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Comprising three large screen-prints on carborundum sandpaper this work sparkles like the night sky. As it does it sheds light on how the two main areas of Hazewinkel’s practice - sculpture and photography - come together. In Material Collision (staring together at the stars) Parts, 1,2,3 Hazewinkel's longstanding archival research practice combines with his knowledge of the history of Western figurative sculpture and his studio- based understanding of making figures of the human form.
The archival source of this work is a collection of late 19th early 20th century gelatin dry plate glass negatives. These small photographic artefacts were created to play a role in the commercial apparatus associated with the collecting of antiquities during what has come to be contentiously known as “the great collecting age”. Some activities associated with early museological and private collecting practices were caught up with the broader Eurocentric social and commercial enterprise of colonialism, and the new world’s thirst for old world cultural legitimacy. Alert to the sociocultural implications embedded in much 19th and early 20th century photography (especially that associated with archaeology) Hazewinkel has developed strategies for working against that grain. In this instance he has cropped the source material so as to divest its material subject of any periodic signifiers. In this way he distils from the original image a sense of timelessness and intimacy, thereby prioritising the human over the political.
Sandpaper is a tool that plays a part in most sculptural practices. Here sandpaper maintains its association with sculptural production whilst becoming a part of the completed artwork, both conceptually and physically. This shift from tool to image substrate introduces a kind of material feedback-loop which proponents of Material Engagement Theory might identify as a form of material semiosis.According to the theory of material semiosis the meaning of a material emerges from the conceptual blending of the physical and mental during our context specific engagement with it.
Considering these large sheets of sandpaper in a less theoretical framework presents another material relationship between the archival source and this artwork. These dense, black fields sparkle like the night sky as a result of their delicately dimensional surface dusting of carborundum, a compound made of silicon and carbon; carborundum is closely related with silica, which throughout history, has been an important ingredient in recipes for glass.
In this work we see the back of the heads of three male figures. We might consider them as a set of individual reverse portraits, or perhaps as a group portrait, a portrait of a group that we (historically considered) are a part of. Thinking about the work in this way opens up a more labyrinthine temporal twist and fold. Each of the images printed onto the sandpaper represents a sculpture of a male at a different life-stage – youth, middle, and old age – however another temporal layering is at work here in that each of the sculptures comes from a different period in human history. Rethinking Hazewinkel’s cropping strategy in light of this highlights his attempt to conflate these individual temporal junctures with our immediate present. In this way he draws upon a sense of timelessness and the intimacy of the human figure in shared experience. He reminds us of enduring questions that surface when we gaze together at the stars.
When we stand with this work we gaze beyond the figures before us, we gaze with them. In this way we do not gaze at history, rather we gaze with history - at the stars; and that is what makes Material Collision (Staring Together at the Stars) Parts I, 2,3 contemporary and archaic.
For more on relationships between Material Engagement Theory and Hazewinkel’s work please see his essay From Limbo to Mashup and The Spell of the Fake: Relating Contemporary Photographic Practice, the Photographic Archive and Material Engagement Theory here.