Anouk Kruithof: #EVIDENCE at Casemore Kirkeby

BY Glen Helfand, January 30, 2017

Anouk Kruithof, Carry On, 2015. Courtney Casemore Kirkeby

Forty years ago, for their seminal appropriation project Evidence, Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel gained access to the lonely corporate, industrial, and government archives of public and private institutions to select images produced by each. Out of context, these self-promoting pictures seem mysterious and sometimes entertainingly ridiculous. The project also questioned the veracity of images and their use in contemporary culture. Dutch artist Anouk Kruithof’s #Evidence, on view at Casemore Kirkeby through March 18, adds more than a hash tag to the concept as she references and rethinks the 1977 project for the digital age.

What Kruithof mines in her project – Instagram feeds of a number of large corporations, government agencies, and research facilities (NASA, Berkeley Lab, Google, and the White House among them) – are vaster in scale and easier to access than when Mandel and Sultan engaged the process.  But if the gathering of her 650 source images is easier, getting to the varied two and three-dimensional forms she produces in #Evidence involves more meddling and manipulation. The artist cuts, collages, prints on malleable surfaces, and employs strategic sculptural elements including metal armatures, surveillance camera brackets, and selfie-sticks.

Anouk Kruithof, Neutral (openhearted), 2015. Courtesy Casemore Kirkeby

The works, which would fit right in to Charlotte Cotton’s contemporary compendium of recent practices Photography Is Magic, aren’t easy to parse – their shapes and structures can be ungainly and their images blurred beyond recognition. In a newsprint broadside accompanying the exhibition, Kruithof suggests that the monolithic, anonymous sources “can still lead to interesting photographs, but their intent robs the image of its innocence.” Sometimes it seems that the artist attempts to re-imbue the images with some innocence by blurring to the point of abstraction. Her works on fabric, latex, and vinyl play with notions of transparency and obscuring, as they often contain private information, like ID cards and license plates, that are made illegible with image filters. They become soft-focus elements that suggest the arbitrary and subjective hash tags can be. Kruithof rigorously grapples with the complexities of the continually evolving role of images. If the results aren’t always pretty, the energy she imbues the project with is palpable and intriguingly confounding.