by Peter Henry Waterschoot
Berenice Abbott wrote: 'the photographer is the contemporary par excellence; through his eyes the present becomes the past'. This proposition illustrates my motivation to start documenting, medio 2010, the rapid disappearance of small hotels, motels, dance halls, cheap restaurants - "places that are on the edge of, or hidden in the middle of the city “. They are ‘the heterotopics of the people’, unfortunately they are also the kind of places which make futile attempts to remain invisible to property developers ushering wrecking balls, ending an era.
This point of view led me on numerous trips, spread over a decade, to a wide variety of destinations. My duffelbag carries the symbolical badges of Ostend, Brussels, Hamburg, Cologne, Calais, Venice, Osaka, Kagoshima, and more. The idea originated from a European perspective, but I deliberately extended it to Japan, an island where future and past co-exist, a country which time after time; be it war, ravage, disaster, shuffled back at its feet, and needed rebuilding, a new face.
From 2010 up to now, my oeuvre began to lead a life of its own. You can't wade through the same river twice; the photographic work changes man, and man changes the photographic work, it is a perpetuum. A love for decay entered my bloodstream, or was it already there, planted by Huysmans; in the form of the black book I read as a young man?
Fact is, At the Skin of Time and Sunset Memory ( both my books), blossomed from the stem of the now-ruins of 20th century tourism and leisure, like orchids do in nature.My dogma was to work from immobility, during trips of 3 or 4 days, leaving my hotel room only for short nightwalks. I drew repetitive concentric circles, so that no detail would escape me. There is a certain decadance tot his deliberate strategy of withdrawal and disappearance, I admit, but it also explains the abundant (but studied) presence of details, still lifes and surface studies in the photowork. The camera glides along texture and reveals traces. Tells stories. Suggests.
My intentional anti-tourism evolved into a supra-tourism, being – that of the spiritual journey. The solitary trips were a mix of photography and meditation, in deconnection with the outside world and ultraconnection with the physical now. An exercise in becoming part of the wallpaper, part of the rug, part of the smell in the spaces. My aim was to make the time and space frame dissolve and experience intemporality. The artefacts and compositions are sparked by existentialist metaphysics. My raw materials are: the borders of my personae, and, when photographing I dig deep. Like a method actor I tunnel myself into a bittersweet state of melancholy and sensuality. But, mistake me not, I always set out with a playful mind and try to guard myself from dissatisfaction in life.
The dynamics that arise from the clash between aesthetics and camp have become my ultimate field of work in which colour prevails. Colour and texture are there to evoke. In this respect, I am aware that everyone perceives colour differently, but the richness of this communication with the viewer makes the search for deeply emotionally charged colours even more of a challenge. The images are an invitation to a cinematical gaze, an invitation to muse, to dream, to glide through photographical portals.
I find resonance in the artificial chromatics of Fassbinder's Querelle, the Pinetrees of Hajegawa Tohaku - textbook example of the Ma – the use of emptiness in an image as a source of power, and ultimately also Philip K. Dick’s neon prose. The vertical cut in my images directs the mystery, and bridges past and future, just like Chinese scrolls. The spectator can only enjoy this scroll-art in the presence of two others, one rolling it down and another rolling it up, synchronised. In these scrolls, future and past are connected but you can only ever see the present as a single vertical window, connected to a tiny piece of the past and a tiny piece of the future. Which is more or less like real life.
‘Intemporalità- is all about skippering back and forth between nostalgia and futurism, at an odyssee for 'electrically charged wabi sabi'. My photography brings cinematic elements into my life. To this day, my oeuvre is a glorification of the unfinished, the romantic, the dreamy, the wild, the uncontrolled, the refined. It is an elegy on texture, colour and solitary travel.
Peter H. Waterschoot
Artist statement accompanying the exhibition .Intemporalità. at the Fototeca Siracusana, Sicily. Text written in Balegem, Belgium, August 2021.