Mix Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s Evidence with some Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills, add a whole lot of Joan Fontcuberta, print the results on the cheapest paper you can find and you’ll still be a million miles away from Koen Hauser’s latest book, De Luister Van Het Land.
Koen Hauser specialises in strange manipulations; of children, anatomy models, archive pictures and himself. For De Luister Van Het Land, Hauser was let loose on the 11 million images of the Spaarnestaad Photo Archive. Free to roam the archive, Hauser becomes the master of our imaginations, manipulating himself into the archival narrative to make images that Hausers labels performéance;, images intended to “invoke the spirit of creation.”
These performéances lead us into a parallel universe where Hauser is God, a supremely Dutch God whose features look out at us from a multitude of black and white backdrops as he creates the world. We see him lying on an examination table surrounded by military personnel, he poses with a giant model of a fly, embraces a young fawn and finally ends up lying dead in a coffin.
Mannequins, giraffes, diving equipment and dolphins are recurrent themes in the book and many of the images are printed through heavy colour filters. Why Hauser does any of this is a mystery, as is his decision to print the book on paper reminiscent of a European guide to local businesses. Similarly, his division of the book into 9 sections ranging from flora and fauna to people and artefacts seems arbitrary but at the same time provides a structure and imaginary historical narrative for the viewer to follow. Hauser has an explanation for why all this happens but ultimately the book remains a mystery because De Luister Van Het Land may look a bit cheap, but it is definitely not nasty. It’s a gem that wears it’s weirdness on its chest, growing both odder and more familiar with each viewing.