The springboard for the photo series Checked Baggage was a rather unusual initiative: At an auction that took place in Amsterdam in 2004, Christien Meindertsma purchased 3,264 items, the weekly tally of the items confiscated from 600,000 passengers at security checkpoints in Schiphol airport: amongst the items seized were scissors, corkscrews, combs, pocketknives, toy pistols, compasses, razors, peelers, lighters – anything considered a potential flight hazard. The artist categorized the items according to type, size and color, elegantly arranged them on a white background, using studio lighting, and then photographed them frontally, in an austere style that resembles that of a sales catalog. Some of the items show signs of use. Others were meant as presents or souvenirs, never to fulfill the purpose they were purchased for.
The photos present items considered as potential hazards, in a strict –if not hysterical– effort to prevent incidents of international terrorism. Their confiscation by the authorities instills a strategy of fear in the minds of unsuspecting travelers, while bringing them in the awkward position of the potential perpetrator. Meindertsma subversively walks the thin line between the documentary and commercial rhetoric of photography, outlining –through seemingly banal pictures in which everything is suspended in a white, pop lightness– the portrait of modern paranoia. The series illustrates the ability of photographic documentation to not just register or take inventory of archives, but also to create new ones, with the artist being a creator but also an inventive taxonomist. Meindertsma's stance towards the post-9/11 era denounces the politically charged –at a global level– issue of security, positing that art can be an action that does not hesitate to critically oppose the tide. Besides, fifteen years after the appearance of this work, the questions she raises remain crucial, while all types of exaggeration and an unrestrained spreading of the consumerist ideology are implicitly suggested as complementary aspects of the problem.
MOMus-Museum of Contemporary Art-Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art and State Museum of Contemporary Art Collections