Review: Box

Photograph Project: Box by Kevin Laloux and Maxime Delvaux

Kevin Laloux and Maxime Delvaux are Belgium-based artists who build houses out of cardboard and tiny dollhouse furniture, then fill them with sad and strange characters. The project is called Box. It started off as a portfolio for the artists to exhibit their ability to scale anVd tell complex narratives via photographs. The artists photoshop real people into dreary and ironic scenes. Each piece is developed over the course of two to three days. The detailed work is surely tedious. Such detail adds depth, and it is what makes the scenes feel alive. They set the camera on a tripod, and repeatedly look through the viewfinder to make sure the camera can accurately capture the scene they have in their heads. When seamlessly combining the cardboard scene with its living subject, Laloux and Delvaux pay special attention to the lighting, which seems to be the glue that binds the living person and the inanimate surroundings.  Once the stage is set, the artists start spitballing scenarios they could create. Most of the ideas are arbitrary in nature because the randomness of the photos is what forces the viewer to interact with the image instead of just consuming it. They say the idea is to create imaginary scenes with a cinematic aesthetic which unsettle the spectator through the scale and choice of material.

The scenes in the photographs can be painful and are shrouded in mystery. The audience is transported into the middle of a story with little to no context. The artists set the stage for viewers to imagine their own stories. My initial reaction to the photographs was sadness and grief. The scenes are typically not what I would expect when I think of art. My novice expectations of joy and entertainment were upended. When I thought more about the photographs, I opened up to the idea that art, like life, is complex and ambiguous. The dioramas make you look at pain from a realistic point of view as opposed to a sentimental one. It is as if the artists are communicating an acceptance of the pain and discomfort in life that we so often avoid. The project reminded me of Kahlil Gibran’s word: “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.”

The pain and irony displayed in their work have certainly broken the shell of my understanding of art. Although the remedy is bitter, I accept the new perspective with peace and gratitude.