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Beyond History Havana 1998-2006

Beyond History Havana 1998-2006 by Vincent Delbrouck

The book Publisher: Bold Publishing (The Nederlands, Amsterdam) Specifications: 200 pages, high quality printing, 23,5 x 34,5 cm A collectors edition and a regular edition: Collectors edition (circulation to be determined), each in a box, accompanied by a giclee print, numbered and signed by the artist Regular edition: circulation to be determined With poems by: Cuban writer Pedro Juan GutiĂŠrez (Dirty Trilogy of Havana) Translations by: Natasha Wimmer


About V.D. Vincent Delbrouck (Brussels, 1975) is an emerging photographer who uses drawings, paintings, writings and collages. Delbrouck assembles, recycles and recomposes the disparate elements of his history to create personal photo albums with different layers, exposing his models as his own identity and memory. The result is what he refers to as ‘poetic documentary’. Vincent has received the Memorial Giacomelli Prize 2002 (Italy), the Jean Salgaro Prize at the 14th National Open Photography Prize (Photo Museum in Charleroi, Belgium) and the Vocational Bursary (Belgium) in 2003. He has contributed to various magazines such as Purple Journal, Pavilion, Code, Amica, Trace, Pozytyw, BlowUp Journal, Vu d’Ici and View, and has exhibited his work in Brussels, London, Milan, Arles and Lyon. He is a member of the Belgian BlowUp collective ( Vincent lives and works in Brussels.

Artist statement “How to live in a fragmented world? Since the late 1990s, my work has involved the creation of photographs as fragments of personal (re)memory with people in their living space, in combination with a natural interest for the way they act in their ordinary life theatre. Demented women, Cuban friends living in Centro Havana, relatives (girlfriend, son, cousin, daughter,… ) they are all characters in a relationship which is never obvious. My photography (colour photography, very often using a direct flash) seems simple and unsophisticated, unglamourous. It is very close to amateur portrait photography (some amateur portraits have been included), but I do not consider these images snapshots at all. These intimate portraits are viewed and composed like paintings. Paintings of ordinary life and still lifes from a colourful biography in which I am not the principal character. I love to use the term poetic documentary to discuss my work. Something never finished, always recycled and definitely fragmented and anomalous, full of flowers, women and familiar bodies. Like a collection of poems, not a novel. I shot my first fashion story in 2003 and in 2004, I started to write on some pictures, to fill “fake” diaries with images, writings, collages, basic paintings using pens, water colour, adhesive, paint markers, photocopies, etc. I think art should not document reality, but (re)compose it. It is a way of dealing with life and photography; the real and the imagined, the past and the present, the liberty and the immobility. Just to question our love, our faces, our lives, as fragments in a strange family album with lonely figures and objects. Each of them interacting with the others, not only inside the pictures and compositions, but also inside this artist’s book.” (Vincent Delbrouck, Brussels, June 2007)

About the book Media coverage and stereotypical discussions about places around the world have a major effect on people’s perception of the others and their existence. Modern myths are being created all the time. This is hardly more the case when people, generally trapped in history and ideology, talk about Cuba and its political, economical and cultural landscape. Vincent fell in love with Cuba in 1997 and has visited the country six times since then. He befriended an Afro-Cuban family, explored the space, the people, the streets, the pictures from the past, the impossible relations… through different media, through fake diaries, words, poetry, through layers of different kinds of images; collages that were never finished. Beyond History recounts the lives of young Cubans in Centro Habana and is a stage for their voices. Fragments taken from their small, abandoned island in the city Havana, before the end of the Castro dictatorship. Vincent also befriended Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Cuba’s most famous and notorious writer, whose writing has been labeled ‘dirty realism’. Dirty realism is a North American literary movement born in the 1970s-80s, which is a derivation from minimalism. As minimalism, dirty realism is characterized by an economy with words and a focus on surface description. Charles Bukowski is considered the godfather of dirty realism.


