Supernatural (2004)

Marnix Goossens, Elspeth Diederix

It began with an invitation from two enthusiastic art lovers who came up with a plan to commission work from two photographers. This would give them both the opportunity to prepare an autonomous series of ten images according to a preconceived methodology, that would have a direct link with their own conceptual and working practice. The commission would eventually - such was its ambitious premise - result in a museum presentation and the publication of a worthwhile book. After the necessary consultations our choice fell on Elspeth Diederix and Marnix Goossens. In a relatively short career the selected duo has already made a strong artistic development. Certainly both these photographers have garnered a clear position and meaning for themselves in the world of contemporary fine art. Convinced of their exceptional qualities our well argued plan was immediately supported by the commissioning authorities.

Why exactly these photographers? Elspeth Diederix and Marnix Goossens stand out from their Dutch colleagues because of their highly personal approach and choice of subjects. Both of them have a somewhat comparable affinity with surreality, that they display in the perceivable reality. Their photographs speak of a surprise about how things are or how they could be - as experience. Like many of their contemporaries they cherish a preference for showing possibly everyday, but nonetheless unemphasizedly stylized scenes. Because of the subtlety with which they transform reality the question hardly ever arises of whether they have staged the work.

Where others direct themselves onto the intimate living milieu and produce a heightened experience of reality by dressing it up, Diederix and Goossens strive fundamentally for a more universal font of meaning. They are not concerned primarily with the human format and the experience of the recognizably quotidian. On the contrary, their photography strives to free itself from time and place, and even to transcend the connection with the subject.

The work of Marnix Goossens exerts a particular appeal to the imagination. He photographs situations, objects and manifestations that appear to him as unreal; not for real. Utilising his highly detailed observations and concentrated registration the photographer manages to see through, to expose, values and expressions of the apparently ordinary - if not trivial - whereupon a sort of light alienation occurs. With the sparing use of requisites Goossens creates surprising confrontations that lead up to reflection on relations between the natural and the artificial. He consciously makes good use of technical cameras with large format film stock. Even the tiniest details in the frame of vision are therefore reproduced in hair sharp focus. His photographs allow motives (subjects) to be seen more clearly than the naked eye could perceive them, which gives them an unreal character: larger than life.

In contrast to Goossens Elspeth Diederix almost always gathers objects and figures together in settings in order to photograph them. The carefully collected and composed arrangements have a lot in common with sculptural installations. In and of themselves they don't have an autonomous form and meaning. Despite the intensive, often days-long preparation process, they exclusively serve the single recording session. This begins with sketches, is continued in the necessary cut, sew, and glue work, as well as the building of diverse special constructions. These allow Diederix to semi-accidentally register original scenes that occur outside of the laws of nature. The scrupulous placing of objects, figures and background in terms of each other and the camera results in photographs of conceivable events and places that gain an almost magical unreality.

Primarily the non-formal similarities between the photography of Elspeth Diederix and Marnix Goossens are of interest to us. The mental attitude that is manifest therein, seems to complement each other very well. Both are striving in their own way to give images to the invisible and the unsayable. And, so we noted, they are both continually seeking their inspiration in nature. Therefore it was obvious to showcase this aspect by means of the exhibition and publication. The commission presented a unique opportunity to show the work of Diederix and Goossens side by side and in balance with each other without forcing them to experiment outside of their personal areas of attention. In discussion with all concerned we formulated a collective point of departure that was more of a declaration of intent than a compulsive programme. We asked the photographers to produce a series of images wherein the examination of nature in the broadest sense of the term would play a central role. They adamantly received the liberty to manipulate nature at will, to complement or otherwise actively embellish it for their photographs. The 20 photographs that are being presented at this exhibition were produced in this manner. This publication will in time form the enduring report of the commission: the confrontation of work by two remarkable photographers that has come into being from the same starting concept.

In our opinion the initiative has been successful, if only because of the exciting series of images that the photographers have delivered. Without their work there would be no exhibition and also no book. Therefore our prime gratitude for the realisation and the success of this project in the first place goes to Elspeth Diederix and Marnix Goossens. Besides the photographers themselves there have been a number of people who worked behind the scenes intensively in order to give form to the project. Thus we owe exceptional recognition to Theo Dorresteijn and Maarten Langeveld, who made the commission possible, as well as Saskia Asser and Els Barents of Huis Marseille for accepting and professionally accompanying this exhibition project. Gijs Stork and Artimo for publishing the book, Dick Tuinder for his inspiring text, Floor Koomen for the design of the publication, Thijs Tromp for his editorial advice, Gallery Diana Stigter, Galerie Aschenbach & Hofland and Sonar Intiatives, and further the family Diederix, Jeroen Kooimans, Juul Hondius, Dorothy Meier, Pao Lien Djie, as well as Margit xxx, who posed for the photographs.

Colin Huizing en Frank van der Stok