Saturday 20 February 2021


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Blind Spot by Teju Cole   {Reviewed by STELLA}
When we can’t travel, we seek the unknown in our familiar environs, whether this is looking up at the sky on a bright day through your fingers, seeing your own back garden differently, or consciously taking a different route to work, to school, to the supermarket. Walking became a defining pastime for many in 2020 (remember the carless roads) and for some of us, it is the constant that keeps giving. When we walk we see. Perspective. The change in the way we view or in how we consciously look again or see anew is how we find out about our familiar worlds, how we see what we missed before helping us build layers of experience and understanding. In my own art practice, I have been always interested in how we view the world, how we interact with it and how art may see us, the beholder. That is why I find Teju Cole’s photography intriguing. Here are moments in time, memory. But more than that. In the postscript of his book Blind Spot he says, "I have used my camera as an extension of my memory. The images are a tourist’s pictures in that sense. But they also have an inquiring feeling to them and, in some cases, showed me more about the place than I might have seen otherwise.” Blind Spot is the accompanying book to a solo exhibition in Milan several years ago, an accumulation of his travel photography—150 countries plotted on a map. Over time Cole visited for numerous reasons, work, pleasure, study and invitation. The book doesn't follow a chronological or thematic framework, and while I imagine it is precisely planned, it doesn't feel intentional taking the reader on a tour where image and text build a network of internal images and thoughts. This is a book where you let the words and thoughts wash over you and the images pique your curiosity, where you will return to reread the texts, look again at the images and build new pathways, ways of seeing. Cole is an artist, writer (novelist, journalist and essayist) and art critic. The succinct pieces of writing that accompany each photograph are fascinating, intelligent and rewarding, taking you on their own journey of discovery. They are sometimes critiques of his own work, drawing on history, literature and referencing other art subjects, while at other times they are lyrical, personal and somehow familiar. Our experience is our own, but the observations are sometimes uncannily similar. Do we all get to the same place, emotionally and psychologically, eventually when we stop and observe or conversely fail to see? From cityscapes to creeks on the fringes of a road to poles, posts and pipes on the edges of our periphery, to people caught in their personal moment—asleep, looking at a sign, waiting for traffic or by chance catching the eye of the man behind the camera—to the debris of everyday human existence, to the form and edges of a hotel room, balcony or the view through the window, Cole captures what it's like to travel, to be elsewhere and somehow to be in any place—and to seek the known in our blind spot.  

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