Netwerk Center for Contemporary Art, Aalst, Belgium
deepblue / Jean Bernard Koeman / Netwerk Museum (Freek Wambacq, Effi & Amir and Ran Slavin)
On 9 January 2009 and in the framework of the "You Are Here" Netwerk Event, the first chapter of an ongoing collaboration between artist Jean Bernard Koeman, sinologist Els Silvrants and invited artists and researchers will be launched in the form of a book and an artist edition published by Timezone 8, carrying the title Everything Beautiful is Far Away. For the occasion, Jean Bernard Koeman and Els Silvrants will have a talk about the book with photographer Bert Danckaert.
The book covers 96 of the empty landscape photographs that Koeman has collected the past 20 years while travelling the world to develop source material for his monumental sculptures and installations. Unintended as artworks by themselves, Koeman merely used these photographs as sculptural footnotes, poetic references or small physical components of his installations.
The selection of photographs brought together for the first time in this publication lingers in the transitional zone between being a document of his previous parcours and becoming a new body of work. They lay bare an additional set of questions on the motives behind his wanderlust and his art.
More than a quest for the ultimate image of the perfect far away landscape, the photographs show Koeman's longing to be in a place where the closest thing to reason is his own. The landscape becomes accomplice to his search for remoteness and the ambiguity this brings about. Through the eyes of the artist, the beauty of the raw and faraway landscape is both celebrated and questioned. Next to stunning mountain valleys and desert views, Koeman shoots guilty landscapes in Kosovo, Palestine and South Africa. "They all seem natural enough but their naturalness is the result of disguise." (Carol Lu)
The book proposes a conceptual link with Chinese profane "shanshui" or landscape painting. "In the same way the Song painters draw a path through mountains and waterfalls for the viewer to step into, Koeman's photographs map out a trail for the viewer to follow. One that he has lived in reality, and ultimately lends its existence to the experience it represents." (Els Silvrants)
The edition consists of a main book covering 80 photographs, a road map and an essay by Chinese art critic Carol Lu. A small booklet inside the cover is meant as a sketchbook of excerpts, quotes, drawings, an essay by Els Silvrants and 16 stickers, identical to the ones Koeman uses for his artworks. This is what turns the book into a tool, for the reader to leave his own mark in place and time.
The edition's main aim is that of clarity, simplicity and beauty, and serves as a starting point and motive behind a project with more artists and researchers involved, to elaborate understanding of the empty landscape, and to research the roots of the longing to conquer the ultimate far away. This will culminate in a website and an exhibition.
The book was made possible thanks to the support of the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Beijing.
For more information on distribution of the book and the upcoming chapters of Everything Beautiful is Far Away, please mail firstname.lastname@example.org or keep an eye on the website www.everythingbeautifulisfaraway.org expected to be online by the end of the week.