Born in The Netherlands in 1964, Paul Kooiker is known for creating unsettling, uncomfortable work. Focusing on themes of watching, voyeurism, and distance, his exhibition at FOMU, Untitled (nude), draws the viewer into a seemingly obsessive world, which shows on everything from nudes to eggs with the same sense of queasy intensity. “Kooiker raises questions,” reads the FOMU press material, “but rarely answers them, so it’s over to you.”
The exhibition is Kooiker’s first major museum show outside The Netherlands, and he’s created a new series specially for it titled Eggs and Rarities. When studying at art school (Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, Den Haag from 1982-1986, then the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam from 1990-1992), Kooiker made a photographic ‘encyclopaedia of life”; now, 30 years on, he’s attempting a more comprehensive version.
The series includes images from a wide variety of photographic genres, and plays with cliché’s such as tourist brochure shots and political news coverage; it also includes intimate private photographs, allowing the personal to creep into the public realm. The series is installed over an entire room with every image printed in the same way, implying an equal value on everything put on show.
Untitled (nude) also includes some of Kooiker’s previous work, including his 2011 series Sunday. Made in a single day with a model found via an online model agency for amateur photographers, the series plays with the three-way relationship found in photography between the artist, the model, and the viewer. The model never reveals her face, but we look over the photographers’ shoulder at her body, with a sense of disquiet over this representation of female flesh.
The exhibition also includes Kooiker’s 2012 series Heaven, a collection of 494 Polaroids dating from 2000-2012. Often taken as test shots which allowed Kooiker to experiment with angles, pose or light, the images were source material for series such as Showground (2004), Room Service (2008), Crush (2009), and Sunday.
In addition, Untitled (nude) features a display of Kooiker’s books, which have played an important part in his practice and the dissemination of his work. The collection on view includes monographs and more obscure publications, such as artists’ books and commissioned work, and shows the importance of Kooiker’s long collaboration with designer, publisher, and gallery-owner Willem van Zoetendaal.
After van Zoetendaal retired in 2014, Kooiker started a new collaboration with designer and publisher Jurgen Maelfeyt of Art Paper Editions, and Art Paper Editions has joined forces with FOMU and Dashwood Books to publish a book version of Eggs and Rarities. It will be published in September, and added to FOMU’s display.
Untitled (nude) is part of Antwerp Baroque 2018: Rubens inspires, a festival that aims to tell the story of Baroque, past and present, through visual arts, performance, music and theatre. The season also includes artists El Mac, Ed Kienholz, William Forysthe, Bruce Nauman, and Bernard Lavier.
www.paulkooiker.com Untitled (Nude) is open until 07 October 2018 at FOMU fotomuseum, Waalsekaai 47, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium www.fotomuseum.be/en/exhibitions/paul-kooiker.html