On the road - Bert Teunissen
(spell checking in progress)
Bert Teunissen’s most famous project Domestic Landscapes, a serie of photographs of European homes built before the World War II and their inahbitants, leeds the Dutch photograph to cover over 50 000 km of roads around Europe. More than a way to reach his final goal, he considered the road as a trip on its own. His book On the Road is a collection of picture taken during his travels.
“It brings me to my destination,
It is both the bridge and the barrier between me and my destiny,
It is inviting and defiant at the same time,
It is in front of me and behind me,
It can be smooth or rough,
it is the vein of my world.
When I’m on it, I’m on track
I follow its source where I will find my treasure,
And Then it will bring me back home again“
Pictures are in black and white in a 18x24 format. He took the pictures of the landscape while driving. They are framed by car furniture (wheel on the bottom and sun visor on the top), with a least one hand visible. Comparaison with Lee Friedlander’s and his project America by Car is inevitable, but both seem to reach a different goal. Friedlander focuses on landscapes, buildings, people or urban details. Car and roads are the frame, they emphasize the subject. In Teunissen’s work, the trip himself is the main subject. Photos are by the way not situated. They don’t have any legend, and may be taken everywhere in Europe. Only naturals elements such as sunshine, snow on the road or rain on the windshield vary. Even the windshield blurred in the middle of some pictures doesn’t disturb the main topic of the work, evocated by the artist himslef in the beggining of the book : a personnal reflexion about the destiny and the way to reach it.
The style chosen by Teunissen may refer to the documentary style. Procedure is very systematic, all the pictures are made from the same point of view (form the driver seat), looking straight ahead on the road with no external elements to disturb the view on it. All the picture are in black and white, in low resolution and printed on cheap sheets of newspaper. The final book is rolled up in a cardboard box.
But despite the very systematic procedure and the references to the journalistic style, Teunissen’s work is fare from documentary. Separatly, pictures are anonymous. No detail allows us to say where or when the picture is from. But the artist show them in couple, two pictures in one page. Sometimes the two pictures are formally really closed (trees on the side, infinite perspective...), sometimes they are not. But put together, they seem to tell a story, to refer to Teunissen’s own experiences when he had cover European roads to work on his Domestic Landscapes project.
He said about it "Traveling to Bulgaria for instance is a three day journey just to get there, and then the work starts. But three days in your car - that’s a trip on its own. Traveling through a country where you’ve never been before and meeting all these people and seeing all these things... I felt like I needed to do something with that experience. I couldn’t just do it and only go for the Domestic Landscape and then come back home with nothing to show for where I’ve been. [...] I’ve been doing it for years. It’s the joy of looking. That’s what it is for me".
On the road appears like a really personnal work. It looks first of all as a thanks to the road he had to take, not as a pragmatic way to reach a place from anothor one, but as an important part of his artistic process.