For #EVIDENCE Kruithof is taking inspiration from the momentous book Evidence by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, which, when published in 1977 was ahead of its time in questioning photography-as-art and ideas of authorship. Sultan and Mandel used photographs they selected from the archives of various institutions throughout the west coast of the US, mixed together and shown in a sequence of autonomous images that formed a visual essay predicting America’s ambiguous future. Their book also served as a demonstration that the meaning of a photograph is conditioned by the context in which it is seen.
Anouk Kruithof has resided in New York City for the past four years. There she developed a curiosity that she shares with Sultan and Mandel as to what America’s ambiguous future will look like. In #EVIDENCE Kruithof researches whether a similar act can be performed in a digital age where the image as pure evidence has lost its integrity. The source of imagery Kruithof chose is one with clear promotional intent and thus questionable integrity: the Instagram accounts of various American corporations, institutions and governmental agencies.
An extensive research into the complete Instagram output of 27 corporations, 15 government agencies and 11 institutions lead to a selection of around 650 screenshots that form the source of the whole new body of work. In each of the various types of work that Kruithof derived from this source material she twists, alters, stretches and combines the material in different ways. By doing so Kruithof claims the imagery as her own and robs it of its promotional intent, instead adding new, varying intentions and messages. In a fashion quite similar to Mandel and Sultan, a new merit arises, this time a less concrete, less stable and less transparent one. Kruithof made a variety of works such as sculptures and photographed analogue screenshot-montages re-interpreting the imagery in a search for new value and new meaning. The works acknowledge that the strategically staged, sometimes Photoshopped and cropped imagery filling the Instagram accounts, which she has researched lack integrity to be viewed as pure evidence. To her the bigger issue remains of what are the strategies of the various corporate/bureaucratic entities doing the posting, and how much effect the images and accompanying text they post are having on people’s thoughts and actions in order to achieve their goals. Yet her main reason for studying these images is not to question the entities’ goals and interests, but to express the inspiration that the images and the information contained in this new digital medium have given her. Together they communicate progress and the ambition of human endeavor in a very convincing manner.
According to Kruithof, now that everyone is to a certain degree a ‘pirate’, questions about the act of appropriation itself are no longer that relevant. However all the works in #EVIDENCE revolve around the question of how a re-contextualisation of an image can add meaning. To explore a range of different possible meanings, Kruithof used different criteria when selecting the source screenshots that would comprise the starting point for a given work.
While the imagery that made the original Evidence series is homage to humanity’s relentless curiosity, the technological advances this curiosity resulted in has caused Kruithof’s project #EVIDENCE to strike a more dystopian note. The activities of institutions, governmental agencies and corporations can still lead to interesting photographs, but their intent robs the image of its innocence. It is precisely this fact that is so easy to forget, and that #EVIDENCE reminds us of in a variety of unexpected ways.
05.09.–07.11.2015 #Evidence (solo), BoetzelaerINispen, Amsterdam
12.01.–08.04.2017 #Evidence (solo), Casemore Kirkeby, San Fransisco, USA