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JEAN RUITER PROJECT / Archive and Stock Sales photoworks Jean Ruiter
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33 / The Transparent Truth / 1996
01 / Hard Selling Bill and Hillary / 1996
02 / Untitled / 1996
03 / Billís Bad Boy / 1996
04 / The astonishing heritage of Machiavelli / 1996
05 / Convicted / 1996
06 / Hi, Iím Your Next President / 1996
07 / Blurring integrity of society / 1996
08 / Observing Democracy by a Chinese Business Man / 1996

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Related Text:
The Transparent Truth by Cees Straus

The Transparent Truth
and the Shame that is the American President and the Presidential Elections
by Cees Straus


The American president Bill Clinton hasn't risen in Jean Ruiter's estimation in the last few months. "Clinton is a master at maneuvering around between all sorts of currents. To my mind he's no model of integrity, the way he turns and twists and manipulates. It's a miracle he's been elected. But that's the funny thing about it: the American public even has respect for his manipulating activity.

Ruiter (1942), photographer and video filmer, has traveled the last months of the past year along the East Coast of the United States. The images he recorded there have been brought together for a presentation to be given this coming Sunday at De Balie in Amsterdam. The accent is on the phenomenon multimedia, for in addition to video images and the static presence of a large number of photographs blown up to billboard size, there will be an opera to listen to. The basis for the opera is the New York composer Conrad Cummings' music "Photo-Op", which is in sync with Ruiter's ideas about the presidential elections. "Photo-op" stands for "photo-opportunity", the moment that the presidential candidates present themselves to the (picture-taking) press.

As a photographer Ruiter has by now had much experience with American society. Several years ago he depicted it in his "Urban Opera", which was shown as a one-time multimedia show at De Brakke Grond. Whereas "Urban Opera" was about big-city life with much stylized violence, "The Transparent Truth" is considerably less extreme. Apart from a poignant picture of a blindfolded baby dollin an electric chair awaiting execution (in response to a case in which a seven-year-old boy was expelled from his elementary school for an innocent kiss he gave a fellow pupil), Ruiter's images are largely ironic and carry a double meaning.

Boring Elections It wasn't political interest which sent Ruiter roaming through the United States for two months. "These were the most boring elections this century; absolutely nothing happened. But that's not what I was concerned with. As a visual artist it's the theatrical element in the election campaigns that interests me. What I call "theatrical" is the fact that you know people are turning, lying and twisting. Take all those sexual intrigues, and Clinton who is plagued by all these lawsuits brought against him by women with whom he's supposedly had sexual relations. Just look at the way he denied that he ever smoked pot,or how he escaped the Vietnam draft. All told, the man is no stronghold of reliability. But the public thinks it's exciting having things turn up out of the past time and again. What I find so fascinating about this all is the complete lack of integrity, while integrity features so prominently in that moral flag we're all waving. That lack has no negative consequences for those involved, however, and that is really strange." "I was originally intending to travel to all of his speaking engagements. In the end I only went to one, in Florida, and it was a big disappointment.

There was nothing to discover in it; Clinton turned out to be a phenomenal director who pitted everyone against each other. A true exponent of Machiavelli. But at such a gathering that can't be filmed or photographed. I then left Florida with the idea that I would go look around outside the cities, in states like the Carolinas, and in the city of Washington. I didn't go looking for anything specific; the images are the result of what I, traveling in my faithful Ford Crown Victory, found along the way.

That's the way I always work anyway; I don't even have a permanent residence. (To back up this statement Ruiter pulls out his passport where, under Woonplaats / Domicile / Residence, there are only three dashes. C.S.) I like it this way, because you're a blank page and can encounter the most beautiful things. Looking around, you notice all sorts of things: the way the local press deals with these elections, how political rows determine the image, how the city responds to it. The people on the East Coast form neither a Republican nor a Democratic majority. You come across a diversity of views." The "photo-opera" promises to exhibit images at the speed of an express train. After the introductory lecture by the New York photography critic A. D. Coleman, who is well-acquainted with Ruiter's work, two video monitors will be turned on. Ruiter's film lasts about a half hour, during which nine billboards of about 6' x 8' along the side provide a constant commentary on the moving images. "Video and photographs are not objective registrations of events. They each give an autonomous commentary. That puts the artist in a unique position: he can translate all of his feelings and yet doesn't need to justify them," according to Jean Ruiter.