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LE BAL : Harry Gruyaert by Richard Nonas


No ideas but in things

« No ideas but in things », says William Carlos Williams, the American poet; no ideas that cannot be embodied in juxtaposed, moving things. « The poet thinks with his poem. In that lies his thought, and that in itself is the profundity. »

The photographs of Harry Gruyaert have always seemed to me images of things, even when they are pictures of people. But things that slide away, slip fast and asymmetrically away from what they start out to be – as thoughts do. They are photographs of change, not of movement. They are images not of single moments or intermediate steps, they are rather acknowledgements of edgy and unstoppable change. They are not quite life-like, but they are not dream-like either. They are like thoughts : filled completely, and yet confusing ; strangely ambiguous and yet ordinary in their extraordinary juxtapositions. They are never either questions or answers. They are never even information. They are complex bits of the world, knifed somehow into my consciousness: unresolved, not yet hardened, changing, but completely there.

Partly it is the color that does that. And partly it is the sudden sense of explosive change just outside the frame. But mostly, it is the peculiar connection of things that affect me; the uncomfortable feeling of things pushing at each other, shaping and shaking the world. In these photographs, things have the weight and movement of people, while people somehow have the dry steadiness and predictability of things. These photographs are, above all else, edgy; they have the taste of dissociation, of connection slightly out of control. They have the strength and tension of incomplete meaning. They have the itch of the unresolved. These are photographs of events that have not yet happened, that are about to happen, that cannot be prevented from happening.

These are not photographs of how other lives look, or are. They are instead photographs that acknowledge our inability to really understand those lives; they are photographs of how other lives feel from outside – slightly sinister, slightly sad, a bit funny; disconcerting. These are photographs – like thoughts – of what we cannot hold. They are pictures of that world rooted in ordinary things, that slips away when we approach it. They are photographs of that part of our world which only art can touch.

– Richard Nonas

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