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Paul and Menno de Nooijer - Pennings Foundation

The performance - I think that’s the best description - of Paul and Menno de Nooijer yesterday at Pennings left me with more questions than answers. I admit I’d never heard of them, the father and son partnership, but that probably has more to do with my limited knowledge of local photography than any shortcomings on their part. Also their subject matter which I’ve since seen described as Surrealist (although my impression was more Trippy) isn’t one that particularly appeals to me. The world we inhabit is already weird enough in my opinion.

When I searched for them on internet the de Nooijer's are categorised under Staged Photography; Paul (the father) admits he was influenced by an exhibition of magic realists Charley Toorop en Carel Willink in the Van Abbemuseum. But yesterday there was next to no photography presented; collaged film was the principal medium shown. And I choose to use the word film because video is far too modern a concept for the hiccuping productions we were shown. Their films have a production quality comparable to Moholy-Nagy's 1930's costumed ballet movie... the stuff of silent films.

Set in a wallpapered room - which apparently is exactly what it was, a part of their house used as a set - the scenes change like a slowed down cartoon. Static figures hop from place to place; lighting, contents and background develop a life on their own. The animation and production values are so dated it’s difficult to believe the work is only decades old! And the inspiration, the message, the storyline… I’ve no idea what was intended. One film had an explanation at the end about a deceased day-old infant, but for me it clarified nothing that I’d just seen.

And that was my overriding reaction to the whole evening… the selection process; that the de Nooijer's didn’t present their best material. Which brings from me the obvious reaction... why not?

By far the highlight of the evening was a ’silhouette’ performance - a happening - at the start. A man stood on a step-ladder and undressed. Naked he laid down on a black cloth and was peppered with flour to create a shadowy shape; like a murder victim. This multimedia method is apparently a technique the de Nooijers have used extensively in the past. It’s basic, primitive and temporary but unlike the rest of the work they showed managed to bring artist and audience together in the moment.

Geoff Naylor - 15 April 2022

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