Bert Danckaert‘s ‘Simple Present’ photo series works on a number of levels. Yes, they are pictures of unremarkable walls taken in cities around the world from Cape Town to Havana and Beijing to Madrid. Yes, they are wonderful composed, painterly, minimalist. And yes they make you realise that there is a beauty in the ordinary, in the everyday. But that’s not it. There’s alot more going on.
Think a little harder. Look again. What do you see? Pictures of walls that could belong anywhere and are everywhere. They are devoid of cultural reference. They are a testament to globalization, homogeny. No longer are urban centres places defined by those that live there rather they are places defined by market forces. By sameness. And it is this concept of global sameness that Danckaert makes clear in his fraught series. Fraught because it scares me. It should scare all of us. This is what makes his project so important.
Here’s what Jan Blommaert has to say about Danckaert’s work:
We see in Bert Danckaert’s work a strangely familiar universe: that of the unremarkable, undistinguished places in which all of us spend so much of our lives, places we pass through without giving them any notice, spaces that are just trajectories, parts of a line connecting one place with another. Places, in short, that define our lives and that of so many other people in the urbanized world.
Danckaert’s work thus becomes a landmark of intercultural understanding, something that manages not to be trapped in the easy imageries of the exotic-typical, but brings us back to where things begin and end: in real human life. In an age of globalization, such levels of understanding are real, valuable forms of knowledge.
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