Ellen Rutten | Frame #57, 1 July 2007
Feasting becomes a dubious delight in Table (1), an installation by Belgian artist Hans Op de Beeck.
White table. White chairs. White coffeepots, cups, plates, napkins, tablecloth ... At first glance, Table (1) looks like a highly serene dining ensemble. Step closer, however, and this impression is challenged. Built on a scale of 1.5:1, the art installation reduces the viewer to Tom Thumb-like proportions and places her within an enigmatic interior. Where is everyone? Why is the light so bright? Why are some chairs pushed back and napkins carelessly flung about? What to make of blood-red crumbled cakes and overflowing ashtrays?
It’s precisely this sense of alienation and drama that the maker wanted to evoke. A Belgian artist fascinated by modern-day alienation and miscommunication, Hans Op de Beeck searches for ‘the things that can be read between the lines of an interior’. ‘Table (1) recreates the disquieting feelings you experience when you’ve given a party and cast a first sleepy glance at the leftovers, or the emotions of a child at a party where the adults have had one too many,’ he explains. ‘The child, who should be in bed, lingers among the partygoers, with no understanding of what’s going on. That feeling of being estranged from homely surroundings – of looking at them in a state between dreaming and waking – is what I wanted to capture.’ Hence the stark white, which ‘blots out all details and strips things of their “skin”, yielding a mental rather than a physical image’. This particular image is not a happy one: not only does Op de Beeck aggrandize the scale of the furniture; he also places it on a platform, underneath uninviting fluorescent lighting that emphasizes the dramatic contrast between the nearly neurotic monochrome interior and the bright red cake and greasy leftovers. Here, a dining table becomes a battleground: after taking in Table (1), it’s hard to have dinner at home and observe your surroundings with innocent eyes.