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Beat Streuli, Bruxelles Midi

Murray Guy
453 West 17th Street, 212-463-7372
September 15 - October 21, 2006
Reception: Friday, September 15, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

In his photographic and video works, Streuli reveals the infinite complexity of urban life, the ultimate social arena. From a chaotic plethora of information, he slows down the rush of human traffic to a chronicle of moments. The seemingly random, through the selective process of personal observation, instills the prosaic with drama and grace.

The three-screen video projection Porte de Flandre/Bruxelles, shown in the north gallery, was shot at a tram stop in a section of Brussels with a predominantly muslim immigrant community. Whilst the presence of such communities is the topic of much current discussion, Streuli does not focus on the community’s “marginality”. He is not illustrating statistics or clich├ęs, nor is he making any political statement. Rather, he observes the inhabitants of this most “European” of cities as an integral part of the urban milieu. At the same time, in the densely woven, interacting pattern of surfaces built by people, architecture, traffic and advertising, he elevates their image to star status.

The close cropping and extremely shallow depth of field accentuates details; hair shines, skin shimmers and the attire of his subjects, both under the constraint of cultural tradition and fashionably accessorized with designer sunglasses, jewelry and high tech gadgets, accentuates the particular allure of their gestures, posture and facial expression, as they absent-mindedly and matter-of-factly move through their daily lives. The movement is slowed down allowing the viewer to become a voyeur of the glamour of the ordinary.

In the south gallery, individuals are captured in still photographs as portraits. By wallpapering the exhibition space with these larger-than-life portraits, not only does Streuli emulate ubiquitous advertising billboards, but also places the viewer right in the midst of the crowd milling around a large street market near the Bruxelles-Midi train station. Although the people depicted remain anonymous, a sense of individual lives emerges. We are implicated in the intimacy of these works through the shared experience of negotiating public space, the natural state of watching and being scrutinized by fellow urbanites.
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