What happens when nothing happens
It’s the strangest thing of all,
Stranger than all poets’ dreams
And all philosophers’ thoughts,
That things are really what they seem to be
These lines are by Fernando Pessoa (PT, b. 1888-1935), although they were published by one of his endless heteronyms, Alberto Caeiro. The voice of Caeiro distinguishes itself from the others by an apparent pure open-mindedness in experiencing the world. His poems do not hide any existential questioning, but testify of a rather banal acceptance of the things as they are. Caeiro’s poetry resides in the sometimes distant, sometimes surprised way of seeing something; in communicating without interpreting. He apprehends the reality surrounding him solely through the registrations of his eyes.
A similar radical poetry of everyday existence characterizes the photographic work of Eva Donckers (B, b. 1991). Her images arise from spontaneously approaching her subjects; they are incited by simultaneously intimate curiosity and reserved observation. Donckers succeeds in capturing portraits and scenes with remarkable clarity, both literally with piercing natural light, as well as metaphorically with deceiving simplicity.
Contrary to the wary author, she usually takes encounters with (un)known people and places as a starting point for her series of images. As such, residencies and travels are a rewarding means to make contact and find inspiration in “the elsewhere”, a space oblivious to who and where. This is also the case in this new project. Somewhat atypical, this location is not immediately recognizable, nor is there a lot of physical human presence. This “elsewhere” seems anonymized, stripped bare. After making “An Anthropology of the Tourist”, these photographs are the result of a conscious choice for a slowed-down exploration of the area, beyond the typical tourist-rush to shoot the same images time and again. Donckers’ deliberate, quiet being there allows for the ordinary and the accidental to happen. Hence she is able to provide a direct perspective on the absurd traces or sculptural allures of man-made interventions in the environment.
She is present and perceives like Pessoa, “at times, on days of perfect and crisp light, when things are as real as they can be.”
Eva Donckers (B, b. 1991) lives and works in Antwerp. After her training in Arts and Culture Mediation, she attained her BA Photography at KASK Antwerp and her MA at LUCA Brussels. She previously exhibited at Gouvernement (Ghent, B) and M HKA (Antwerp, B) and was commissioned by De Standaard and The Word. For her commercial work, she is represented by Initials.LA.
Text: Eline Verstegen