In a world ruled by digital data, I prefer to focus on organic processes, materials and techniques. I start from the concrete materials and matters needed to build up photographic imagery. Zero and one are just numbers, they don’t give me much. I use photo-chemical and photo-optical systems. These are systems that I can read, that generate questions and decisions based on their physical material. I experiment with different ways to visualize the visible and the invisible.
The photographic image commonly consists of a controlled manipulation of optical, technical and scientific parameters. I stretch the limits and possibilities of the photographic medium by focusing on the uncontrollable. During the making I take “as little control” as possible, but nothing will happen unless I do something. So I’m both out of control and necessary.
By giving photography the opportunity to encounter a process where technical and scientific rules are put to the test, I let images emerge. Light and time have been my main points of focus. This is expanding towards the idea of what a photographical apparatus can be and the role of the reproduction. Reproduction of what? I see a camera as a system sensitive for matter. What this matter can be, is not only light. It’s a way of making dependencies between the creation of an image and defining the social and (s)cult(p)ural value of it.
Dries Segers (b. 1990) lives and works in Brussels. He graduated at the Listahaskoli, Icelandic Academy for the Arts in Reykjavik (2011) and LUCA School of Arts, Sint Lukas Brussels (2013). His work has been shown in solo- and groupshows as The Weekend Room (Seoul, South Korea), De Brakke Grond (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Musee and Galerie Botanique (Brussels, Belgium), Neue Galerie (Ausberg, Germany), Warte für Kunst (Kassel, Germany), 019 (Ghent, Belgium), BOZAR (Brussel, Belgium), Tique art space (Antwerp, Belgium), De Warande (Turnhout, Belgium) and Fotomuseum (Antwerp, Belgium)
A Conversation with Dries Segers on the Occasion of his Participation in POPPOSITIONS, Brussels, Belgium, by James Scarborough
JS: Why is photography your chosen medium? What does it offer that, say, painting or drawing don’t?
DS: First of all I think photography, in this age, has too much responsibilities. It’s everywhere. Camera’s and photographic images are becoming trash like polluted air. Photography is jaded. And that’s why I think it is an interesting medium to me. Because of this lack of identity, I can push it into unknown zones. My practice is intertwined with strategies used in drawing and painting. Nevertheless, it always becomes a photograph. I use light and time to construct images during a process. I’m mostly not in need of actual physical and optical appearances. I rather make the invisible visible. That might sound ambitious but this is only possible through photography. It sees more than our body can, through optical, scientific and physical reactions.
JS: It is written that your work focuses on the uncontrollable. First, what are these uncontrollables? Are they just technical and atmospheric? Second, what is the result of this focus?
DS: Visualizing something that is impossible to observe requires patience and giving opportunities to the unknown. “The not knowing” of the one who calls himself “author”. This is uncontrollable because I’m blind during the process. I build structures or systems that allow unseen images to emerge. I also would like to say that I see my work as the result of a collaboration between photography and myself. For instance, the project ‘Hits of Sunshine’ was an attempt to let the photographic film burn inside the camera by lightening it for hours and hours. Instead the film reacted in such a way that new, unexpected images came alive. I had no control over it. So, it is more or less steering away from making decisions only by yourself.
With ‘143 folds’, I folded a 4,5x7m big cyanotype for a couple of hours in the sun. The sun changed the color and density of the cyanotype. By folding it double-sided, I could never see the image as a whole, not knowing if you’re working in the front or the back of the composition, the left or the right. The image making ended when we threw the fabric into the river and went swimming with it. Afterwards it was hoisted on a flagpole to dry by the wind. A cyanotype only reveals itself when it touches water and the unexposed parts are flushed away. Fixing and developing happens at exactly the same time. These are 2 examples of letting go of the control.
JS: Is there a typical process by which you create a piece? If not, how at least do you begin?
DS: When I start a new work, it mostly comes out of a curiosity and desire to make something material that is immaterial. To do that I make sure the process of making a ‘photograph’ is confronted with factors of chance, accident, coincidence and luck. Normally a photographer starts from the desire of seeing something. That will trigger the use of the camera, the way you use light, time, to choose what you frame and what you don’t frame. In general I’m blind during this whole process. I cannot control the image, because I can’t see it. The image only emerges and reveals itself when the film is developed and the process of making an image, is stopped. That’s also the first moment I encounter what has been created.
JS: In the context of this exhibition, what is the social value of art in general and of your art in particular?
DS: I think this is a tricky question because if you speak about social value in art you have to take in account that art is generally not affecting all social communities. So it really depends on the current situation, location and history of the context. If you talk about social and political relevance on an art fair, there is already a contradiction. That’s why I like it more to look at POPPOSITIONS as an exhibition within the situation of the art market.
Concerning my own practice, I find it not relevant to name the social value of it myself. It must be named by another (according to the information the work of art distributes). Because these values are never static and change considering the approach.
Art is there to practice seeing and digging for context and content, to practice languages, to build and learn from images, poetry, confrontations and materials. The social value lies in this ‘getting to know’ process. To open up to something unknown is a big gesture, I feel.
April 14, 2019