Inside Out - Rod Slemmons
Architectural photographers generally make buildings look like they don’t. We correct perspective, eliminate background distractions and then wait for that perfect fifteen minutes of daylight that most resembles the architect’s drawing. And, of course, we do what photography does best - we record surfaces. Jan Theun van Rees has broken through these conventions and gone beneath the visible skin of buildings here in Chicago. In his own way, he has rendered the buildings transparent, enabling us to access the seemingly chaotic and asymmetrical service spaces and structural components that support the elegantly even exteriors.
Part of Jan’s project is an exercise in scale and mass. Seen from the inside, exterior walls of buildings appear suddenly delicate, even though they aren’t. Transparent ceilings turn out to be lit from the attic interiors rather than daylight. Actual structural members appear to us non-engineers as either too big or much too slight. The interior of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, for example, seems far to substantial to support the delicately balanced fluid form we see from the outside.
Jan’s experiments give us something concrete on which to hang suspicion that a city is not only its outward appearance. A city is what holds those structures up, what gives them their daily impact and long-term authority . It is the people who designed and build them and the people who work and live inside them. The surface is the equivalent of the shining traditions of civic pride and self definition. Behind them - the secret spaces that Jan recorded - are chaotic and often mysterious ambiguities, secrets and confusion that nonetheless support the surface
Excerpts from the essay "Inside Out" by Rod Slemmons, director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (2002 - 2011). Published in the book "One Wall Away - Chicago's Hidden Spaces" (2007) .