The Bungalow, 2014

Anouk Kruithof Talks Books, Travel, Feminism & More

Anouk Kruithof is a Dutch artist currently based in New York City. She has been exploring and questioning the picture-plane, image, materiality, physicality and philosophy of the medium of photography for over a decade. Her multi­­-layered, interdisciplinary projects take the form of photographs, installations, artist books, text, sculpture, ephemera and performance. Kruithof was an Artist-in-Residence at Light Work in May 2013. Her new book, The Bungalow, was recently published by Onomatopee. She recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for her forthcoming book, AUTOMAGIC, which she worked on while in residence at Light Work.

Below, Kruithof and Light Work’s Jessica Posner engage in a conversation about The Bungalow, AUTOMAGIC, travel, feminism, and more.

Jessica Posner: Hello, Anouk! You were an Artist-in-Residence at Light Work in May 2013. Can you tell us a bit about what you worked on during that time, and what you have been up to since then?

Anouk Kruithof: During my Light Work residency, I spent the first week on my book Pixel Stress, which was published by RVB Books in September 2013. The other weeks I worked on my upcoming book, AUTOMAGIC. It is a very extensive project containing work from 2003 through 2015, which I started working on in May 2011. Readers can check out my Kickstarter to learn more about AUTOMAGIC.

In 2013, I made the solo show Everything is Wave in gallery Boetzelaer|Nispen in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In the Spring, my small solo exhibition Within Interpretations of a Wall opened at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. I did nine months as an artist-in-residence through ISCP in New York. This summer, I started my publishing platform, I’ve published two more books: Untitled (I’ve taken too many photos / I’ve never taken a photo), self-published, and The Bungalow, published by Onomatopee. Shane Lavalette, the Director of Light Work, basically checked the first dummy of The Bungalow in May of 2013.

In the past year I’ve traveled a lot too: Jamaica, Mexico, LA, and Europe. I’m currently living in New York City, and I just found a new studio on the Lower East Side. I am crazy about it!

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From The Bungalow, 2014

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From The Bungalow, 2014

JP: It sounds like you’ve had an amazing two years. Congratulations! I’d like to start off a conversation about The Bungalow by asking you about a phrase that you use in the introduction of the book, “screen-reality.” Can you expand on that term?

AK: The world by now is dominated by photos. In this world, people function as processors of an ongoing stream of images. For many of us, it has become more normal to look at the world through a computer or iPhone screen, than seeing it in physical reality. We filter reality by means of a screen, and thus experience life in this way. That reality is limited to a rectangle, even though this screen-reality is ascribed a “full view.” But the real full view, the context, fades when we take in such large quantities of photos through a screen. Photos have become pieces of evidence of entities. By this I mean that a thing that has been recorded only exists because the photo shows us it’s there. For many, a photo is proof that what is depicted exists for real, even without physically or consciously having seen the object in reality. Seeing in the physical sense has been degraded because of this. Seeing is the only sensory process remaining, while the other sensory experiences—smelling, touching, tasting and hearing—have no role to play in screen-reality.

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From The Bungalow, 2014

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JP: In The Bungalow, it appears as though you are very assertively colliding a history of what appears to be manual collage with a much newer imagery/language of digital image editing softwares like Photoshop. Can you tell us about this?

AK: Instead of the physical environment, the computer screen provides the frame in which you play with objects. Within this screen-frame, you slide the new entities (the photos) into, behind, and/or across each other. We do so consciously in Photoshop, or unconsciously by opening multiple photos or windows simultaneously. By making a screenshot of this compilation, you create a digital still life. A new entity comes into being, with its own origin on the screen (versus originating in physical reality). “Screenshot-photography” is born. In my view, this is a way to record the screen-reality in which we live.

JP: I find myself lingering on the spreads in The Bungalow in which you are abstracting bodies engaged in what appears to be sexual or physical power play. Though you are abstracting specific content through the process of collage, the images of bodies performing through restraint, obfuscation, or other forms of manipulation persist.

AK: The bodies of those women are clearly acting some kind of scene between bondage and wrestling, and were literally cut out by my hand and a scissor. An empty void fills them up, their forms becoming sculptural. I find the forms more interesting. The imagination provides more to wonder about. Spectators are given space to visualize what they want to see or desire. I, for example see a white form vacuuming. But, actually, the vacuum was the body of a woman. To me this is funny and raises questions.

