Monday, July 1, 2013

The words without my sister

(About the work of my sister, Jenne Bleijenburg.)

My sister did not speak until she was four. When you look at old family pictures, you see this rather wild girl, mostly smiling, eyes wide open, lots of hair.  Bruises, bleeding lips, that kind of a girl.  But she did not speak. If my parents wanted to know something from her, they asked me or my other sister:
"So, what's with Jenne?"
"She wants a cookie."
When she finally started talking she could utter whole and grammatically correct sentences, so there was no cognitive defect or something. Just no need and no desire for words.
c Jenne Bleijenburg
Would I be turtle?

The language of my sister
We are a talking species, we need to grasp our life in words, in some mystical stuff we call 'meaning'. But my sister, I think, growing up in her speechless universe, gained some extra space in her brain just for images, reserved for just looking at things and people without the necessity to describe or explain it. This 'wordless' mode of looking at - and understanding - the world is what I think makes her work this powerful. 

Game of subscripts
I often play a game with her photographs: I try to think of subscripts that extend the image. The more I can think of, the better the image is.
But every subscript is a bit like raping the image, because the subscripts flatten the image as a meaningful object on its own.

Unwrapping the visible universe
The second important thing to know about my sister is that she would always guess what was in a present before unwrapping it. I do not credit her with telepathic powers or something like that, but she sees trails  in the universe that I don't.

c Jenne Bleijenburg
There 'll be dragons
Jennes elevator pitch
Jenne is looking for the states in the universe where the image escapes the narrative. 
She herself would never formulate it like this. But I think she should.

People and pots
Jenne started as an abstract painter, but switched to photography. In the beginning she made only still lifes, still lifes  like poems. A scarred bowl and a rusty pot, a shiny apple someone forgot to eat. The only thing moving in those pictures is time; time passed by.
Later on she started photographing people.
And I must say, I like the people best. Apples are for eating, bridges for crossing rivers, landscapes to get lost,  but people are for looking at, for relating to.
And with people she does the same as with the apples and the pots; she decides where the image is necessary. Jenne, on pointing her camera on these people, knows she is intruding. It makes her feel uncomfortable.
A person is not a pot. But that is exactly what you see in most of her work; she herself is always part of the image.
c Jenne Bleijenburg
The eye of god

The eye of god
Photography has the pretence of truth. The camera is like the eye of a god, being able to freeze any moment, analyze it, ponder on it, traverse it in all different directions and look at it from all angles and perspectives.
A photograph pretends to be time undressed, shameless and naked to the bone.
But it is not.
There is no truth in the image. Truth only exists in the mind. And the camera never sees what we see, or what the gods see. The camera is just a small machine.

Egbert Bleijenburg, groningen, juli 1 2013