“I don’t get it” are the first words that come to mind on reading Artificial Arcadia. Seemingly, I’m in the minority as no less than five academics have written complementary essays published alongside Bas Princen’s “awesome and puzzling” photographs of the Dutch at play on reclaimed land. It’s true some are puzzling – memorably, the image of three individuals apparently fishing, their rods cast, but without a stretch of water in sight – but they are only momentarily puzzling, not intriguing and multi-dimensional, and they leave one with a feeling of indifference.
One essayist, Bart Lootsma, finds many of the subjects of the images hilarious, for example people driving through the mud at high speed. Again, I don’t get it. Personally, I find none of the humour evident in, for example, Martin Kollar’s work (published in EI8HT V3N2) that demonstrates a keen eye for the surreal in every day life and an even quicker “trigger” finger to capture in a moment the subject of his amused eye. In contrast, Princen’s photographs are laboured, lacking the spontanaiety and intimacy of a snapper truly engaged by his subject matter. Perhaps, as Lootsma says, the photographer’s work is akin to his contemporaries’ oeuvres, including Struth, Ruff and Gursky. If this is the case, perhaps, Princen’s work would be better viewed on a huge scale, hanging in a gallery and not presented in a “small” book. Perhaps, as I said, I just don’t get it.