These days many images are created using a computer. There is no longer a camera involved. However, a number of such images show a phenomenon called lens flare: round or hexagonal reflections of light in a variety of bright colors. In photos and movies the glittering appears when a strong light beam falls at a certain angle on the lens. What once was considered a technical failure of the camera has become a familiar optical phenomenon that many people find pretty or attractive. So much so that dazzling lens reflections are added to images that have been produced without a lens. Sometimes fake looks more real.
Sharon Houkema has added lens flare to the photos of her installation. Thus, they create the illusion that we are looking against sunlight falling from above. Whether the light really so beautifully shines in, we'll never know. Houkema's show in Probe’s tiny exhibition space is not accessible. It exists only in the form of photos, taken from predetermined positions. The artwork is located in the no man's land between exhibition and documentation. The gallery overview, the photo documenting the exhibition, has become the exhibition itself, so to speak. Together the nine photos create the impression that the room is not so small. The installation, designed as a miniature, is displayed on a scale 1:1, life-size, as it were. Houkema works somewhere between model and reality.
In the middle of the space we find a block of sand with a hilly surface. It is cut straight on all four sides, so it looks like something cut out from a larger area. The color differences in the sand seem to point to different soil conditions. Rather than a landscape the block resembles the representation of a landscape, an infographic, the kind of schematic drawing designed to convey complex information. In our current visual culture infographics play an increasingly important role. Diagrams and cross-sections, served as tasty cakes in gaudy colors, visualize what usually remains invisible - the complex functioning of ecosystems, for example, or an abstract issue such as climate change. The artwork adopts the schematic idiom in which ecological knowledge is communicated.
The landscape is surrounded by many smaller motifs. Some, like the print of a geodesic globe, have been added to the installation. Others have been added to the photos, courtesy of Photoshop. Including a wind-blown plastic bag, a colorful bird, and globally recognized symbols such as a smiley face and a peace sign. Purple, green, orange and violet pop up here and there, prismatic colors used in the digital editing of scientific photographs. The colors of the rainbow also appear, popular with organizations such as Greenpeace (Rainbow Warrior). Everything that could be natural in these synthetic details seems to be corrupted by digital image processing including gradience, glow and lens flare. In this artificial environment a dove appears in the form of a holographic sticker. The landscape seems to consist only of images, from logos and brand markings, which indicate a utopian desire for change.
The undulating sand is also reminiscent of an image: a scene from Andrei Tarkovsky's masterful film "Stalker" (1979), set in the Zone. This mysterious terrain, which eludes human control and that seems to have its own consciousness, is often associated with the desire to escape from the Soviet Union. The Zone would fulfill your deepest desires. But since 1986 the Zone can also be associated with the Zona Vidtsjoezjennja, the radioactively contaminated area around the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear power plant. This so-called Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is off limits to humans; nature has a free hand here. Maybe that's what Sharon Houkema's fictional display shows us: what we call 'nature' is culturally and ideologically determined, an inextricable mixture of fact and fiction, knowledge and imaging.
Dominic van den Boogerd