On Dominique Somers' work
Each day we process thousands of images and use them to shape our reality. But it seems doubtful whether this reality matches the reality that exists outside our bodies. The retina of both our eyes has a blind spot – a tiny spot which cannot see; in other words, there is always a small portion of reality beyond our field of vision. Dominique Somers' work starts from the realization that there is a discrepancy between reality and its reproduction. The photos she had taken to capture the blind spots of her own eyes – Blind Spots of my Eyes (Left and Right) (2007) – could act as a symbol of that.
As a scientific staff member of the Antwerp PhotoMuseum, Somers is frequently confronted with the limitations involved with the reproduction of reality, but particularly the subsequent processing thereof. Where information is passed on, information is lost or noise affects the original image. For example, Mixed Fingerprints (2005) is the print of a sheet of glass containing fingerprints from police archives which Somers accidentally picked up without wearing gloves. On the print, her own fingerprints were mixed with those of the original evidence.
Adopting a very playful tone, Somers reveals in very sober work – ranging from drawings, videos, photos, objects and installations to texts – the shift of meanings; the noise that is created and the pieces of reality that fall outside the image when we use them. She does so very literally in Almost Black Box (2006), a blow-up of copies of a photograph of a black box. When she put them back together, small pieces of box turned out to be missing. Or she uses black paint on blister padding to reproduce a diagram which loses its meaning because the x- and y-axis are not specified. Particularly the elements causing noise have Somers’ attention: the tiny particles of dust that accumulate inside a slide frame over the years; the droplets of water vapour of her own breath; the traces of fingers on a scanner.
Even archives, which are often viewed as objective against the backdrop of their established criteria and categories, exert influence over the meaning of images. If thousands of photographs pass through Somers’ hands and are kept by her, there are also dozens that are rejected and ultimately don’t make it to the archives. She used these photographs to make a video titled Rejected Archives (2005) in which she stacks them one by one. At the same time, her work also reflects her desire to transcend the flatness of the photographs that make up her work at the PhotoMuseum; for her, tactility is important – the way in which certain materials react. But if so many hardly controllable factors influence our perception, why seek to achieve a preconceived result when creating art?, Somers seems to wonder. After all, the odds are that it will be perceived differently than intended anyhow. That is why in many of her works she prefers to preconceive only a process: she allowed the shape of a fanciful ink drawing to be determined by the rhythm of the song she whistled, blowing the ink through a little straw; she created a number of pencil drawings using a pencil attached to electrical appliances, such as a fan, and a bread-knife; and from the archives of a Brussels lab she took the photos of pieces of metal which had been subjected to destruction tests. In fact, Somers is working on her own archives of sorts, using the pieces of reality that disappeared and the noise that wasn’t supposed to be there. In this way, she builds herself a new reality full of light-heartedness and humour.
Anne-Marie Poels, art critic (H)ART magazine, 2008