HESTER KEIJSER CURATOR FOR OPEN EDITION GALLERY
Starting point for my curated collection of photographs are the voices of the three strong female artists invited as this month’s guests. Eman Ali, Yasmine Hatimi and Nadine Stijns all work in a transcultural setting, navigating the specific confines and ways of seeing that can starkly shift between the different countries where they have grown roots. Holding family ties together across divides of language, generations and culture is a labor that often falls to the female members of a family. It is a role, taken on voluntarily or not, that has made women stronger for being able to hold open two or more spaces for living, speaking, caring and resisting at the same time.
The sequencing of the images in the collection is done deliberately to create both motif and tempo in support of the voices of Ali, Hatimi and Stijns. Pairs of images are placed as chords, or to build a cadence. Images can indicate an ouverture to a theme, or mark a change of key. For me, editing a set of images from a wide selection is an experience that comes closest to composing music, except that one moves on a visual plane rather than an auditory one. After having established the basic premises for the set, the process of building sequences that work, is repetitive and slow. You add images and see if they underscore the mood, if they build a counterpoint, or form repeating figures over time and distance. Each image is assessed individually: I weigh what it tells me, what audience is implicated, and who I can perceive speaking through it. This part at times feels like speed dating. It’s like Tinder, but for curators. Another vital element of the process is seeing how well a work fits with the rest of the selection. Sometimes this means that you have to let go of a very good candidate, because you cannot find a proper place for it among the rest. Those cases I take note of and keep in my pocket, like a fresh horse chestnut that is too smooth and shiny to discard.
The resulting score can be read as a narrative, but one that plays on several dimensions, and leaves plenty of open ends. In building the particular set for OEG, I was looking for a sense of magic that is maybe unique to photography. It is not supernatural, but of the kind that can be discovered in the mundane, in the life of nature, in the blink of an eye, in the playfulness of the child. And of course all images are produced by the sleight of hand of the camera operator, that king of tricksters. Being thus begotten as the child of chance and cunning makes photography a surprisingly unstable form of human communication. Doubtful and fascinating in equal measure, as compelling as it is conceitful, a photograph rolls truth and falsehood into one the moment it starts existing. The power of a photograph depends on whether it succeeds in generating within itself the kind of tension that can never be resolved no matter how long ones looks it in the eye.
Of course, this set is also created with the prospective buyers in mind. Despite my lyrical description of curatorial labor, everything still unfolds within the commercial space of this platform. The art of building a personal collection that is valued over time resides in the buyer’s ability to identify which images stay with them persistently, to the point of invading their memories. The only way to perfect the art of choosing what suits you as a collector, is to look, to look again, and to keep looking, day after day, year after year. And above all, to not underestimate the intellligence of the eye itself, and to learn from what it tells you as it skates over the icy depths of the image plane.
GUESTS ARTISTS FROM HESTER KEIJSER