Let's Try Again
Dominique Somers has a way of playing with errors, fractures, interferences or accidents. The fact that we fail seems to be a predetermined condition to her. The development of/in her work is often error activated, driven by mistakes. For Somers, the noise and faults that inevitably occur when information is being transmitted are as important as the message itself. Communication only becomes meaningful in relation to these errors. In that case, one should rather ask oneself: how to fail then? 'All of old. Nothing else. Ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.' (Samuel Beckett)
By retouching the white dots on a photograph of a starry sky with oil paint, Somers creates a pockmarked, black monochrome (Starscape, 2013). What is supposed to disappear through the action, obtains – on the contrary - relief and dimension in this work. Failure as a condition of existence. A similar effect is created when a pack of photographic paper is accidentally contaminated through a tear in the protective bag, resulting in an exposed, black-coloured corner on every sheet of paper (Intruder, 2006). Blind spots and black holes. A absent-minded way of handling things causing storage failures, mental lapses and action slips. The act of forgetting employed as a human, comical and creative phenomenon.
In the video work Rejected Archives (2005), Somers stacks historical photographs in front of the camera which have been excluded from the collection of the photomuseum in Antwerp. The images form a random collage, suggesting associative stories which disappear or mutate the moment a new image is added to the pile. When the stack of photographs collapses due to its height and weight, the action starts all over again. The repetition keeps on going and is being brought to life ad nauseam. The impulse to move and progress literally and figuratively prepares the fall.
The work Continuity Error (2009) consists of an animated image of a globe. It shows the moment preceding the final credits of a movie, right before the words THE END appear on the screen. However, this last moment never takes place: like a drunken body that's adrift, the rotating earth tries to approach the viewer, but is drawn into the background over and over again. It is struggling not to get lost for ever in the infinite black void, like an astronaut without a lifeline. The closed circuit of the loop makes any escape impossible, the globe never reaches its final destination, its bouncing back and forth becomes a never-ending battle. The globe also disappears from the image due to the physical deterioration of the film: moisture and acidification have damaged the emulsion throughout the years and transform the image from time to time into abstract stains. Like a chewing gum the globe is being pushed and pulled in every direction without any efficiency. Filmic characteristics such as continuity, story plot and montage are put to the test.
In the video work Slow Starter (2008), a trembling image of a neon lamp is frozen between genesis and total numbness. The high-speed recording of 2000 frames per second shows the twilight zone between the ON and OFF position of the lamp: the uncertain flickering and discontinuous colour hues never unfold to the fullest. The image resembles a spluttering, jolting machine that never completely breaks down; in that sense, it is a good machine. Despite its failure. A failure that is even necessary to keep the machine going. Like talking in a hesitant manner, every word creating a tremble: “Unexpected turns in a stammering statement, the shadow shuffle through a stuttered sentence, showing words like moons in different stages.” (Don De Lillo)
This laborious ode to Creation can also be found in a video of a plastic bag, that is slowly opening out after it has been crumpled up (Plastic Bag, 2007). The expected unfolding seems to take forever; the image retains the tension so long that the event seems to be caught in a timeless void.
Enlarged imperfections, a misplaced repetition, a ridiculous misunderstanding, a turn or delay in the normal course of affairs; by focussing on a partial or complete loss of control – over the action, the result, but also over herself - Somers nourishes the playful and amusing as creative principle in her work. In this visual erosion of retouching and reproducing lies a conceptual lightness for her which is absurd and liberating at the same time.