Monday, March 17, 2008

Under Bordet by Hans E. Madsen

I remember the first time I saw the photograph that William Eggleston made of the view under a bed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1972. It was a revelation because Eggleston had stuck his camera into place I can't ever remember seeing before. Walker Evans showed us the sharecropper’s bedroom. Many other artists like Chauncey Hare have offered many views of bedrooms as well, but never had I seen in a photograph a view so ordinary; it is as if the photographer had woken up on the floor, having not made it to the bed after a night of drinking. In fact, many of Eggleston's views have chosen such low vantage points of laying prostrate that they introduce the sensation of something tangible; the coldness of the floor as we look towards the toilet with its upturned seat and glowing red by the bathroom light; the feel of the okra colored carpet as we look towards the miniature up right organ pushed against the wall looking faintly religious.

I recently discovered a small publication of photographs from Denmark called Under Bordet by Hans E. Madsen which concentrates on poking the camera into similar territory. Published by Space Poetry in 2006 Under Bordet is an inexpensive artist book of 16 color photographs that were shot under dinner tables.

The implication of photographing underneath kitchen and dining room tables is more akin to the somewhat perverse genre of so called “up-skirt” photos common from Japan. And although that is not the intention, nor the content of these photographs, there is a slight unease stirred in the viewer because we really have no business being privy to this vantage point. Somehow these are spaces that have become private.

I don't know if Hans is looking through the viewfinder or shooting from the hip or, should I say from the lap, but the photographs have had implied casualness about them. The best of which, reveal so much interesting photographic happenstance and geometry that they run in close competition to the examples set forth by Eggleston. These are photographs that have been brought together to work under a conceptual framework as opposed to being taken on their individual merit, so it is understandable that some of these photographs do not work beyond relating to the others. In one of the more remarkable, the frame is split in two nearly equal halves - the upper half of which is the illuminated underside of the table; the bottom reveals an arched tablecloth, a blue flowered skirt, and a human hand that witnesses our intrusion. In another, the flash ungracefully lights the shoe of someone sitting cross-legged as it encroaches into the personal space of another person's jean-covered knee. This encounter is hidden underneath a yellow tablecloth.

Under Bordet is approximately 6 x 8 inches, 24 pages and staple bound with glossy bright yellow covers. The full-color reproductions are decently printed.

This little artist book is not entirely satisfying but it avoids falling into complete novelty. It is more like a snack, or hand out, given discreetly under the table.

Buy online at Space Poetry