Sine Van Menxel speekselsporen, tongstreken (2020) in the S.M.A.K. collection

Van Menxel 01

S.M.A.K. recently purchased ‘speekselsporen, tongstreken’ (saliva tracks, tongue strokes) by Sine Van Menxel. The work could be seen until 30 May 2021 in the exhibition 'Why Are You Angry?'.

‘speekselsporen, tongstreken’ (saliva streaks, tongue strokes) is a series of five analogue, black-and-white photographs. Three of the works were printed from the same negative and two are collages of test prints. Using her tongue, the artist has left traces of her saliva on the pictures. Van Menxel’s interventions and manipulations, which resemble brushstrokes, lend a surreal quality to the peaceful images of nature. She licked the negatives blindly, thus creating unique photos that are impossible to replicate exactly. In this way, she pushes photography to its boundaries. The artist is especially fascinated by the technical aspects of the medium: how can you control light, shadow, texture and movement in a creative way?

But Sine Van Menxel also allows coincidence to play a role in her work and to leave its traces behind. The results can be seen here: a strange series of photographs that both confuses and attracts the viewer.

Because she used her tongue, associations with intimacy and love are quickly made. And what is love, if not confusion and attraction?

Interview with Sine Van Menxel

What techniques did you use for this work?

Analogue photography. With one negative you can, in principle, make an infinite number of identical reproductions. By applying traces directly to the paper, each of these three prints became unique.

Why did you choose analogue photography over digital?

Digital and analogue photography each have their own qualities. Neither is better than the other. They are just two different media. I think it’s important that analogue photography continues to exist as an artistic medium. You can compare it with painting, which also seemed as though it would be surpassed by the invention of photography. But painters had just started to experiment, they were freed from the task of realistically representing reality. Blindness is one of the most beautiful qualities of analogue photography. Between taking the photograph and developing the negative, the image is latent. The photograph has been taken but is not yet visible, which means the image already leads a first life in your imagination. In this work, for example, I could only form an image of the drawing with my tongue on the unexposed photographic paper through touch. Because the photo paper was still white, all I had to go on was my memory. Only after developing the photographic paper did the image and the saliva trace become visible. I view the slowness, obscurity and tangibility of analogue photography as a metaphor for all that we seem to have relinquished in our fast, visible and virtual lives.

Why did you use your tongue?

When you run your tongue over your skin, you feel, taste and smell. The eye, as a sensory organ, does not come into play. By taking photographs of my saliva, it suddenly became visible. A kind of translation between the senses occurred. I like to let the materials of analogue photography

react to interventions that are not part of the standard textbook. Sometimes this results in a work. Here, for example, you see that photography has more than one possibility to visualise reality.

What do the plants represent in combination with the tongue strokes?

I was looking for an image with enough openness, to which something could be added. The saliva traces look organic in combination with the plants, while the deep black reminds me of immeasurable spaces, such as deep seas or the cosmos.

Because you used your tongue for this work, it evokes images of intimacy and love.

I think it shows, first of all, the intimacy between the artist and their materials. This is emphasised by the two ‘spoelbadcollages’ (rinsing bath collages). The viewer is then allowed to have their own intimate experience with the work. Intimacy is always fleeting and dependent upon the situation. A museum is a place of intimate encounters.

Who do you love?

Chic sings: “At last I am free. I can hardly see in front of me.” I like the Dutch expression ‘zich verliezen in het moment’ but love the English version even more: ‘being lost in the moment’. It’s an expression that says something about time, which we sometimes experience as being much longer or shorter than the hours on the clock. The whole world is put ‘on hold’ or shoots forwards, much faster than you do yourself. You can experience this very intensely when grieving. It is a form of time travel.

21.May.21 Category: Collection
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