It is only since the beginning of Corona Crisis in 2020 that I felt the urge to start to work on the [Women] Artists Series. A series of Portraits and of Flowers arranged by [Women] Artists. Encounters with artists, musicians, performers of the [Women] Artist Community.
Portraits and Bouquets are both present within the tradition of various cultures, often charged with various meanings referring to different contexts and events. In [Women] Artists Series the Portraits and Bouquets have no such meaning but function as means in the representation of the presence of the [Women] Artist in the Art World, the Museum, the Gallery and finally the Collection. Although the discussion about the presence of women artists sounds loud, still, the opposite is no less true.
The [Women] Artists Series is standardized. [Women] Artists are photographed sitting on a chair or Flowers arranged by [Women] Artists are placed in front of a white skin-colored background. The choice of the skin color is not without meaning when placed within the art world where too often white male supremacy is still dominating. All flowers in the ‘Flowers arranged by’ are choices by the artists which will accentuate the concepts of diversity and identity even more.
Arcade invited me for their project room ‘Pete and Repeat’ that runs alongside the exhibition in the main room of the gallery. I proposed to show the portraits together with publications, editions or other kind of works of the artists represented in the portraits. Pete and Repeat will be the place of encounter. Encounters that are now very limited due to the Corona Crisis.
– Kristien Daem
Lucy McKenzie (Glasgow. 1977) is a painter, living in Brussels since 2006. Since 2011 she makes clothes under the name Atelier E.B in collaboration with the designer Beca Lipscombe.
Suchan Kinoshita (Tokyo. 1960) lives in Brussels since 2012, makes performance based installations. She is the founder of allerleirauh publishing house (2021).
Saskia Gevaert (Brussels. 1974) is a publisher. Since 2008 she works on artist’s books and limited editions under the name of Gevaert Éditions.
Sophie Pelletier (Cholet. 1981) Living in Brussels since 2007. Graduated From The Fine Arts School France. Since 2013, she developed a culinary practice under the name Le Realism.
Peggy Franck (Zevenaar, 1978) lives and works in Amsterdam. Franck explores the boundaries of photography and painting
Lazara Rosell Albear (Cuba. 1971) is a Cuban-Belgian artist with a cross-medial practice, ranging from the research of sound and performance to the production of events and films.
Christiane Blattmann (Stuttgart. 1983) is a sculptor, living in Brussels and Hamburg. She is also founding member of the artist-run publishing house Montez Press.
Claude is an artist living between Brussels and Normandie. She works across various media and disciplines and is one of the duo Gaillard & Claude.
I spent some time looking for this quote in Moyra Davey’s Index Cards: “To do without people is for photography the most impossible of renunciation.” When I found it, I realized Davey was quoting “George Baker quoting Walter Benjamin.” Later on, I came upon the same quote again in Quinn Latimer’s Woman of Letters, where Latimer also talks about the way “critics adopt Davey’s unique literary style when writing about her work.” For writing to do without repeating the words of others is clearly an impossible renunciation.
Davey, who had internalized the critique of representation in the 1980s, describes the set of circumstances and coincidences that led her to photograph people in the subway after years of self- imposed restraint. For photography to do without people is not impossible, but merely hard and conceivably lonely. Until recently, Kristien Daem’s photographs mostly did without people. It took the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing obligations for her to feel the urge to photograph fellow artists. Daem has most often aimed the lens of her camera towards the quiet architecture of her native Belgium. She spent time researching and unearthing the unrealized works or forgotten projects of artists such as Fred Sandback. And when documenting the work of others, she tries to turn the task into a trade of her own.
Kristien Daem’s approach to photography is akin to the practice of a translator. Like “epic poets and pop artists [people who work] with the mythical material as it is given” to quote Quinn Latimer quoting “another critic” in her poem on Nicéphore Niépce. Daem’s work shines light on photography as “a little art, as Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter called [the work of the translator]” reports Kate Briggs in her book named after the same formula. Naming, quoting, translating and repeating are in essence the primary activities of a photographer. Not unlike translation, and in spite of its relative acceptance as an art form, photography will always remain something of a small trade — un petit métier, similar to those of the people portrayed in the eponymous series of photographs by Irving Penn.
Throughout its short history, photography has continuously struggled to prove its artistic worth in regards to painting, sculpture or cinema, like a skinny kid trying to compete with its older or more spectacular siblings. Displayed along with publications and printed matter directly related to the women in her portraits, Daem’s pictures call on photography’s unparalleled ability to honor people and to conjure up the world and the work of other artists, musicians, publishers and performers. Honoring and conjuring; two qualities rarely discussed in ontological terms when it comes to photography. Too evanescent, too feminine for the history of the medium — a history that wouldn’t be as ‘short’ if the women that make it up were to be invoked more often: Lucia Moholy, Grete Stern, Germaine Krull, Tina Modotti, Ilse Bing, Florence Henri, Dorothy Norman, Pati Hill, Barbara Morgan, Lynn Cohen, Sarah Charlesworth, Jan Groover, Carrie Mae Weems, Sandra Semchuk, Janice Guy, Ming Smith, to name only a few and conjure up others.
– Emile Rubino
Kristien Daem (Aalst. 1963) lives and works in Brussels. Her work has been exhibited at Garage Rotterdam, Rotterdam (2018); Damien & The Love Guru, Brussels (2017); Komplot, Brussels (2017); Gevaert Éditions, Brussels (2012); Etablissement d’en Face, Brussels (2011); among other venues.