May 16, 2013
Los Angeles – The sunlight fades and the twilight turns the city into an entrancing wonderland whose charm can disappear in the blink of an eye. With her project Look At Me And Tell Me If You Have Known Me Before , Los Angeles-based Dutch photographer Monica Nouwens (1964) dedicated herself to portraying the ambivalent appeal of one of the world’s largest cities. Look At Me (…) is the expressive, poetic portrait of a group of young people living in the margin of urban consumer culture. In cinematographic and suggestive images shot mostly at night, Monica Nouwens follows them at parties, during performances – solitary or loving each other.
Nouwens’ images are not records of specific moments in time, she rather is the chronicler of an attitude, of a romantic rejection of mainstream social life. Look At Me (…) embodies the hopes, fears and nightmares of a generation that does not seem to be interested in fulfilling a social role that is part of society as we know it, but which tries to shape more personal, smaller scale alternatives. For more than fifteen years, Monica Nouwens has been portraying urban communities in America: from idealistic utopians, neo-hippy communities and anarchistic movements such as ‘Food Not Bombs’ to disillusioned, drug-addicted commandos returning from the war in Iraq. Nouwens is fascinated by the diversity of social manifestations in the city. Over the years she changed from being an outside observer into an involved insider. Ultimately this has formed the basis for her more independent work Look At Me (…). In this body of work her personal experiences with Los Angeles and its subcultures meet. Her commitment to the DIY subculture of youth, against the backdrop of a society facing a financial and moral crisis, is the main focus of the work. The moody character of Nouwens’ images, her commitment with, as well the attitude of her protagonists bear resemblance to Ed van der Elsken’s legendary 1956 book Love on the Left Bank, shot in post-war Paris. Here too, disillusion plays an important role for a generation that is not (yet) ready to challenge society politically in an active way but rather turns away from it. Look At Me And Tell Me If You Have Known Me Before is a multimedia installation, edited and curated by Frank Ortmanns in close collaboration with Monica Nouwens. The exhibition also features a selection of prints from the project.