Tuesday, March 25, 2008

interview • harm van den dorpel

i heart photograph: is this image part of a larger project, and if so, could you explain the basic ideas/impulse behind the work?

harm van den dorpel: this work is part of my project 'semantics'. it is a series of manipulated found images. after applying one action or manipulation i put them back online. in computer programming 'semantics' is opposed to 'syntax'. when i look at media i am always struck by the (stupidity of) visual conventions and expectations; these are these syntactic rules. purposely i generate a syntax error in the visual language of the photos. after the images are processed on a lower layer, they become mine, and carry completely other meaning or emotions.

i.h.p.: the way the image is collaged, it reminds me of natural history displays, except what's being presented is very unnatural and not explained like things in those museums are. i'm wondering if you could talk about the image in relation to ideas of display and (natural) history.

h.v.d.d.: the reason i like to use pictures of animals is because they are close to humans (i tend to consider human beings partly animals too). there's one big distinction when using footage of animals rather than people: photos of animals are not portraits. they are anonymous illustrations of a species. therefore nobody will wonder why i chose this particular ostrich. in this manipulated photo, which i call a reconfiguration, i try to create a confusion between real and impossible. until what point do we still believe a representation? the cliché thought about ostriches is their hiding behavior, putting their head in the ground. i like to do this too in my work. by hiding or taking the original meaning away, the only meaning left is that of a bare and empty visual language. i think there is a lot of beauty in these residues.
[photo: reconfigurations (ostrich) by harm van den dorpel. 2008. see more of harm's work here.]

interview is a weekly column by nicholas grider that appears each tuesday on i heart photograph.