post editions

REHABBen Laloua / Didier Pascal

Rehab the media!

With a rather hazy shot photographer Nick Ût immortalized Paris Hilton on her way to jail. He is the same man who took the world-famous photo of the Vietnamese girl running away from a napalm attack precisely 35 years earlier. Ostensibly both images portray a crying female however there could be no greater contrast imaginable. The photograph from 1972 has become the image of the American defeat in Vietnam, while the mug shot of Paris is a mere echo in an immeasurable emptiness.

The much talked-about and superficial stories of Paris, Britney, Pete and their companions are fascinating. They are published the whole world over, even appearing in the most serious newspapers, which makes one think about the priorities of today's mass media and power and influence it wields over us. The constant and aggressive search for new icons with new gossip is beginning to lead a life of its own which has become far removed from reality. How much has the media changed since the time when ût made his Vietnam reportage for a reason that really mattered?

Paris, Britney and Pete, to name a few, keep countless television programmes, gossip magazines, glossies, 'celebrity magazines', newspapers and websites in their grasp. Every single movement of the icons is closely watched and blown wildly out of proportion. The preference is for Paris, because a cover displaying her portrait yields higher sales than one with Britney's. There is nothing more than this rationale. A rich hotel heiress that goes out in the evening, is snapped with a new date, hits out at the media, is caught drunk behind the wheel, is forced to rehabilitate for a few days in prison, and after that is still celebrated as a semi-saint in yet more photo-reportages and interviews. Rehab Succeeded.
The stories follow the beaten paths of biblical tradition: the Triumphal Entry, the Miracles, the Outburst, the Penance and the Revelation. In comparison with them today's rehab entanglements are futile, at best they have kept something of the consoling effect of their predecessors. However, the iconographic violence with which they appear is radically contemporary: no contemplative biblical scenes, but street photography.

The iconography of these rapidly circulating series of pictures is recorded as of old and this comes beautifully to the fore in the transformations that Ben Laloua / Didier Pascal have subjected them to. The abstracted black-and-white drawings give a controlled after-image of hundreds of paparazzi photos and screaming headlines, to news that has long since been superseded by newer breaking news. As in a 15th century block-printed book, the drawing series illuminates the ready-made constructions of the Rehab stories. It is invariably about the same sort of images but with a changing cast of people and their entourages, their friends, their homes and their accessories. Whoever thinks that the media offers us a window on the world, as if it was still 1972, has lost their grip on the facts. The media feeds an almost neo-religious discourse that becomes wrapped up in a bogusly democratic manifestation of quasi-elitist self-exhibitionism. They must urgently book themselves into Rehab.

During the REHAB exhibition at SMBA, Amsterdam, a poster campaign was scheduled over a three-week period, in 100 illuminated street billboards throughout Amsterdam.

Ben Laloua / Didier Pascal have been working together since 2002 as graphic designers, fulfilling commissions for TNT Post, the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and various publishers, among other clients. Their autonomous projects include the poster series 'Everybody Everything' for de Veemvloer/La Cinca (2004), the solo exhibition 'Public Club' in Casco, Utrecht (2005) and 'Rehab' for the group exhibition 'Utramoderne', Espace Paul Wurth, Luxembourg (2007).
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Jelle Bouwhuis, Stine Jensen
graphic design
Mevis & Van Deursen
paperback | 64 pp | 24.5 x 34.5 cm
€ 25.00