Geert Goiris

Traumatic Realism

In the 1960s and ‘70s, there were many different ideas about what the distant future – the year 2000, for instance – might look like. Film makers, artists and architects created incredibly imaginative works that were designed to be well ahead of their time, and sometimes even were. From today’s perspective, however, some of them seem more touching than inspired. The “Futuro” developed in 1968 by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen is one such example. Inspired by a UFO, he built the prototype of a modular residential unit out of vibrant yellow plastic to express his vision of modernity. It was intended to be produced in series, but when there proved to be no demand for it, fewer than a hundred units were ever built. The first Futuro now languishes in the middle of a Finnish forest well away from civilization.

This Futuro is one of the objects shot by Belgian photographic artist Geert Goiris over the past few years. Another is the Ministry of Transport’s former premises in Tbilisi, Georgia. This was also an ambitious architectural project featuring huge concrete blocks layered over one another in criss-crossing directions, which was an attempt to transfer function to form. Like the Futuro, it comes across in Goiris’ images as a ruin. Yet the purpose of his works is not to provide photographic evidence of failed utopias. Instead, his aim is to depict objects in such a way that they take on a living or almost human quality. Goiris emphasizes the anachronistic relationship between the object and its environment. The Futuro and the ministry somehow appear to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – in his images we encounter both of them as deserted, lost, and robbed of their meaning, yet with an enormous physical presence. The rhinoceros Goiris found dozing in the misty green field of a safari park has a similar impact. Or the huge enigmatic object he found wrapped in green plastic in his hometown, where nobody, not even he, knew what was hidden under the wrapping.

Goiris’ interpretations of such moments when he stumbles upon strange objects, attract our attention and invite us to make associations, because they do not tell us the story behind them. “Traumatic realism” is the name Goiris gives to this approach “because this is where fact and fiction meet, where the familiar takes on an unfamiliar presence”. Geert Goiris’ images help us realize that our perception of reality is always colored by our own imagination – and the images we carry within us.

Biographical information

1971

born in Bornem, Belgium

1989-1993

studied Photography at the Sint Lukas higher Institute for visual arts, Brussels, Belgium

1993-1995

Department of still photography, FAMU Academy,
Prague, Czech Republic

1995-1997

lived and worked in Copenhagen, Denmark

1997-2000

Post-graduate, Higher Institute for Fine Arts (HISK), Antwerp, Belgium

2001-2002

Master’s Degree in photography, Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium

2003

Tutor at Sint Lukas Higher College for Art and Design, Brussels, Belgium

lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium