KRIS VAN DESSEL, CHRISTIAN NOIRFALISE, OLPHAERT DEN OTTER, JEAN MARIE BYTEBIER
Curated by Kris Van Dessel
19 March → 18 April 2010
Man stands between past and future. Therefore every moment and every place he occupies are intermediate stations, links between what has been and what is still to be. Man is the junction of that constant movement from past to future: all goes through him. Man is the gateway, the point where time and space occur and make their progress felt. But as a species man is in constant development, too. Evolutionary theory teaches that every manifestation of any species is but a stage in a continuous development. Everything is temporary. Man is an effect of evolution but not its end result or its goal. Evolution continues and one day man as we know him today is likely to disappear again and become a mere memory, an abandoned way station. Man is homo viator: always on the road and never at home.
Certain places bear the traces of the endless movement of time and space that passes through us. Border crossings are such places, but so are warehouses, airports and roadside motels. The romance of such places lies in their abandonment: they are never anyone’s destination. They are a place for stopovers, temporary and imperfect. Just as time and space move through homo viator, homo viator in turn moves through these places and leaves behind the residue of human presence in the shape of empty beer cans, cigarette stubs, plastic bags full of garbage, torn condoms and the crushed gravel of broken roads. What fascinates us in images of empty motel rooms, desolate factories and derelict hotels is the romance of decay. It’s not just the buildings that decay and display their disappearance in the ruins they become, the very ruins themselves show us the abandonment they have experienced at the hands of the people who moved on. Peeling wallpaper on demolished walls, empty chairs, rusted machines and leaking ceilings are traces of vanished occupants.
The landscapes of Christian Noirfalise are collages culled from homo viator’s memory, panorama’s without destination, piled up at wrong angles. The imaginary worlds of Olphaert den Otter seem to exist only in a parallel universe that has never been visited and can only be imagined. And the landscapes of Kris Van Dessel and Jean-Marie Bytebier no longer look out at anything human at all. Clouds roll over with the same indifference with which homo viator has left these places behind. All these images show us the essence of a transit station: its emptiness. The place where someone has been, someone may be in the future, but that has essentially been abandoned by all. The transit station is a landscape without a maker, orphaned architecture that is not claimed by anyone. It is a place that belongs to no one.
It is no coincidence that these artists have staked out their temporary transit station on the island of Malta, which is the pre-eminent port of passage, a strategic junction of ancient trade routes overseen by its legendary Knights. It is a harbour, a history, a travel destination, but not a place to take root in. Caravaggio completed some of his darkest paintings here and then disappeared. As a geographical passageway Malta is the ultimate transit station for these images: it is the realm of disappearance.
Christophe Van Eecke