Vailing - The erotic eye and the nude
The observation of an object from different angles can alter the our perceptions of that object within one and the same sense. A single glimpse suffices to identify a visual impression as 'flower', but it is only when you have examined the flower from all sides, that you get a complete image of what there is really to be seen. Through experience, our brains automatically complete and fill in the gaps to the slightest hint of a hypothetical image of the whole.

"Herein lies the beauty of these images, a limited number of carefully chosen hints suffices to evoke the illusion that something is present there in its full sensory glory. By not depicting something as a whole and rendering the minutest information suffices to provide the minimal information necessary to evoke the desired impression."

It will be superfluous to be reminded of the many factors that lead to the introduction of clothes. To begin with, there is the necessity to protect the body against extreme temperatures. Also increasing wealth induces man to cover his body with ever more layers of fabric, or to wear jewelry and attributes testifying to his wealth. Thus, social stratification is often expressed in erotic terms: infringement of all kinds of rules and the adoption of an appearance that is irreconcilable with hard labour (long nails, white skin...) are often signs of power or wealth. And the flaunting of wealth is only a special case of the general propensity to adorn the body with signs of all kinds of identity. These images focus, however, on clothes as an expression of modesty.

Vailing' is a series of images, as with the series goto 'Glimps' of which it is not immediately apparent what they represent. To be sure, on first sight, you have the certain impression that it is bodies that are appearing here. But, on a closer look, this turns out to be a mere delusion: this is definitely not the way real bodies look like. Which immediately raises the question what may well be photographed here. With the first images, it is not difficult to ascertain that we are dealing with body parts, and which body parts are at stake. But soon, only additional comments can reveal the secret.

Real body parts perceived as imaginary bodies or body parts: double images hence. Double images as such are not new: suffices it to refer to Arcimboldo and Dali. But, although the images of these artist are double, after dedoubling, they lose every ambivalence: in the case of Arcimboldo you either see the still life or the portrait. What you get to see in "Vailing" on the other hand, continues to resist every one-sided interpretation: the back that leans backward, suddenly turns out to be an exposed front; what appears to be a bust, demands to be read as a pair of thighs as well; the pair of buttocks that unfolds before your eyes, suddenly falls apart in two bodies, one of which can be read as being photographed from different angles; where you meant to descry a navel of where you expected the appearance of a penis, there suddenly opens a gaping vagina; and we spare ourselves the trouble to describe more complex examples like the triptych of ankles. That is why these images have rather something in common with condensed images, like da Vinci's Mona Lisa or Saint John the Baptist, where the sexes are equally merged into hermaphrodite beings. In 'Vailing' however, such ambivalence unfolds into completed polymorphism, as with Rorschach's inkblots. In that sense, the procedure followed in "Vailing" is in its turn a condensation or further refinement of the double tradition of double image and condensed image.

The title "Vailing" draws the attention to the fact that, in this series, there are only (parts of) bodies to be seen, no bodies with heads - let alone portraits. But it is in the first place an allusion to "La femme 100 têtes", a series of collages of wood engravings published by Max Ernst in 1929. In the title of this series, the sound of the number "100" is the same as that of the word 'sans' (without) - with the opposite meaning. And such double lecture cannot but remind us of the figures that the same Max Ernst descried in the grain of wood. In "Histoire Naturelle" (1926) he tried to catch these images through covering the wood with paper and through rubbing it with a pencil. Whence the name "frottage". Which can equally be read in another way. For "Frottage" is also the term for the "perversion" that derives its pleasure from rubbing the clothes that intimate the hidden forms of the body. And such double lecture of the word 'frottage" seals the stride from "Histoire Naturelle" to "Vailing". For, in the latter series, the images are not conjured up from the grain of wood, but rather from the wrinkled skin of of a body in decay. A movement toward the kernel of things, then, which in the same time lends a deeper meaning to the phenomenon of double lecture. The initial image of the series makes it unambiguously clear that the impetus for making of 'Vailing' has been the reluctance to feel itself at home in the very body from which the soul emerged, only to be doomed to death through the irrevocable decay of precisely the material subtrate to which it owes its existence. Which is in its turn another lecture of the expression "Histoire Naturelle"...

Beyond which "Vailing" is moving in a double sense: not only does the metamorphosis to double image find its completion in the process of the polymorphic multiplication of images, the metamorphosis of reality to image no longer transforms peripheral material into peripheral - "surrealistic" - images, but rather resolutely moves toward the most vulnerable spot of human existence where central phantasms - like erotic beauty and the immortality of the flesh - originate.

From a purely technical point of view, the development of the series is propelled by the systematic extrapolation of some very simple technical interventions. To begin with, the eye relentlessly zooms in on the very object of its abhorrence. At the same time, the diaphragm is increasingly widening, so that the bandwidth on which the horrendous is to be seen becomes increasingly smaller, only to leave room to a foreground and a background where a totally different world gradually looms up. The effect is further enhanced in that the body parts increasingly turn to the depth, so that the bandwidth of the given ultimately shrinks into a mere linear ring. And, finally, through the multiplication of lights and their shining at right angles or in opposition to each other, a new world emerges where surfaces and volumes dissolve into a purely spiritual world of pure light and darkness.

And that reminds us of the fact that it is of all things a camera - the very instrument that seems the most inappropriate to perform such a task - that works the wonder of the polymorphous metamorphosis. Wherewith becomes apparent how misleading - how untrue - it is to understand the relation between a photo and what it represents in terms of 'document'. No doubt, "Vailing" departs from a concrete given: a body in decay. But, at the same time, it paradigmatically demonstrates how simple and purely photographical interventions like zooming in, opening of the diaphragm and multiplication of the sources of light, can turn such sense data into their very opposite: in the end we witness the appearance of bodies, the erotic freight of which often surpasses that of even the most enticing real counterparts - not to mention the often ethereal worlds in which they want to weightlessly float.

Which only sheds a sharp light on what photography has in common with the more manufactured forms of image production. It appears that, essentially, the given plays no other role in photography as the good old 'model' - or 'nature' - in painting or sculpting: to warrant the probability that has to be the hallmark of every genuine mimesis. In the end, no human mind, however creative - can create beings that are more convincing than those created by nature itself. And that is precisely why not only the photographer, but foremost the painter and the sculptor, however much they are out at transforming reality - in the last resort never cut the umbilical chord with the real world - although painters and sculptors proceed along somewhat different roads that their technologically more advanced successors, the photographers. In that sense "Vailing" is a reflection on the technology of making images as such. And also - if need still be - a manifesto: precisely the technology that is commonly supposed to merely reflect the given, becomes in "Vailing" the very instrument of the utter negation of the given in all respects.