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Of all my works I must show
How I have lived and my days spent
In the spring of 2008, Okwui Enwezor organised ‘Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art’ at the International Center for Photography in New York, an exhibition that included the same work by Jef Geys that had been on view in Enwezor’s Documenta11 six years earlier — one of only a handful of occasions in the last decade that allowed a broader art audience to acquaint itself with the oeuvre of the notoriously elusive and wayward Belgian artist. The work, a 36-hour-long film-cum-slide show made up of tens of thousands of black-and-white photographs taken by the artist from the late 1950s to the early 2000s, is titled Day and Night and Day… and in Enwezor’s eloquent words,
it belongs to this temporal category in which the archive is used to elicit the boundless procession of discrete levels of time, as a juncture between past and present. […] It is both a personal and cultural meditation on time and the archive. […] The film is not only structurally about the flow of images from a time past into the present; by virtue of its languorous movement, unfolding one panel at a time, the form of its delivery is also intended to confound the ability to distil the film into an index of a life’s work. Working with the basic format of an inventory, in an almost chronological register, the photographs are activated as moving pictures by slow dissolves. Nothing much happens in the film apart from shifts in tone, gradations of muted gray