Billboard Series #12:
Performance #4 (Los Angeles)
22/06 — 21/09/2018
Max Pinckers (°1988, Brussels) is a Belgian artist whose work reflects on the credibility of the image, and the impossibility of documentary photography to claim its place in a changing world – where the authority of the photograph has disappeared as an independent document in the midst of the proliferation of digital images, ‘fake news’ and Photoshop. Pinckers is part of a new generation of documentary photographers who consciously use means such as theatrical staging, image manipulation and conscious recontextualisation – instruments previously regarded as taboo.
Max Pinckers’ work develops into series: images that he brings together in exhibitions and self-published artist’s books. His most recent series – from which the image of this Billboard Series is taken – is called Margins of Excess (2018). This new body of work reflects on the question of how people shape their identity, starting from the collective dreams and desires that are nourished and formed by the tropes from the mass media. For this new series, Max Pinckers travelled through the United States to visit a number of characters and stories that briefly surfaced in mainstream media when their ‘subjective reality’ clashed with the truth. Pinckers, for example, visited Rachel Dolezal – a civil rights activist who has been identifying and presenting herself for years as an African-American, but who actually turns out to be caucasian. Pinckers emphasises, however, that none of the people in the stories he highlights knowingly told lies to deceive anyone or to pursue personal gain. These characters simply experience reality differently; they create, as it were, their own world with their own truth.
These stories are typical of the new, post-truth era in which we live. The term post-truth has been used for a number of years to describe a reality in which objective facts have less influence on the formation of public opinion than emotions and personal convictions. It is the world in which Donald Trump became the US President with his alternative facts, in which climate change is still denied, and in which the British chose to leave the EU on the basis of false information.
Max Pinckers seems to have foreseen this dangerous acceleration of false images and alternative truths. The image of our Billboard Series for the next few months was taken on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The crying man is an actor, but the image is almost indistinguishable from the sincere, similar and desperate scenes that took place throughout the country that very same day.
Pinckers consciously plays with the stereotypical images the media use to depict mass mourning: burning candles, flowers and crying people. But at the same time this image also clearly with the conventions of advertising photography. The lighting, composition and colours that Pinckers uses to take the photograph allow a totally different reading of the image – as if it were part of a large advertising campaign for perfume or men’s clothing. This erroneous reading is reinforced by the fact that the image is shown here as a huge advertising billboard. But this – of course – is no coincidence.
All images courtesy of the artist
Installation photography: Michiel De Cleene
Billboard Series is a long-term art project in public space, for which every three months an artist is invited to create a new, site-specific work for a 50 m2 billboard on Dok Noord, Ghent. Through changing presentations, Billboard Series wants to build a sustainable and productive dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhood and urban landscape, reflect on the changes that this neighbourhood is currently undergoing, and introduce a broad audience to different visual languages and ways of looking at the world.
Billboard Series is a project of artlead, together with 019. Billboard Series is curated by Thomas Caron, takes place within a scenography by architect Olivier Goethals, and is being developed with the support of the City of Ghent and the Flemish Community.