The work of Nicole O’Niel is directed by sheer wonder about interpretation and construction of meaning. In her videos, O’Niel observes human behaviour very cautiously and minutely as if she’s walking around on this earth for the first time. Patiently she observes her surroundings: the habits and language of people, the objects they use and objects that are worshipped.
But like the newcomer the viewer is often left out of the loop. One starts to wonder why one thing is considered to be valuable and the other to be worthless? Language and gestures have become meaningless and inaccessible and that’s the way they appear in the video’s of O’Niel. Her work reveals the arbitrary constructions that are built to communicate and to force differentiation between meaningful and meaningless.
The title ‘By Daylight’ refers to the banality of everyday life. The harsh daylight forces us to wake up from a dreamlike state. O’Niel portrays people that are trying to cope with this inescapability of reality. Her portraits suggest an inner struggle but there is never a moment when truth is revealed. Sometimes the border between normal functioning or irrational deviant behaviour is blurred. We are left with the outward gestures and expressions and the feeling that we will never fully know what is going on inside. O’Niel is interested in this gap between the external form and inner experience.
Using the puzzlement about the border between inside and outside, legibility and illegibility O’Niel suggests that there are other forms of knowledge that are not to be expressed in coded forms of language and makes an appeal to the viewer to tap from other sources to understand those things that remain unveiled.