The white shapes let one focus more on the environment, the backdrops, and the furniture; rather than the acts those women are performing in the original photographs. Removing the women’s bodies also means relieving them from the previous situation. Maybe it was a power play before, but I don’t know. I wasn’t there when the pictures were taken. Neither do I know how those women felt when posing for those pictures. So I see it as a symbol of liberation.

There is so much female nudity in the history of photography, and often as a gesture of dedication and appreciation for beauty and female body. But to me it’s usually tiring, banal sexiness. Women are seen as objects to look at, and photos are sketches of surface.

This chapter does raises some questions about the position of women, the mystery, the funny side and the never ending intelligence, strength and power of women. At least that’s what my intentions and thoughts were.

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From The Bungalow, 2014

JP: Your response makes me curious to ask if you consider yourself a feminist? Does that play any role in your art practice?

AK: Of course I am a feminist, which woman isn’t a feminist? Maybe the ones who don’t know what feminism means. Luckily, I am surrounded also by male friends who are feminist as well. I don’t necessarily manifest feminism through my art works directly, though, because I like to think about making work and striving towards a more holistic universe of equality. I feel that’s a huge task to think about. It’s what makes me depressed at times, like, “what to do?”

I have so much energy… what’s the richest and most valuable way to transition this energy for a bigger cause? But the thoughts are overwhelming and bring me in a deep dark black hole, because one can only do just a little. The best is to be honest to yourself. Do what you love and believe in this. Hopefully, it resonates when it’s truly sincere. Even if you don’t know what it actually is, you give what you can give. Bring it out there.

JP: Do you see the work you do as political? To me, presenting a critical, visual story divergent from more traditional or popular modes of presentation and representation (which you articulate above) could be interpreted as a political act. Was this ever your intention?

AK: My work is not political. Socially engaged, for sure. I strive to make rather layered work because I appreciate work which leaves space for people to engage with it by raising questions, leaving gaps, and intervening thoughts on different layers. It’s about respecting that people with different ages, cultural backgrounds, different emotions, and experiences will take something out of a work. What matters to them, what makes them wonder? My work isn’t a one way road with no space for u-turns.

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From The Bungalow, 2014

JP: I realize I’ve gotten a little off track, and maybe this is as good a time as any to make a u-turn to return back to The Bungalow. There’s something really sweet and strange about this spread with the skeletons. Can you tell us about it?

AK: From what I know about the photos I chose, those skeletons are the ones used in hospitals or classrooms in biology or anatomy lessons. It looked to me as though some people are fooling around with them in a basement, treating them as a real persona. The old ladies are laughing, the man dancing with them could be a doctor or biology teacher. They are just dancing with the skeletons, carrying them around. I think the people in the pictures are drunk. Those photos were probably taken by amateurs, and made me laugh out loud. I could not quite get how this situation would appear.

Isn’t that not the most interesting thing when you look at photos? They should be like question marks. That’s almost the only way I get hot from a single photo, if its embedded with some question mark behind the surface of what we see. Evidence by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel is maybe the best example of what I’m trying to explain. Some of the images I chose from Brad Feuerhelm’s collection remind of, and relate to, that work by Sultan and Mandel.

JP: It’s almost as if the question mark, or that open ended unknowing, is your punctum which connects all of the images you choose to work with.

AK: If a photo does bounce this question mark towards me I have already passed by. There are too many photos. They are everywhere. One needs to develop a personal filter system to not drown in the image-ocean we’re living in.

JP: Are there any other chapters from The Bungalow that you’d like to tell us more about?

AK: Command Shift 3: New Photography is the chapter where you see some images opened in Photoshop and then re-photographed by making a screenshot. It’s a digital way of making a still life photo, screen-reality is a reality too. It’s like taking of a trip and stepping into some sort of parallel world. And like in a trip, I don’t want to see some images, while others enrich me.

I do not want an overdose of photos, and the abundance of photos must not make me forget the distinction between reality and screen-reality. Like a drug addict, I assume to have my photo-consumption under control.

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From The Bungalow, 2014

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From The Bungalow, 2014

JP: In looking at The Bungalow alongside your other books, it is easy to notice your incredibly vibrant and adventurous colors choices. Can you talk about how you arrive at specific palettes for each project or book, and what that decision making process is like?

