Zoë Sluijs

“(What happened when) I stopped pretending to know

(What happened when) I stopped pretending to know is a compilation of photographic images that explores how we relate to uncertainty. Not knowing how things work, not knowing how or when things came to be, not knowing what the world will look like in the future and why things are the way they are, but wanting to know, is a mentality that a lot people share. Back in the time when life was more simple, there were answers to useful questions regarding the weather and other practical incidents. Now that we learn more and more each day, life has gotten complicated. We have created an overwhelmingly puzzling overview of our collective knowledge with the arrival of the internet on which we are able to find any kind of information, may that be fact or fiction. We are confronted with our universal lack of understanding through the series of images of this project that show multiple failed attempts to comprehend the world. The work deals with the positive and the negative sides of uncertainty which are now so applicable to artists, graduates and anyone else for that matter. The intention for this series has never been to explain or to reveal anything in the way some other art does. Instead of pretending to have a groundbreaking idea or a new way of looking at life, it shows the way someone might respond to the idea of possibly never knowing the answer to an important question.

The series can be categorised into three parts, which each represents a stage that I went through during the process of making this project. But, in the photographs, a man is the main character of the story instead of me. The man’s face is never fully visible, but his head is shown in three images that are tied to the three categories. The first part shows where the inspiration for this project came from; my own insecurity regarding knowledge. I’ve always had this irrational idea that to be a grownup, you had to understand how the world works and I always felt like I was one of the few people who had no clue. People always seem so confident in their beliefs and their understanding of life. Pretending to get it until you actually do then becomes your only option. In this first category of images a man is shown with wooden blocks tied in front of his eyes. He believes he is blind, but pretends to be okay with it.
The second category represents the stage I was stuck in the longest. I told myself that by not knowing or understanding I would have unbounded freedom to create and think whatever I want. While forcing this overly positive attitude toward my lack of understanding of myself and others, I realised I didn’t really believe the point I was trying to make. In this second part, there’s an image that shows the man leaning on a wall with his head. He is mindlessly forcing his energy into this wall that isn’t even finished yet and, although it looks still and sturdy, probably won’t be able to stand this pressure.

It was when some of the certainties I depended on suddenly disappeared, that I finally gave in to the feeling that I needed something to hold on to. I realised that my positive view on my lack of understanding was a privileged (and unrealistic) situation to be in, because I had all these certainties that were holding me up while I wondered and pondered on big life questions. But now I was confronted with a level of uncertainty, that I wasn’t prepared for. This confrontation is shown through an image of the man holding an abstract object, that doesn’t seem to be anything in particular. The man looks at it, and without seeing his face you can tell he is trying to understand it. He is finally confronted with his own lack of understanding. While this third part is the last of the series, I do believe there could be more. Given time, I probably will find a different way of perceiving my insecurity about knowledge. This is why this project isn’t trying to give you an answer in the way some art does. I don’t have any answers, but I’m sharing my open research with anyone who’s interested. Because, in the end, I believe that no one really knows how the world works, and maybe no one ever will.

© Zoë Sluijs