ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS & REVIEWS
Pauline Niks - 2017 - Landmarks [EN, essay]
About a series of photographs by Pauline Niks
For her photographic adventure I Am Just a Scenic Spot, Pauline Niks made two long journeys to China, travelling the entire country to photograph so-called landmarks. She focused specifically on replicas of iconic tourist attractions from other countries, such as the Eiffel Tower and the White House. The idea behind the undertaking was the manipulative nature of documentary photography: it is often seen as a reliable reproduction of reality when in fact it creates its own reality.
The resulting photographs convey what Guillaume Bijl calls “cultural tourism”: our almost desperate need of meaningful and preferably highly valued historical moments, which take the shape of kitsch and a series of predictable signs telling us what to feel and how to behave. People like to surround themselves with dream-like images that convey very little about the world outside their heads and a lot about the fears and longings that are so interwoven with their being that they seem to be condemned to schlep them around and to transform them into stupid acts and ugliness.
Pauline Niks reinforces both the confusion and realism of her dream-like images by printing the photographs as postcards and displaying them in a postcard spinner, typical of museum foyers and tourist spots. The large-scale, framed prints of these “documentary” images allow us to experience the neutral yet sensitive lighting and the soft colours that tend towards light blue, lending a personal touch to the pictures.
Hans Theys, Montagne de Miel, 31 July 2017