AK: I filter life through color. Its broad pallet is brimming with strong mental qualities. This is most of all the case with indeterminate hues. While I mainly work with photography, I tend to manipulate, filter, order, and work with colour in ways that might seem to make more sense if I were painting or drawing. For example, Happy Birthday to You is printed on dirty mint-green paper because that is the colour I saw on most of the walls and in the isolation cells in the mental institution where I was doing the project. This color is supposed to have a calming effect on patients, although I think it might just be a placebo effect. When the institution was being set up, the powers-that-be decided to paint most of the walls this color. So, in this case, the specific color adds something to the project’s content. In Becoming Blue, I used blue because of its art historical and psychological meaning.

I deliberately remove color as well. The combination of black and white is a statement. Part of A Head with Wings is in black and white. A huge part of Happy Birthday to You is too, even though the images are printed on dirty mint-green paper. I also made a wallpaper diptych Der Ausbruch Einer Flexiblen Wand (hart/weich) in black and white.

I choose colors for specific reasons. Organizing things in color is a strategic way to create order within chaos, mostly because I’m always overwhelmed with material. I take too many photos and I’m an obsessive book collector. I always have too many things on hand. Working with color or non-color calms me somehow. It has a meditative effect on me and adds a specific aesthetic quality to the work. You might notice this more than I do, since for me it feels natural to work this way.

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From The Bungalow, 2014

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From The Bungalow, 2014

JP: Several times, you have used travel as a metaphor while talking about your work. It seems travel is a really important part of your life and art practice. How does travel feeds your practice as an artist?

AK: I love to be in the air, in the ocean, deep down under, or on the road. Movement is important. It’s what makes my life, and maybe my work, dynamic. My worst nightmare is to be a “real” studio-artist. I could never live/work within four walls, working only with materials and my own mind. That being said, I do need to work in a studio. Working with interventions on the street, traveling, interviewing people, and collaborating are important for my practice as well. Photography, video, and text make a connection with the outside world, which next to my digital persona, makes life interesting to me.

JP: If you could go anywhere in the world for any length of time, all expenses paid, where would you go, and for how long?

AK: What a question! I would love to be and work in New York, actually, this amazing place with people of all nationalities in it is unique. I feel it’s the place where this hunger for a more holistic universe of equality comes closest of all places in the world. The energy and drive this creates is fascinating and makes me not want to go anywhere else. But my visa expires mid-September, so maybe this plus my love (who lives in Europe) will make me move back. But I don’t need to think about this yet! I just moved into my new studio and have three interns coming to work with me until the end of June. I love being in New York. In this eccentric place, everyone is slightly insane.

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From The Bungalow, 2014

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JP: I always felt at home in the city when I lived there as well. Although, I do find that as an artist eccentric contexts crop up no matter where you land. So, what’s up next for you?

AK: Finally publishing my AUTOMAGIC book! I’m also developing my photo-sculptural practice, which will be shown at Art Bruxelles at the end of April. In September, I have a solo show with my gallery, but I have no idea what I will show.

I’m also working on a project around surveillance, anonymity, the representation of the self in media networked realities, and indexing/anti-indexing. It’s a huge collaborative project where I make simple photos of the back of heads of people posing against a simple one-coloured wall or piece of paper. It’s sounds boring, but it’s going to be thousands and thousands of pictures—heads becoming pixels. Brains and thoughts of people of all nationalities will be captured in there. Maybe it’s going to be statement on the failure of human encyclopedic unity.

JP: Thanks so much Anouk! One final question: What’s your favorite cocktail?

AK: The “Angelita” from the Experimental Cocktail Club, which is super close to my studio!

One of the most remarkable experiences in my life was diving the Cenote Angelita (a sinkhole) in Tulum, Mexico. You dive through a gas cloud hanging between saltwater and freshwater. When you’re lost in this gas cloud, looking up to the sun, it’s as if being in cosmic energy, as if the whole spectrum of color surrounds you, as if you’re breathing the roots of the tree. Once you go deeper through the other side of this gas cloud (~150 ft. deep), you see this bizarre set with a tree and the edges of sinkhole. It’s like caves surrounding you. It’s an outrageous experience. You have to walk with your diving gear through the jungle quite a bit too before you arrive, and you have to love diving and not be afraid of depth and small spaces. After the dive, you’d better smoke a little to emphasize the experience. I did this dive with an independent, hippie instructor who holds his gear in a van on the beach and we had a super high time together! When drinking the Angelita cocktail, I dive back in this memory.

