the style of the late-model English Landscape Garden. As you walk around this area, it does not seem constructed or really even inhabited. In fact, the image of nature that has been created is so convincing and widespread in my opinion, that it has become the dominant model for Western Europe. In choosing to work with this location, and choosing not to frame the houses within my images, I was deliberately trying to capitalise on its ‘idyllic,’ ‘romantic’ qualities while at the same time being very aware that there is nothing spectacular in the images, in fact they are quite commonplace. I find that this balance between the commonplace and the spectacular gives the images an instability of status which I began to try to tweak out as I worked further with them. First with hand colouring, then by adding pattern related to the tree species visible in the images and eventually by incorporating them into wall panelling. Using printing both practically and conceptually, as a medium that can overlay or stamp one thing on top of another I worked over and over these images, searching for what makes them so normal while at the same time seductive. ‘In a green shade, (Butterfly house)’ is a sphere with one continuous image across its entire surface, in the much same was as a globe, in that there is no left or right, top or bottom. The image is a photo-stitch consisting of images of the interior of the butterfly house at Rotterdam zoo.
I was fascinated by the butterfly house. A most unusual, progressive form of looking was created by the enclosure: a form of fully immersive vision. The enclosure is a densely planted greenhouse which you can navigate using its looped path. The butterflies surround you, everywhere yet elusive. Visitors freeze like disjointed trees awaiting flittering settlers or hunt with frenzied zoom and feverish snapping. In the enclosure you don’t know where to look, the environment fully immersive, and thus most importantly the visual hierarchy completely broken. Many times I tried to photograph this experience, but always failed to capture what I found so radical. I was not interested in representing this experience, but rather of attempting to create a work that to some degree simulated it. At a certain moment I realised that it was me standing there with the camera which was spoiling my shot by creating the very visual hierarchy who’s absence I wanted. Realising this pushed me towards an idea of creating in a sphere a kind of inversion of the butterfly house, thus creating an image without a stable position in which to look at it.
Download RijksakademieOPEN 2011 26 27 november in PDF.