Somewhere between a photographic version of new journalism, the humanities and documentary photography, Vincent is like the author of an autobiography who - by filling up the undocumented blanks with his fantasy- reveals more about reality than merely the facts could do. Beyond History could also be considered a manifesto against photojournalism, against propaganda from the inside and the outside, against tourist maps and exoticism.

Project-related exhibitions Part of this book was exhibited at the festival ‘September of Photography 2006’ in Lyon (curators: Michel Poivert and Gilles Verneret) and was the subject of a publication in the form of a self-published, 32-page zine on A5 paper. Razvan Ion, the director of Bucharest’s Biennial of Contemporary art published a portfolio of this work in spring 2007, in his magazine of contemporary art PAVILION, #10-11 - What was socialism, and what comes next? Beyond History will be exhibited in Houston, Texas, in March 2008, at the prestigious international photography festival: FOTOFEST. It will also be exhibited at the Musée de la Photographie, in Charleroi (Belgium), in 2009. Curator: Xavier Canonne


Why this is an important book It is clear that emerging photographer Delbrouck has found a style all of his own. His work is unique and contemporary. Beyond History combines the directness and roughness of the snapshot with unmistakable aesthetics. Beauty and, a sometimes grim, reality meld into one. The term ‘poetic documentary’ could not be more appropriate. To some, the images may seem grim. But it would be a grave mistake to consider these images nihilistic. Beyond History is a manifesto against nihilism and a tribute to the vitality of youth, and, in this sense, it is a universal reality. It explains how young Cubans live their lives. Not hindered by our perspective on them and unhampered by the grand discourse of world politics. This is simply one hell of an exciting book! Pedro Juan Gutiérrez about Beyond History: “They are brilliant photos and I love them. We try to describe the reality that surrounds us the same way. As if it did not interest us. In such a form that everyone thinks it is very easy. They are important photos… For me they are important because they show me the hard, strong aspects of reality. Few photographers can do what you do.” Brian Paul Clamp, owner Clamp Gallery New York: “Vincent Delbrouk’s book, ‘Beyond History’ represents exceptional innovation not only in terms of the photography (including the lighting, composition, and spontaneity of the images), but also in the genius of marrying these idiosyncratic photos to the printed page. There is an intensity and honesty in this project I have seldom seen. This is a book that is certain to make a unique place for itself in the history of photography and art book publishing.” David Strettell / Dashwood Books, New-York: “Dear Vincent, Thank you for bringing me your excellent project “BEYOND HISTORY: Havana 1998-2002” last month.  As you know I specialize in photography books and am always looking for new and interesting titles that test the limits of the medium. I see a lot of projects and it is rare to see something so well conceived and executed that does not feel forced or contrived. Cuba has been a favorite subject of documentary photographers over the years so it is even more gratifying to see an entirely original and personal take on the subject. Usually book dummy’s even while they may have great possibilities need a lot of editing and rethinking to be realized as books while yours should (in my view) be left virtually untouched. Congratulations and please keep me updated about your progress - Iook forward to stocking it and showing it to my more discerning collector clients.”

About the publisher Peter van Rhoon (1966) has been publishing high end print products for 10 years. - 1998: Founder RELOAD magazine. - 2005: Founder CODE magazine (high end fashion publication, distribution in the Netherlands, Belgium, Paris and Tokyo). - 2006: Curator Dutch Masters Exhibition at the Museum for Modern Art in Den Hague (first large exhibition on streetart in the Netherlands) - 2006: Publisher / editor Dutch Masters book (“first comprehensive book on street art in the Netherlands”) - 2007: Founder Urban Arts Foundation


Excerpts from the book

Contact Beyond History is published by: Bold Publishing PO Box 69654 1060 CS Amsterdam T +31 (0) 20-4085511 F +31 (0) 20-4082280

Publisher: Peter van Rhoon, Artist: Vincent Delbrouck, 05

V.D. Briefing BH  

Briefing about the book and photographer