‘The Visual Gatherer’ – Hans Theys, 01/04/2020

On Zena Van den Block’s work

The first works I saw of Zena Van den Block (°1995) were a seemingly authentic slideshow with holiday snaps of a virtual trip to Crete using ​Google Streetview, ​and photographs of Belgian landmarks published on Wikipedia containing, unfortunately, parts of the photographer’s body (as selfies gone wrong). The two works illustrate the broad spectrum in which Van den Block ​acts​ as a collector, collagist and visual artist. More recent, she has created lenticular prints of postcards ​representing​ tropical sunsets. ​Walking past them, we see the sun move​. ​Van den Block also made a jigsaw ​puzzle portrait of the Mona Lisa which ​gradually​ ​disappeared​ as ​visitors were invited to purchase their favourite puzzle piece; a selection of large light boxes illuminating pictures of forgotten movie stars, whose portraits were long preserved in someone’s wallet; and a composition of fake wooden laminate flowers based on numbered patterns found in colouring books. 

Gathering visual materials of obscure importance and sentiment while playing with the boundaries of photography and sculpture, her two fields of education, we meet Van den Block as a sculptor of composed and collected images. 

Another example of this attitude is the publication of three booklets ​containing street photographs supposedly commissioned by a contemporary artist named Prütscher (‘bungler’). ​Within these books, we find trivial snapshots of curious, poetic, awkward and funny situations observed in public: a car covered in a tarpaulin; a strange street sign; a poster notifying a missing cat. ​These are photographs that any beginning photographer seems to take, but nevertheless cannot publish due to their triviality. However, presented in a fictitious context inspired by ​the existence ​of an Austrian architect and designer ​named Otto Prutscher (1880-1949​), a shift of perspective takes place, similar to the unique way of framing of a photographer. Beautiful and liberating​. 

Montagne de Miel, 1th of April 2020

Translated by Laura van Lokven