Everything that Shines, Sees

Despite the confusion and danger that it holds in store for the viewer, the human fascination with the flash image is a persistent one. Is it a sort of entrancement, an evocation of a pure, or even a ‘higher’ energy that attracts us? Or is it the act of rebellion and dislocation that this caesura creates, overwhelming human perception, surrendering to a power that lies outside ourselves? As a Belgian artist I am working on a practice-oriented PhD project entitled Everything that shines sees since the beginning of 2014. Starting from a wider phenomenological research into to periphery of the visible and visuality (e.g. after-images, blind spots, mental lapses), I examine how flash light can be mobilized within a conceptual model to get to the essence of perception and its modes of reification. One aspect I am particularly interested in is how flash light can materialize and depict itself, being self-reflexive by nature and thus able to ‘illuminate’ and record itself.

My presentation will address the creation of these so-called acheiropoetic images, chemically or physically induced impressions or forms created by flash light which in essence do not need the help of an apparatus or human intervention: nuclear ‘shadow images’, spark photographs, photogenic drawings, the formation of fulgurites by lightning, solarized impressions on light-sensitive material, etc. I will discuss a number of long-term projects that I have initiated in cooperation with renowned scientific institutions (in Belgium and abroad), granting me access to their highly restricted facilities in order to investigate some of these acheiropoetic phenomena. The largest project (so far) takes place at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, where I am studying the creative/destructive forces of radiation flashes, by exposing light-sensitive material to different types of isotopes and atomic experiments. By means of such tests I want to examine the idea of flash light as a sublime, immanent, almost ‘autistic’ entity, which never seems to reveal its true identity. Might it even be, as French philosopher François Laruelle suggests, a kind of otherwordly, artificial intelligence, which we can never approach to the core? Can (the experience and phenomenon of) flash light indeed be translated by any kind of aesthetic or visual ‘print’ of it?

Dominique Somers

Dominique Somers (°1969, Belgium) studied photography and followed a post-graduate training in audiovisual arts in Antwerp. She worked as a curator and collection researcher at the Museum of Photography in Antwerp and was the assistant of artist Dirk Braeckman. Currently, Somers is engaged in a PhD research on flash light images at the University / Doctoral School of Arts in Ghent. She also writes about the photographic medium and teaches the history of photography.Somers’ artistic practice involves a phenomenological investigation of perception and its limits, in particular with regard to the photographic medium. Her works range from drawings, videos and photos to sculptures and texts. Over the last years, her work has featured in several national and international solo and group shows (o.a. @ FoMu Antwerp (2015), Santander Spain (2014), Fotomuseum Winterthur (2013), London Drawing Center/Essex University Gallery (2012), M HKA Antwerp (2011, 2009 & 2008), Croxapox Ghent (2010), Norwich Video Festival (2007)). The latest solo presentation of Somers’ recent works, entitled The Figure in the Carpet, was on view at Stilll Gallery, Antwerp, in the Spring of 2015. A book presenting her work 00A will be released by publisher APE (Ghent) later this year.