It Happened on a Clear Day. In Amsterdam, 2012
WINDSCREEN WIPER HORIZON
Looking at the photographs by Laura Samsom brought to mind Paul Klee’s famous comment, from his work Schöpferische Konfession (1920): ‘Art does not reproduce the visible, it makes visible’. An excellent statement, so it has always seemed. But now it was suddenly clear that it is only half true. Laura Samsom makes visible, certainly, but she does so by reproducing only what is visible. She has orchestrated nothing, manipulated nothing, has not wiped away a single raindrop, added a single leaf or moved the finest particle of dust. If we had paid more attention we might have come across these very images ourselves. But we paid no attention, we did not have the time. This book shows us nevertheless what we have passed by: pure landscape painting.
How is it possible? All of the photographs were taken in Amsterdam’s city centre, by a photographer who twisted herself into the weirdest positions on top of car bonnets. On the haunches of the holy cow, that dream capsule which has made us lovers of liberty, conquerers of new lands. That stinking city monster, lined up street after street in battle array, straining at the leash to hurl itself snarling into the chase again. How we hate that beast, and how we love it. Where would we be without the idea that we could get in at any time and travel to a better place, less crowded, less stressful, less calculated. Paradise is never far away – as shown here by Laura Samsom, who has conjured it up out of the monster, photograph by photograph.
She has an artistic predecessor in Jan Dibbets, who once made a series of close-ups of car doors, car bonnets and mudguards. Monochrome photos, with only the occasional faint reflection of a tree or house front. Colour studies, he called them. But that was in the 1970s, when art still sought after purity by leaving out as much as possible. How liberating that meanwhile that pure splendour is teeming once more with natural life: flower-buds like angels, water drops like fantastic fish, the navigator’s suction cup on the windscreen like a moon shining by day. And always on the horizon the windscreen wipers, which, when they awake from their deep sleep, will wipe away this paradise at a stroke – but we will have seen it by then.
Cornel Bierens, Amsterdam 2010