Sef Peeters

Centraal Museum

Whether in the early photographs, videos, or performances or in the works comprised of found materials such as cans, paper, and wood, a sense of simultaneous intimacy and distance pervades Sef Peeters’ works. Elementary facts are intensely worked over and then ironically deployed. Rotational disks—on the front and back of which the word “I” is printed in different directions and colors—powered by motors turn like crazy. Because of the word “I,” these seemingly childish and naive objects acquire weight. The turning disk becomes a metaphor for man’s fate in which every person follows a predetermined course. By placing several of these machines next to one another, Peeters demonstrates the impossibility of any one “I” making contact with another.

The path through the exhibition was not exactly straightforward. Again and again it was blocked by tables, cans, or fences. The fences, which were actually borders or protective objects, became barriers to understanding, hurdles, and disruptive elements, even though “My purpose is to please” was written on them. They emphasized what differentiates, what separates. They also depicted general emotional states that culminated in the spinning “I.”

Peeters’ playing with letters, words, and texts consists primarily of clichés or found phrases. The visual presentation of such quotes according to the principles of reflection, reversal, and repetition gives them a human dimension. He builds his own name from these letters, and doubles it so that the name of the artist is playfully distorted. The letters become building blocks, sculptural elements which, because of their overlapping construction, must be slowly deciphered. All his sculptures seem shaky; there is no static or stable platform; there is no balance. They are all in a state of doubt and change. The richness of uncertainty, which places many forms of expression side-by-side, so that there is no hierarchy is characteristic of Peeters’ work. He creates the possibility—one that is constantly repeated—of transforming the self.

Frank Alexander Hettig

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.