TEXT BY TACO HIDDE BAKKER

 

In between entering: a photo/graphic periphery of Paris. On Stephan Keppel’s ‘Entre Entree’ (Fw:Books, 2014)

There is a lot of doubling going on in Stephan Keppel’s 2014 photobook Entre Entree, beginning with its idiosyncratic title. Keppel took it from an entrance sign to a Parisian supermarket that said ‘entree’ (entrance) twice, but the last of the first ‘entre/’ was erased.Entre Entree results from a succession of two residencies, six months at Atelier Holsboer, close to the hustle and bustle of stereotypical Paris, and another half year at the former Parisian home of Dutch avant-garde artist 
Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931), in Meudon Val Fleury in the southern periphery of the French metropolis. A short sequence in the book shows a recording of a performance inspired by Van Doesburg’s concept of the ‘dynamic diagonal’: a long stick falling down from a pedestal towards the residential bungalow.

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Keppel meandered through Paris’s spacious, anonymous outskirts, as well as his own studio, aiming his camera at doors, stairways, found objects, neon tubes, printers, fac╠žades of a variety of modernist high-rises flats, veins in marble, and scattered exotic planting. Keppel then reworked most of the black-and-white pictures—scanning, printing and reprinting them multiple times, thereby experimenting with contrast, color inversion, toners, inks, (halftone) screens and paper quality. Some of the more graphical images are all about line, texture and form.

On Chromolux papers Keppel experimented with gold and silver inks, in the book translated to printing a first layer of uniform gold, before the image was printed thereon in black. Four of the book’s twelve signatures are enfolded in these gold prints (feeling more like copper), heightening the rhythm of the edit, enhancing the already dreamlike-quality of the images and the fluid edit.

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Exits of the peripheral ring roads often bear Porte in their names, meaning entrance, passage, or door. Entre Entree opens with a night shot of an entrance hall with its double glass doors closed. The book features many entrances and doors, to the design of which architects paid a lot of attention. By picturing these Keppel said he was able to ‘penetrate into the soul of their design’.

Doubling occurs, too, with some images recurring more than once, mirrored, inverted, or differently treated graphically. Like his previous book Reprinting the City (Fw:Books, 2012), made in the rather non-photogenic city of Den Helder (NL), Keppel’s Paris has been printed, reprinted and reworked up to the design and printing stage. Both photo/graphic city reports, designed by Keppel in collaboration with Hans Gremmen, bear resemblance to a file of documents—through the standard A4-size, supple binding, and the Xerox-like quality of the printing.

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The compelling edit, attention to form, texture and composition lend a musical quality to Entre Entree. Some pictures show black circles resembling LP’s and at least one record player has been visually recorded. On the invitation of Keppel, artist Neeltje ten Westenend and composer of experimental music Harry de Wit recorded sounds of the periphery, which De Wit then used as the basis for two short compositions, released as a 45RPM 7” vinyl, and separately available as an audio companion to the book. At the opening day of the exhibition version of Entre Entree, at LhGWR in The Hague (NL), De Wit together with Guusje Ingen Housz held a live performance based on the Parisian recordings, while being entirely surrounded with Keppel’s framed prints.

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In my view, the visual poetry of this urban symphony is best experienced during the twilight hour, shortly before going off to dreamland. But like its title suggests, you won’t easily find a single entrance-point in this multilayered book.  The shut doors can, metaphorically speaking, be opened by turning the page, however you are kept lingering in between – which, far from a shortcoming, is an incentive to return to the book at least two times.

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Stephan Keppel, Entre Entree (Amsterdam: Fw:Books, 2014) / Designed by Stephan Keppel and Hans Gremmen / The regular edition is sold out, but special editions can still be obtained at Fw: Photography.

Website of the artist

*This book review appeared in print in Camera Austria International No. 127 (September 2014).