The discovery of the sardines

  • 1971
  • Ger van Elk
  • colour photograph
  • (2x): 83 x 68,1 x 0,9 cm (incl. lijst)
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1974
  • Inventory number 609

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This work consists of two colour photographs. One shows a crack in an asphalt road from which sardines are emerging. Most of the photo is out of focus and was taken from a low angle. The camera is focused on the fish. The second picture shows the same crack and sardines, but it is taken from a different perspective and a higher angle. Although our attention is initially drawn to the car in the background, here too the focus is on the sardines.

Ger van Elk came up with the idea for this absurd picture as he was driving along the Pacific Coast Highway near Los Angeles, shortly after an earthquake had taken place there. He saw a large crack in the road with a pack of cigarettes sticking out of it. Presumably it had fallen into the asphalt while the road was being constructed and was pushed up through the crack during the earthquake. As he gazed out over the ocean, the thought of sardines swimming up from the sea through the land, ending up under the asphalt and then, like the cigarette pack, emerging from the crack. In order to create these images, he drove to a fish market, bought some sardines, went back to the crack, arranged them along it, and took the pictures.

Ger van Elk’s work often a blend of fantasy and reality. In this case he chose photography in order to give the image a realistic appearance. However, the whole thing is a mise-en-scene, just as realistic-looking paintings are frequently staged.


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