Is realistic representation still possible today? Fetishimage suggests that our understanding of the world is based not only on rational thought but also on a mental process comparable to figures of speech in poetry: metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche. The essence of poetry, the thing that distinguishes it from other functions of language, is image. Imagery does not describe or explain but shows; its effect is not based on deductive comprehension but on shock. It is this function of the image that is the focal point of an exhibition confronting art and poetry with each other.

Western thinking is shaped by a notion of knowledge from which poetic language is excluded. Fetishimage presents the aesthetic experience as man’s relationship to the world in which knowledge and pleasure go hand in hand. The exhibition concept reflects recent attempts, as in documenta x, to broaden and intensify the territory of sensibility and to free aesthetics.

Fetishimage reflects the interest of artists and poets in investigating the possibilities of representation.

Glen Rubsamen (Los Angeles, 1957) deploys contradictory perspectives in seemingly hyper-realistic paintings of familiar cityscapes; he tests painting’s ability to represent reality through scientific perspective and to blend its ideal of verisimilitude with fiction.

Edwin Zwakman (The Hague, 1969) uses photography’s ostensible objectivity for a realistic reproduction of the urban landscape; the landscapes and interiors are really models, though, photographed in Zwakman’s studio. The reality content of the photographs turns out to be a reconstruction, a metaphor for the way our urban planners construct the landscape.

Carla Klein (The Hague, 1970) paints empty aquariums, display cases and light boxes, omitting their usual protagonists. She employs an unusual combination of figuration and abstraction which simultaneously evokes images and hides them from view. Empty figuration enables her to visualize a metaphorical void.

Angel Vergara (Mières, 1958) endeavors to do justice to the transient, changeable side of reality. His schematic paintings of the Belgian economy or the life of Rubens walk the tightrope of order and chaos; instead of selecting and isolating similar data, he displays the entanglement of fact and fiction and of actuality and memory that characterizes our experience of reality.

William Engelen (Weert, 1964) develops personal notation systems which visualize non-visual experiences such as music and space, in which time and motion play a central role. His contribution to the exhibition is a series of hypothetical architectonic depictions, which will unfold in time for the duration of the exhibition and actually move through the exhibition space. Every four days a new fragment is drawn in a different place in the exhibition. The old fragment is removed. In addition to the twelve sequential fragments, two works are present during the entire exhibiton period, as a point of reference for the twelve fragments.

A version of the project tracing its successive stages can be seen on the Witte de With website, see Twelve Movements.


  • William Engelen, Carla Klein, Glen Rubsamen, Angel Vergara