BOOK OF THE MONTH: ‘Belgian Solutions’, or 300 traces of odd ways of tackling problems
One for the foreign readers of this blog, as this amusing tiny photography book has already received ample coverage in the Belgian press. Understandably, as it is a book tapping into something we Belgians feel is typically, but at the same time rather inexplicably… Belgian. Belgian Solutions (published by MER. Paper Kunsthalle) gathers ‘over 300 images of witty, absurd and at times hilarious hands-on solutions for our everyday environment’. It started as a private project, but by now lots of people have already contributed pictures. After the jump Brussels-based artist David Helbich offers some explanation.
Belgian Solutions started in 2006, as a series of photos Brussels-based German artist David Helbich took just to share with friends. When Helbich started posting them on social network platforms around 2009 the project quickly went viral.
‘It rapidly became clear to me that it triggered something. A crucial moment was when I realized people started to use the term in daily conversations, as a means to describe a situation and not my pictures. I think Belgian Solution really is a term that could end up in a dictionary, someday.’
‘One thing I have to stress is the fact that the Solution part is really important. I want this project to be different from all the ‘failure’ websites, the ones mocking other people’s problems, such as the You had one job ones, focusing on blunders made by people on the job. Gloating doesn’t interest me.’
By now some of you will probably wonder: but what exactly is a Belgian solution? Can Helbich define it? ‘That’s actually a difficult one. I accept almost every contribution, every picture, and I’ve noticed that as the collection expands, the definition changes. But at the heart Belgian Solutions is about traces of a decision that has been made. Traces of a solution to a not all too big problem. Traces of some sort of handyman problem tackling.’
‘What doesn’t interest me are temporary situations. Something that has collapsed, for instance, and by chance somebody passes by and takes a picture. No: the situation has to have a long-lasting aspect, but with an air of temporality.’
And although it flirts with it, Helbich states: ‘It’s not about surrealism. But it certainly has to do with a certain attitude, a certain way of looking at things.’
Belgian Solutions is a success, and that brings unexpected responsibilities, Helbich has already noticed. ‘It feels a bit strange to suddenly be perceived as some kind of ambassador of Brussels, Belgium and that odd and suddenly hip feeling of Belgian pride, called Belgitude. Recently I’ve had a reporter asking me if I could say, on tape, that this project is a declaration of love for Brussels. People are focusing on the Belgian part a bit too much, in my opinion, whereas it mainly is about the solutions.’
‘At the core this really is an art project. One that is – since Belgian Solutions has become a community and a picture collection – also about the sharing of things. About how everyone is carrying a camera, all the time. How internet has changed the meaning of photography.’
And that community aspect maybe is one of the flaws of the project, you realize when you flip through the book (it also comprises pictures taken by other people) or scroll through the site: not everybody understands that well what Belgian Solutions is about. For it to be a real strong art project, it might at some point need a more severe editor.