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Antoine Watteau’s imaginary landscapes often feature people (predominantly courtiers) who have just whispered something to someone else or are about to do so… Figures turning towards or away from one another. They are also often shown from the back. What we, the viewers, see is chiefly the interplay of the figures and their gazes, all of those lines that criss-cross each other across the paintings: one person is looking at another person who is looking out at us, while that person is being looked at by somebody else. These figures are frozen in a pose that has them inclined just a millimetre too far, just a millimetre too close, or too far from the other figure. And what we hear - there are so many musical instruments - is quiet, frozen music.

BOZAR asked Dirk Braeckman to find a way of depicting the artworks that could not be brought to the exhibition. Not because Braeckman is seen to be ‘the photographer of emptiness’, but because he is so adept at depicting ‘emptiness’ (memory, memory loss, absence, desire) in all of his photographs. Braeckman hardly ever shows us what is actually there in a photograph. And all we can do is fill in these photographs with our own desires, our own absences, forever feverishly searching for meaning. It is as if the distance between the figures suddenly becomes solid, becomes material. Each of Braeckman’s photographs allows us to hear and see what is going on among Watteau’s figures as they lean in towards one another. Whispering. Music. The ‘negative space’. The silence. Our unstoppable desire to constantly bridge that distance and fill in the silence.

Peter Verhelst