Peripheral Visions by Erik Kessels
I’ll never forget my first encounter with André Thijssen.
The phone rang, and there was a rather courteous male voice on the other end: André. He’d heard of me and thought I should pay him a visit to look at his photographs.
Strange. Normally speaking, these kinds of visits always take place the other way round. A photographer looking for work will take his portfolio and call on
an art director. In the case of a gallery, he will try to visit as many galleries as possible in a short time. But this photographer was approaching things in a completely different way. His request aroused my curiosity though, and so less than a week later I found myself standing in front of his door.
Once inside, I noticed that his work space wasn’t that of an average photographer. It resembled a cabinet of curiosities more than anything else. After a quick cup of coffee, we got down to business and took a look at his photos. About a hundred 35 mm slides were almost casually displayed on a huge light box. A hundred! And after the first hundred images came the next hundred, and that went on for a while. I soon realized that I was dealing with a very passionate photographer and human being.
It is evident from André Thijssen’s work that he takes pictures anytime and anywhere. And yet, despite his incredibly prolific output, all of his photographs have something in common.
Remarkably often this concerns situations where Thijssen almost literally looked beyond the obvious subject. He sees beauty in things that most photographers are absolutely not interested in. Images that normally speaking are left behind.
Thijssen is a photographer who concentrates on the periphery of the frame.
A puddle of water on a street, a cut-out in a curtain to provide the plant on the window-sill with light, a toppled-over table of cabbage and two fallen bicycles that have become entangled; none of them particularly interesting subjects at first sight. Except to André Thijssen.
His passion for collecting has been going on for years. He categorizes huge amounts of visual material from time to time – in his head. Recurring themes include the patterns made by objects he encounters on the street, the traces
of previous human presence and signs of wear.
For instance, we see eight sandwiches lying on the street, whose centres have been partially eaten and the crusts carelessly tossed away. Only through Thijssen’s eyes does this scene gain an unintentional aesthetic quality.
A similar image is that of twelve construction workers who have removed their rubber boots right in the middle of a square. Coincidence? Is it a square in front of a mosque? Or did a shipment of boots fall off a lorry? Who knows.
Parallel worlds by Chris Reinewald
If there is such a thing in photography as a “decisive moment”, the term coined by Henri Cartier-Bresson, then there must also be the opposite -the casual, complete non event, the way the artist André Thijssen creates it.
Such an “un-decisive moment” provides an absurd image that you could regard as a kind of alienation.
But then one without political or cultural ulterior motives. After all, the creator does not demand of his viewers that his images whip us up into fomenting some revolution or other. It’s enough just to look.
Thanks to their concrete nature and the realisation that a person consiously takes them, photographs are seldom without obligations.
Yet we like to guess, via the maker, about the meaning of that realistic and yet unfathomable image. Thijssen lauds the kind of spectator he feels ‘gets’ his photography, one that doesn’t require the kind of explanation he woudn’t offer anyway.
He limits himself to stating place and time.
Thanks to their layers, the images retain autonomy. That’s why they are well-suited to being juxtaposed as independent images with
a text or another of his images.
In this capacity, the images interpret a synchronised opinion that, as a discourse, creates space for further thought about the subject.
André Thijssen’s realistic scenes, as they are included in the “twin-book”, could form the backdrop for the short stories of Raymond Carver, Kevin Cantry or Richard Ford.
Kitchen-sink realism. Slices of life, apparently without significance, telling complications of significant details.
Circomstances coming together into a pregnant momentum.
The more abstract photos in this book -the director’s cut- come from the same source and were taken with the same intention.
We see almost anonymous images of reality, textures of truths. The viewer wonders: are they reflections of something larger, something offscreen?
Think of the “indisputable truth” of the Mexican garage owner who points out the form of the Virgin Mary in the oil stains under a leaky Pontiac Catalina. The code of the universe, found in the melted cheddar cheese on a pizza. They are messages from a parallel world.
This concept that came originally from quantum physics questions the alleged uniqueness of our observation. The Argentine novelist/poet Jorge Luis Borges describe the phenomenon as a garden with his branching paths where events takes place simultaniously.
The photographs by André Thijssen provide access to parallel worlds, of which we are occassionally also aware. However, we prefere to ignore these “chance events”, these unfathomable moments in time. Apparently it’s too threatening to wonder whether an unknown doppelgänger leads a life opposite to our own with choices that we never ever made and hence are not even aware that wrong choices exist.
The artist does not provide any answers for these philosophical reflections. His images leave words in second place.
André Thijssen records what he finds in the parallel worlds -or in one of the many. And he shows them, so that “it” won’t be left unnoticed.
The press on Fringe Phenomena
‘One of the best photo books published in 2010.
‘The pleasure and detachment of Thijssen’s way of observing is contagious.
His photos are pencil sharpeners for the eyes.
One leaves the exhibition or closes the book with a sharpened view on our world.’
‘Thijssen changes the periphery into what matters.’
‘Thijssen photographs the ordinairy in a way that fringe phenomena are turned into something special.
The most banal subjects in his pictures become surreal, powerful and of great beauty.’
Kunststof Radio Interview:
19 August 2010, 56 min. (Dutch)
Where to buy
Book 1 is edited by Erik Kessels who also wrote the introduction ‘Peripheral Visions.’
Book 2 is edited by the artist, the introduction ‘Parallel Worlds’ was written by Chris Reinewald.
Overall design by Sabine Verschueren.
ISBN 978-90-89101-63-1 / NUR 653
Book size: 17 x 24 cm, 144 pages per book, full colour print on Arctic Volume paper.
The double publication Fringe Phenomena, published by ‘d Jonge Hond is out of print.