“To date, hardly any research has been conducted into Belgian photobooks,” opens the exhibition Photobook Belge, now on show at FOMU and published as a book by FOMU in partnership with Hannibal. “Photobook Belge provides an overview of the evolution of the Belgian photobook from the mid-19th century to today.”
Including nearly 250 publications, Photobook Belge is divided into eight chapters, looking at areas such as Artists’ Books, Belgian national identity, and the relationship between text and images. Belgium’s brutal colonisation of the Congo, its subsequent relationship with the country, and its often problematic representation of it in images, is given a whole chapter. “Many of the photobooks published since the 50th anniversary of [Congo’s] independence in 2010 oscillate between a more or less overt nostalgia, Afro-pessimism and an aesthetic of ruins,” states the curator Tamara Berghmans. “Most are still the result of a white, male gaze.”
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 photography collector, dealer, curator, editor, artist and soon-to-be gallerist on what made the year for him