JP: Thanks, Anouk. I, of course, want to encourage our readers to buy all of your books and check out your Kickstarter for AUTOMAGIC. I’d also love to encourage them to check out the wonderful video documentation of your books online. I love watching the way you handle the books.

AK: For me a book is an experience, an intimate meeting as well. I like to walk through a book with my fingers the same as how I explore the world traveling.

To learn more or support the publication of Kruithof’s AUTOMAGIC, visit her Kickstarter page.

Anouk Kruithof‘s work has been exhibited extensively throughout New York, Europe, Asia, and Australia. She has published seven artistbooks. She is the recipient of the 2012 ICP Infinity Award from the International Center for Photography and the winner of the 2011 Grand Prix Jury and Photoglobal prize at Hyeres, festival international de mode et de photography. Her work is in the collections of FOAM Amsterdam, Het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Fotomuseum Winterthur Switzerland and Museum Het Domein Sittard NL, MOMA library, ICP library, Pier 24 library, and the library of Het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

Jessica Posner is an artist, Communications Coordinator at Light Work, and Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Transmedia at Syracuse University. You can contact her at

April Artists-in-Residence

The Light Work Artists-in-Residence for April are Ayana V. Jackson and Brian Ulrich. Both artists are using part of their residency time to edit work, scan film on our high-resolution Imacon scanners, and work on book dummies. Read more about each of their projects, as well as more info on Ayana and Brian, in the Artists-in-Residence page of the Light Work website. There you can also find details on the residency program and how to apply.

The image at left, La Reina de la Primanera, is by Ayana V. Jackson.

Dean Kessmann at Conner Contemporary Art

2009 Light Work Artist-in-Residence Dean Kessmann is currently exhibiting Art as Paper as Potential at Conner Contemporary Art in Washington, D.C. This is his fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. It will run through May 8.

Art as Paper as Potential investigates ideas of tactility as well as the multiple references, implications, and meanings that can be drawn from the sight of a blazing white sheet of paper. Kessmann’s work plays with this idea of a “blank” surface that may have been erased of content or be as yet untouched. The exhibition is staged in three parts with a 21-foot long light box piece, split into three sections, at its center. The center panel of this piece, which is titled Intersecting Data: Light/Dark, is shown here. Read more about this elegant suite of work at Kessmann’s website.

Images from Art as Paper as Potential, along with an essay by Tim Wride, will be featured in The Light Work Annual 2010, Contact Sheet 157, which will be published in July 2010.

Soldier Billboard Project in Washington, D.C.

Images from Suzanne Opton’s series Soldier will appear on billboards in six Metrorail stations throughout Washington D.C. from March 9 to April 4, 2010.

The Soldier Billboard Project features portraits of American soldiers between tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Click here to read about various reactions to the series, which has been on a two-year tour to cities including Denver, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami, among others.

The series has generated considerable controversy in some venues, including CBS Outdoor’s decision to pull Opton’s billboards in Minneapolis-St. Paul during the Republican National Convention there in 2008.

Light Work has enjoyed working with Opton since 2005 when she was an Artist-in-Residence here in Syracuse. Light Work held the exhibition Soldier in 2006. As part of the exhibition, images from the series appeared on five billboards throughout Syracuse, which extended the work into the community where it could be seen by the general public. Contact Sheet 136 celebrates the series and the exhibition.

Opton continues to work with Light Work/Community Darkrooms by realizing prints with Digital Lab Manager John Mannion and his assistant Carrie Mondore up through today.

Three works from Solider are in the Light Work Collection, which you can view and read about here. A black-and-white image from this series, Soldier Conklin: 272 days in Iraq, 2006, is also available in the Light Work store; your purchase goes directly back into our programming that supports emerging and under-recognized artists.

Images: Above, left: Soldier Birkholz, 353 Days in Iraq, 205 Days in Afghanistan. Right: Billboards in Syracuse initiated by Light Work in conjunction with the exhibition Soldier, 2006.

Lola Flash opens at Gordon Parks Gallery

The exhibition Flash in Retrospect, featuring work by 2008 Light Work Artist-in-Residence Lola Flash, opened on February 13 at Gordon Parks Gallery on the John Cardinal O’Connor campus of The College of New Rochelle. The exhibition will run through May 2, 2010.

Flash’s work addresses boundaries and the physical and ideological areas that exist concerning those boundaries. Begun in 2002, [sur]passing examines how skin color impacts black identity both in real life and in front of the camera. With the portraits in epicene, Flash depicts a mosaic of subjects who have challenged societal confines, including those of race, class, and gender. Photographed in various cities in the United States and abroad, her series quartet looks at the interstitial places that comprise these cities and define the lives of their inhabitants.

