Intimacy under the Milky Way

Luc Rabaey

Intimacy under the Milky Way is a photography exhibition on the meaning (and tension) of ‘intimacy’ with a selection from the oeuvre of renowned and talented photographers. The exhibition handles tactility of the skin, the lustful gaze, the beauty that lies within exhibitionism and other cosmic experiences.

Intimacy under the Milky Way  explores  the range between authenticity and drama, liberation and darkness. Intimacy requires privacy, intimacy is quite the opposite of the public domain. Internet however is more and more revealing  the exhibitionistic and voyeuristic nature of human beings.

Intimacy revolves not only around the human body and its nakedness but also very much around feelings, relating to ourselves and others and relationship with the other. Thoughts, sexuality. But also about places to which we relate, places where we can hide in reclusiveness, places where we can connect, intimate places, secret places. Even loneliness, an ultimate form of intimacy – can show us the pathway in connecting with  our innermost feelings.

Fragments from the intimate and private life lead per definition a hidden existence, clad in darkness and obscurity. But, once photographed and exposed to the outer world, morality steps in.

© Julie Van der Vaart

© Julie Van der Vaart

The title of the exhibition explicitly refers  to a very ambivalent feeling, known to any human being. Although an ultimate fulfilling moment of intimacy is very clear , personal and familiar, it is at the same time extremely ephemeral. There is no pause button, you cannot fully understand it, contain it, hold it, nor conserve it. It deals with memory and memory is effervescent. But we can translate this effervescence in the language of images, universally readable and recognizable to all.

© Gert Jochems

Intimacy manifest itself in the mind, sided by ‘imagination’ and ‘desire’. Artists share their own fragile intimacies in the most intense of ways. They establish a more universal intimacy between viewer, artist and subject, in which the viewer can search for comfort, or even self-discovery, as e.g. a voyeur. Thus a field of tension is generated slipping from the( apparently) tangible to the fully ‘elusive’ in a cosmic transcendent whole.

Another paradox. How intimate can intimacy be, after it has been photographed and the moon and the stars and all other planets let their revolving light s shine on it?

The exhibition Intimacy under the Milky Way shows us how the integrity of intimacy remains upheld in photography. I myself  consider the oeuvre of these photographers as a kind of projection space in which the spectator can set his/her mind free, while unraveling secrets, and finding, while engaging in this slow process of communication, another meta-form of personal intimacy.

© Albert Grøndahl

The title of the exhibition is inspired by pieces from a volume of essays by the Flemish poet Herman De Coninck. Most likely one could compare the reading of poems with the reading of photographs. They are very closely related. There is a first gaze, followed by a deeper, more personal study revealing what needed to be read between te lines. But most of all there is also the invisible, the story behind the picture, the part that isn’t shown.

In Intimacy under the Milky Way Herman De Coninck  teaches the reader the following; the bad news is: there is no bigger plot, there is no real story. But there is an upside! The reader can fill in the gaps and co-create by building his /her own interpretation of the story, but then again it is imperative that the viewer accepts the very fluid nature of a plot-less story.

This IUTMW essay is subtitled ‘on poetry’, although one can also find two small chapters on photography. Photography as a form of poetry without language. Same, but different. Poetry and photography share a common interest in humanity and worldly presence. Compared to films or novels they tend to abstract, universalize, comprise, and create timeless molds.

© Selina de Beauclair

Intimacy, but also a certain niche of art- photography becomes more universal, transcending the images, transcending the momentum in time and place, what you see is per definition less than what you get. De Coninck explains us how there can a divide can grow between  the appreciation of a poem, (finding a poem beautiful) and /or the real and full understanding of the text. (We can be moved by a poem without completely understanding what is in fact really about).

This exhibition is clearly meant to move the spectator. What does this emotion really bring us? Emotion is a rather suspicious matter, he or she who is easily moved might be less hard boiled, emotion doesn’t sum up to anything, It has no real ‘value’, it can’t be measured, counted, gathered.  From this idea it paradoxically derives its direct value. We live in materialistic times of ‘having’, but poetry and emotion are countering these, for they are not about ‘having’, they are all about ‘being’ and ‘living’. Sublimely useless, so to speak..And, we can say; the photography at display at the exhibition IUTMW belongs to the realm of ‘being’.

© Marie Sordat

By placing intimacy geographically  ‘under the Milky Way’, we focus even more on Intimacy in its essence, being: fluid, ephemeral and transcendent. Furthermore the title suggest well enough that also the location and context in which intimacy appears can tell us more about the nature of intimacy. And most of all, there will be an undefined feeling lingering along with the spectator, after viewing the works,  after visiting this exhibition;  this “je ne sai pas quoi’ but it’s right and it fits”!

The exhibition Intimacy under the Milky Way opens on the 12th of June at PAK centre for visual arts Gistel (Belgium) and runs till 4th of September. For more information, please visit:

Nobuyoshi Araki (JP), Elinor Carucci (IL/US), Aaron McElroy (US), Jens Juul (DK), Carla van de Puttelaar (NL), Danielle van Zadelhoff (NL), Miriam Temme (NL), Thom Puckey (UK), Camille Renée Devid (NL), Julie Van der Vaart (NL) , Albert Grøndahl (DK), Arno Roncada (BE), Marie Sordat (BE), Cédric Gerbehaye (BE), Marine Dricot (BE), Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker (BE), Peter Waterschoot (BE), Marie-Thérèse De Clercq (BE), Michel Vaerewijck (BE), Arnaud De Wolf (BE), Annabel Werbrouck (BE), Lisa De Boeck & Marilène Coolens (BE), Selina de Beauclair (AU), Dirk Van Severen (BE), Celeste Ortiz (CL), Arno Nollen (NL), Gert Jochems (BE)