A gentle reboot
How to explain the profound but subtle effect Johan van Oeckel’s works have on the viewer? It may very well be due to the fact that they offer a privileged access to an introverted and silent space, cutting us off as they do from an overcrowded world that does not stop bombarding the human senses with fleeting and/or moving images, textual echoes, unstable meanings and omnipresent noise. Watching these images can be considered a form of unplugging, a clean break with this endless stream of stimuli and their unrelenting pressure on our ‘identities’, that is on what we are supposed to be, how we are to present ourselves to others and which choices we are required to make.
This is not to say that these images constitute, in any way, a form of escapist art. They do not belong to a realm of sensuous, idyllic and/or harmonious beauty. They do not indulge in the pleasure of rich or vivid colours and their interplay or of a well-balanced composition. They are – without being ascetic – even somewhat dry and frugal, as unobtrusive as they are alien.
If it is true, then, that this body of work shuts out the world as well as any possibility of a fanciful escape, one is bound to conclude that in experiencing it, we are confronted, in a well-nigh meditative fashion, with our very basic selves. If we are prepared to accept this confrontation, these images grant us an opportunity for a gentle ‘reboot’, an ephemeral form of wordless regeneration. Watching them is, in a way, a genuine blessing.