About Leçons de Choses

boek LeconDC16.39.39.jpg

M. Gaston Bonniers book on mining: how to turn the earth's resources into useful things.

ed. Paul Dupont, Paris 1883

Leçons de Choses

A play with objects

by Willem V.

cast: iron wire, cheese, a fish, marble, duct tape, a cactus, soap and some others

A mere fish, the ‘lesser electric ray’1, pointed the way for professor Allessandro Volta’s research into animal electricity. It will eventually lead him to the invention of the electric battery, an acknowledged wonder of the scientific Enlightenment. 

Since 1928, one of these rays proudly stands in the Tempio Voltiana in Como as ‘item 521’.

 The still life was always about injecting the sublime into ordinary things. Thus it is possible to induce the idea of ‘heroism’ through an ensemble of tape, a cactus2 , isolation tubes and a spiky yellow bathmat. 

 The Diesel engine for cars was new back in the 1930’s. Its principle was explained to the public by printing block halftone picture technology. In essence: small dots forming an image. By photographing, rephotographing and printing the elegant reality of these blocks, the picture is impaired, dots challenge other dots, inviting our brain to form an image once again.

 Throughout the series pixels, analog grain, screen dots and ink print dots form an alliance to form an image, but likewise to battle, to torpedo, the curse of the detail3ever so present in photography.

 The work is highly speculative, could even be labelled ‘totemism’ by suggesting, by making, the leap from objects and material4  to wannabe ‘sacred’ installations.

 In this struggle between circumstance, intentions and mishaps the private life of things5 is perhaps revealed. 

Willem Vermoere, Gent, august 2018


1 Lesser electric ray or Narcine Bancroftii of the order of the Torpediniformes. Volta (1745-1827) inventor of the electric battery, called his earliest device an “organ” – a direct reference to its biological roots," In fact, the invention of the electric battery was an unexpected but happy consequence of Volta’s research into the then controversial subject of animal electricity. 

2 Cactus, more specifically: the Echinopsis Peruviana.

3 ‘the curse of the detail’: …… ‘it is foremost photography that …… scores low on all fronts: it is the very paradigm of a heteronomous medium; it seldom resorts to suggestion; …… it seldom diverges from the real world; and it is, finally 'only a question of pressing the button'. That is why photography is predestined to become the scapegoat of the visual arts: 'photographic rendering" continues to be the paradigm of everything that is loathed in the visual arts. No wonder that mimesis as such became quasi synonymous with non artistic - one of the many forms of the mimetic taboo’ Stefan Beyst, December 2005

4 objects: cultural artefacts  / snails, material and plants: natural history

5 ‘the private life of things’,  Teju Cole in 'Known and Strange Things' 2016 Faber