Flash was born in the United States and is of African and Native American heritage. She spent ten years in London, where she regularly exhibited her work and also attained her MA. A classic Flash photograph, Stay Afloat, Use a Rubber, is part of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum collection. She is now based in New York.

Read more about Flash and her work at her website. Flash has two photographs in the Light Work Collection, which you can view by clicking here. Her work was also featured in Contact Sheet 152, which you can preview and purchase here.

Images: Above, left, Amanda, Cape Town, South Africa, from the series [sur]passing. Right, the artist with her work at the exhibition opening on February 13, 2010.

One more for 2010

We’ve had late-breaking confirmation this afternoon that Susan Worsham will also join us as a 2010 Artist-in-Residence.

In her series Some Fox Trails in Virginia, Worsham evokes a Southern Gothic atmosphere in which the verdancy of this landscape and its people seems to have run wild and then aground. During her residency, Worsham plans to edit, scan, and print editions of Fox Trails as well as her newest work, By the Grace of God, which focuses on the hospitality of strangers in the South. Congratulations, Susan!

Image: Lynn with Red Towel

As It Happens special event

If you’re in NYC on Thursday, January 14, 2010, make sure to stop by for a special event at Palitz Gallery. Currently on view there is the exhibition As It Happens, which celebrates the Light Work Artists-in-Residence program. The show features work by recent residents, including Kelli Connell, Christine Osinski, Lisa M. Robinson, Kerry Skarbakka, Amy Stein, Krista Steinke, and Marla Sweeney, among many others. The reception starts at 6, and then at 6:30 David Ross and Light Work Executive Director Jeffrey Hoone will be in conversation about Light Work and its renowned residency program, supporting artists, and recent developments in photography.

If you can’t make it on the 14th, the exhibition will be on view until February 11.

Image: Amy Stein, Peri, Route 64, Outside Lexington, Kentucky, 2005

As It Happens
Lubin House: Palitz Gallery
11 East 61st Street, NYC

Kerry Skarbakka opens at Irvine Contemporary

2006 Light Work Artist-in-Residence Kerry Skarbakka opens his exhibition The Struggle to Right Oneself: A Survey tomorrow night at Irvine Contemporary in Washington, DC. In this series, the artist trips, falls, and generally loses his balance in ways both everyday and almost comically epic. Ultimately, the images reference the existential battle to remain upright in a challenging world. Included in the exhibition are several photographs that have not been exhibited previously, including Window Crash, 2009, at right.

At Light Work, we’re showing a video from Skarbakka’s series Elements of Attraction in conjunction with our upcoming exhibition Rachel Herman: The Imp of Love. Skarbakka’s video, which shows the artist falling down a sandy embankment in slow motion, makes a poignant counterpoint to Herman’s portraits of once-couples.

Kerry Skarbakka
The Struggle to Right Oneself: A Survey

December 19-January 30, 2009
Opening: December 19, 6:30-8:30pm
Irvine Contemporary
1412 14th St., NW
Washington, DC 20005

Keith Johnson stops by for a visit

Today 2005 Artist-in-Residence Keith Johnson stopped by Light Work and Community Darkrooms on his way back home to Connecticut after spending some time at Visual Studies Workshops in Rochester. We got the chance to see some beautiful work from his Extended Landscape, Suite Niagara, and Grids series.

At left, we (l-r Mary Goodwin, Keith, Hannah Frieser) enjoy a couple pictures from the Grids series as well as some of Keith’s great stories from his travels to places as diverse as the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula and St. Louis.

Welcome Priya Kambli

Our December Artist-in-Residence, Priya Kambli, has arrived just in time for the first major snowfall of the year in Syracuse. Good thing that Priya plans on spending most of her time indoors at Community Darkrooms making multiple editions of prints from her series Color Falls Down.

The series takes its name from a popular Hindi movie song, which speaks to the artist’s ultimate goal with the work: to bring together her roots in India with her life in America. Priya uses digital collage to combine the different cultures, generations, and identities that inform her life and work.

At right, the photographer keeps close tabs on various iterations of proofs as she works with Digital Lab Manager John Mannion to perfect her prints. Today the first full-scale print rolled off the 9900 in the new digital service area, with many more to come soon.