For The Mushroom Club, Lisa van Casand focused on a Cold War-era former Nato HQ on the Dutch-Belgian border, from which all official documentation had been destroyed
For Lisa van Casand, photography provides carte blanche to investigate places and people she would otherwise not have access. Her projects often revolve around waarheidsvinding, a peculiarly Dutch term best – if imprecisely – translated as ‘truth-finding’, an interest she attributes to her upbringing.
“I grew up with people around me that had quite a variety of strong beliefs,” says the 26-year-old from Eindhoven. “Which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself but it did confuse me at a young age – how people could believe so strongly in opposite things?”
Though interested in the idea of photography as evidence and document, it was the fallacy of the tools we use to order reality, and the limitations of seeing, that she often reflects on in her research-led projects. “I am drawn to things that are shrouded in mystery. The bigger the impossibility of reaching the object of investigation, the better,”says the final-year student at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.
Clarity and knowledge are not the desired outcomes of her research: it’s the ambiguity of the journey that counts. The subjective act of producing and interpreting information is a red thread through all of her work, which often takes enigmatic historical events or scientific ideas as its starting point.
For The Mushroom Club, van Casand focused her attention on a Cold War-era former Nato headquarters inside a hill on the Dutch-Belgian border. All official documentation and evidence of the underground network of tunnels had been destroyed, so she set herself the task of patching together an impression of the base by interpreting the fragments of information available.
Van Casand chose not to photograph the site as it exists now, conscious that the end point would be to merely linger on what is no longer there. Instead she treated the material she gathered as “building blocks” for an imagined contemporary document that found its form across several different elements. From a 3D-reconstruction of the mountain’s golf course, to a book bringing together conflicting accounts from former employees into a seemingly cohesive narrative, her rendering of the former Nato HQ embraces the inaccuracies of documentation and the subjective vision underlying these processes.
In leaving the information inconclusive, van Casand relies on the viewer to piece together some of the puzzle. “I am searching for ways to give the viewer a more active role in viewing the work, by ensuring that the work is not complete without them,” she explains. “In this way, the final image is the mental image in the mind of the viewer.”
For her next project she plans to push the role of the viewer even further, exploring our individual responses to colour by seeing if it’s possible to create a work “that everyone will see differently”.