De mentaliteit is van plastiek

At the end of 2017, sociologist/photographer Jakob Van den Broucke embarked on a project without a particular end or calculated goal in mind. Intrigued by the phrase “the mentality is plastic” – confided in him by a complete stranger during a hazy night out – these simple but enigmatic words became the starting point for a visual and conceptual investigation now bundled in a self-published book: de mentaliteit is van plastiek. Initially using the phrase as a guiding principle to make a thematic selection of his personal archive, he quickly began supplementing existing work with new images. When these photographs later gradually started relating to quotes, strands of texts and social observations, what began as an artistic exercise slowly developed into an in-depth and structured exploration of the mysterious statement. As a result, words and images now interlinked in a perpetual flux of semi-deliberateness, offering endless takes on the elusive concept, never fully conceding to either the word or the image.
While working on the book, Jakob’s artistic process became subject to scientific self-reflection, leading him to approach his own project from the perspective of a social scientist. Questioning and exploring his role as a creator producing a cultural artefact, his formal training as a sociologist offered a framework to disentangle the constitutive elements to what he was doing. Critiquing the artificial distinction between sociological and artistic representation, between the merits of objectivity and subjectivity, these epistemological issues presented opportunities to understand the fundamental ambiguity of all imaginaries – whether visual or written – and the potential value of photography for sociology. Consequently, the auto-ethnographic dimension of his work became an explicit quality to the project: self-reflection and academic writing collide with valuing immediate experience and spontaneous evaluation. Relating these conflicting dispositions to contemporary methodological discussions in auto-ethnography in an article, de mentaliteit is van plastiek establishes an explicit link to the scientific practice wherein Jakob was formally trained. Highlighting the continuities between artistic and traditional research practice in the social sciences, the essay offers an interdisciplinary contribution to the theoretical and epistemological underpinnings of auto-ethnography. While certainly complementary to the book itself, the essay does not provide any answers to the questions raised, nor does it explain any hidden truths in the work. Rather, the scientific appendix adds to and stresses the particularly sociological reflection and imagination meandering the artistic project itself. (Text by Florian Vanlee)

Photographer(s): Text:
Jakob Van den Broucke Jakob Van den Broucke and Mathijs De Baere
Format: Pages:
18,5 x 25 cm 62 + 19
Design: Images:
Jakob Van den Broucke and Jens Wijnendaele 37
Publisher: Binding:
Self-published in collaboration with TopoCopy Swiss binding
Printer: Printing:
Date: Edition:
January, 2019 169