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Egon Van Herreweghe’s Image-Break

Marko Stamenkovic

Egon Van Herreweghe puts forward a radical proposition: there is no image-making operation without taking a distance from images themselves.

The proposition arises in the light of his ecologies of thinking about visual culture at large, to the extent of breaking away from its ‘dark side’. Hence, he goes against the sovereign universe of vision that has never ceased to overestimate its own tradition at the expense of other possible knowledges. Insofar as it exposes the hidden layers of sacrosanct imaginaries, his work is ‘heretic’: it brings to light the traces of violence to which the ‘figural’ is constantly submitted under the preeminence of abstraction. In other words, he questions the histories of human insensitivity towards challenges of the unknown, less visible or invisible worlds of perception. To bring them back to light means to take one’s own right for potential reversals of established ‘regimes of visual truth’ so the forms of counter-visuality could re-appear from the darkness.

Van Herreweghe’s visions of the world are counter-visual in terms that they aim at establishing a novel dialogue with the existent potentials of devalued and marginalized imaginaries; this, in turn, makes justice to what lies beneath the image-worlds as a given. The main tenet of his work underlies a fundamentally iconoclastic methodology (in the sense that a Greek term eikonoklasmos denotes ‘image-breaking’) by which the rationalized visual order needs to be inverted so the event of imaginary could repeatedly be reinvented, without succumbing itself again to the dominant canon of knowledge.

Imaginary is here an empowering instrument against visual hegemonies of the perceptible and, thus, deceiving manifestations of the world: it “refers to the particular faculty of the psyche for thinking in images” (Mondzain 2005: ix). Van Herreweghe exercises the power of imaginary (over the archives of photographs, clippings and objects) while performing this faculty for thinking in his iconoclastic theatre. The ‘stony silence’ around the tacit laws, by which our veneration of images increasingly saturates the realm of existent imaginary, is but a challenge for him. Starting from this, he develops, in his own words, “a more intimate vocabulary” not only about the imagery but about the contemporary humankind as such. What he suggests to an observer indicates a shift of perspective towards a greater understanding of the essentially indifferent, passive and uncritical world-system in its deadlock situation. In contrast to that, Van Herreweghe’s account of images presents them as open to infinite changes – as a human being should be – while without such openness both are doomed to darkness.

To ‘think in images’ is to imagine the horizons of imaginary beyond the limits of a patriarchal iconicity. Egon Van Herreweghe’s ‘image-breaking’ process reaches towards such horizons.

Marie-Jose Mondzain, Image, Icon, Economy. The Byzantine Origin of the Contemporary Imaginary, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 2005.