Viviane Sassen (1972, Nederland)
Shot in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana, the ‘Flamboya’ photographs stand as paradigmatic for Sassen’s new way of looking at Africa –one devoid of sentimentality and that through poetical metaphors acknowledges the challenges and drawbacks of its complex reality.
Without giving up figurative means, Sassen went on developing a visual language that questions the stereotypes about Africa and ethnic otherness.
The moody, chiaroscuroed photographs of Viviane Sassen vacillate between the documentary and the dreamlike, evoking the sense that everyday life might be more mysterious than it seems. Though Sassen was born in the Netherlands, where she continues to live, she makes many of her images in Africa - often Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya, where her family lived for three years beginning when she was a child. Despite her young age, this early experience had a profoundand formative effect on her, ans she returned to Africa in 2002, after studying both fashion and photography, to find that the continent still held a strong sway over her.
Nevertheless, Sassen’s relationship to Africa is complicated. She has said that although she feels at home there, she knows that she can only ever occupy a foreigner’s position. This tension shows up in her photographs, which feel intimate to the spirit of the people and places depicted, but also fail to fully capture them, as if chasing a ghost that vanishes as soon as it is looked at. Often, Sassen deliberately obscures the faces of the subjects in her pictures, whether through a simple turn of the head, or through her frequent deployment of jet-black shadow. It is a gesture that, she has said, functions to remove her subject from the potentially objectifying gaze of the viewer and to annul her own gaze as well: consequently, her subjects and scenes remain only partially disclosed, like the half-remembered vignettes of dreams or memories. Sassen’s series Parasomnia - its name borrowed from a category of sleep - is marked by some of her most enigmatic images of this kind, which often appear to be no longer moored to the continent in which they were made, but set adrift in the realm of reverie.
Bron: Il Palazzo Enciclopedico, Short Guide, La Biennale di Venezia 2013