• Didier Massard ©

Sense of Space

8th Noorderlicht Photofestival

Life takes place in many environments: in natural or urban landscapes, in homes, offices, recreational sites, on industrial estates, parking spaces, at airports.

If we shut our eyes, we can travel to unexplored environments in our minds.

How does the character and look of our environment - built-up, undeveloped, domestic, commercial, empty, full - influence our experience of space? And how is that space and that experience interpreted and passed on by photographers? These are the questions which form the point of departure for Sense of Space, a trip through the human landscape at the beginning of the 21st century.

This is a fundamental and relevant subject, certainly in a country like The Netherlands, where the limited area means that environmental planning touches everyone's life directly, and the future use of land is discussed in voluminous government proposals that appear with clock-like regularity.

These Dutch discussions will inevitably be visible here and there in the photographs, directly or indirectly, in the choice of the locations photographed, in the approach and engagement of the photographers. But they are not the real subject, but only the background. Where for planners and policy-makers the central issue is the mutability of space, Sense of Space deals with the experience of the environment as it has been shaped by man.

How do photographers and visual artists - intermediaries in the recording of our memories of the world - use the elements that make space identifiable - up front and behind, above and below, large and small, cool and warm, old and new, light and dark, familiar and strange, and everything in between? How, with their vision, do they transform trees and concrete into visual poetry that sticks in our memory and stimulates our thinking?

In work that in terms of genre, style and approach is very diverse, the artists combine the visual means of the medium with the building blocks that are supplied by reality. They interpret and sketch an image of space, passing on their experience to the viewer, for whom the representation of (apparent!) reality in turn affords an experience of their own. Places, objects and thoughts which in everyday life generally rush past us here force us to pay renewed attention to them, and become symbols for something that transcends factuality.

The associative interplay of various artistic interpretations within a vital social context defines the character of Sense of Space - a travel guide in which the dimensions of both human space and engaged photography are explored.

Wim Melis
Curator, Sense of Space
Groningen, August, 2001