Danielle van Ark investigates the object of photography, prompted by the belief that everything is ultimately relative, void and, above all, temporary. The core point of her research rests upon an interesting duality: the materiality of photography and its ephemeral quality at the same time. With the development of steadily more advanced reproduction technologies, the expiration date of a photograph seems to diminish exponentially. The reproduction of a memory is instantaneous now, affordable, and most importantly easily reproducible. So what is a photograph really, and where lies its value in contemporary society? While the attribution of value is thus invisible, extremely volatile and fragile, the photographic image is absolutely tangible, even in its processing, from the negative to the development and print of an image, substances and matter are fundamental.
Van Ark’s practice aims to point to this polarity, stripping photography of what connotes it the most; its capacity of reproducing reality and its link to a personal memory. As we can see in the series exhibited, titled ‘Desire has no history’, what interests van Ark is in fact not the personal aspect of the object, its exact contrary: the complete lack of it in the material itself. When you take away the nostalgic subjective to a portrait, not able to recognize the faces it depicts, or even more so not wanting to recognize them, what remains of a picture? The answer is: its formal qualities. Its matter. The negatives of the series, all acquired in different places and depicting random people’s lives and events, are here glued together and rearranged according to their shape, creating a geometric composition that reminds of the abstract works by Carl Andre. By sticking together on a surface they can no longer be printed, therefor, also their functionality is completely denied: the pictures fail to fit to their original representational function, and loose their connotation of eternal carrier of memories. What is fascinating is that, nevertheless, the temporal aspect is preserved, only this time is no longer in the intrinsic meaning of the object, but in its concrete matter instead, in its formal quality.
This can be seen also in her installation ‘On top of it’,consisting of of ceramic copies of the iconic Eames sideshell chair with a base formed out of magazine stacks. The stacks, arranged by sort, contain mostly popular culture (fashion, lifestyle) magazines and art-related magazines, belonging to the artist herself.
The Eames sideshell, a design icon, was once the archetype chair for waitingrooms and offices and is now a wanted design object for mostly domestic spaces, while the magazines, that are often placed in waiting rooms too, have the peculiar quality of capturing a specific time frame while being pisitioned in places that are meant to extend and prolongue a fraction of time.
In the installation, The two components are now ‘frozen’: the shell is not longer to sit on, the magazines can’t be read. Placing this items together and denying their function once again, deconstructing and reconstructing, rearranging and organizing what is left of the traces of time, van Ark accentuates the opacity of personal and universal value, as well as the poverty of function, highlighting the eternal quality of matter instead.
Daniëlle van Ark (Schiedam, 1974) studied at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague and was thereafter resident at the Rijksakademie van beeldendekunsten in Amsterdam. Her work has been displayed in numerous exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad. In 2006 Foam exhibited her first solo exhibition, For Art’s Sake, in Foam 3h. Van Ark’s work is included in the collections of Foam, De Nederlandsche Bank, ABN AMRO, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, LUMC, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, AMC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Museum Voorlinden, and various private collections.
-Text by Sara van Bussel