The Substrat series is based on Japanese Manga and Anime images that are overlaid and digitally modified until they lose their depth, to leave space for a simple pictorial surface. The images thus transform into surprising effects of abstract colours that can be reproduced endlessly, mechanically, without human intervention producing errors or variations and losing any relationship with their original sources. Despite their photographic output these images appear to be investigations beneath the surface of the photograph. Their very title, Substrat, seems to affirm the presence of something underneath, something primeval and alluding to the essence of photography itself.
The NASA website has an archive of black and white images of the planet Mars. The photographs were taken with the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experience) system, developed in 2006 by the University of Arizona. Fascinated by the extremely high definition of the images, through which it is possible to observe every tiny variation of the surface of Mars, despite it being so far away, the artist has worked on the photographs, colouring and compressing them to create unusual perspectives to give the viewer the impression of flying towards the planet or over it. He has thus created images of real images that do not conform to reality and are therefore deceptive, despite their apparently scientific vocation.
The last of the photographer’s projects, Jpeg, is a synthesis of the main aspects of his work. The primary element is distancing oneself from subjectivity: the images are ready-made and the artist has simply appropriated them (the choice of images is random and they may be used a long time after they were taken), showing how it is impossible to represent reality through photography. The images appear as enormous pixel mosaics, in which the subject can be glimpsed but not clearly seen. Technology is the leading player. The surface of the broken down image highlights colours and patterns that could not be seen before, but as we move away from these we perceive the subjects, whether everyday, banal or dramatic, shown with no hierarchy of importance. It is hard for the eye to perceive the tragic nature of some of these deconstructed images, made difficult to recognise, and only the aesthetic beauty is visible. The representation thus loses all its documentary function and offers a purely aesthetic/visual experience and is transformed into mere graphic experimentation.
Thomas Ruff’s works exhibited here are part of the group exhibition No Man Nature.
Exhibition curated by Elio Grazioli and Walter Guadagnini
Works by Darren Almond, Enrico Bedolo, Ricardo Cases, Pierluigi Fresia, Stephen Gill, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster e Ange Leccia, Mishka Henner, Amedeo Martegani, Richard Mosse, Thomas Ruff, Batia Suter, Carlo Valsecchi, Helmut Völter
The approach chosen for the No Man Nature exhibit is to explore the topics of ‘nature without man’ and ‘man without nature’, suggesting a heuristic reflection flowing from two opposite extremes. These extremes no longer mean just the unexplored, the unknown, the invisible and the unimaginable, but actually imply the possibility of a world no longer inhabited by man and, at the opposite end, of man’s invention of a world no longer inhabited by nature. These possibilities can in turn be perceived as dangers: on the one hand, there is the ecological danger of the destruction of nature and the self-destruction of the human species, and on the other, there is the danger of a “technological” euphoria with the attendant isolation of the human being from the world. And again: sometimes we yearn to live in an unspoilt and deserted natural environment, like a dream of an impossible new beginning, while at the same time we are building a world modelled entirely on the virtual and the imaginary, including a natural world that is equally virtual and imaginary.
Finally, we might argue that if things are, or are going, that way, then there must be a reason for it. Hence, our reflection on extreme cases will also be an inquiry into ‘where we are at’. The exhibit uses images in order to raise these questions, putting forward examples that will urge viewers to ask themselves what their own position is with regard to these questions.
The general idea is always to use photography not as a document and a representation in itself, but as an opportunity in terms of the questions it elicits and its thought-provoking power. The issues raised about the man-nature relationship thus also become a metaphor of the role and function of photography.
Thomas Ruff is a leading member of the group of artists grew at the Academy of Düsseldorf in the name of Bernd and Hilla Becher.
Known to the public since the mid-eighties for large portraits of his peers, the German artist has always been great investigator of the photographic medium and its many possible variations.
Assuming that photography can capture only the surface of things, “the authenticity of a predetermined and manipulated reality”, Ruff concentrates his interest in the construction of the image, as in the now famous series of Portraits and Ma.rs , in its manipulation during the printing process, as in Substract, or in more recent works of the cycle Jpeg. Breaking away from the teaching of his teachers, Ruff, instead of the black and white strongly contrasted, prefers the seduction of color, assumption that radically changes the tradition of documentary photography.
Solo exhibitions dedicated to the artist were made, among others, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo 2002; Tate Liverpool, 2003; Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation in 2006; Sprengel Museum, Hannover 2007; Moderna Museet, Stockholm 2007; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna 2009; Castello di Rivoli, Turin 2009; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Málaga 2011; Haus der Kunst, Monaco 2012.
His works are housed in the collections of numerous museums: Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; The Art Institute of Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
In Italy the works of Thomas Ruff are preserved at the MAXXI in Rome, the Castello di Rivoli and MART in Rovereto.
In 2006 he received the Infnity Award from the International Center of Photography in New York.
Saturday, May 16_11am_Teatro Cavallerizza
No Man Nature: Diane Dufour, Elio Grazioli and Walter Guadagnini with Enrico Bedolo, Pierluigi Fresia, Mishka Henner, Carlo Valsecchi, Helmut Völter. Book signing to follow
Palazzo da Mosto
via Mari, 7
42121 Reggio Emilia
• during the inaugural days
05/15 › 7pm - midnight
05/16 › 10am - midnight
05/17 › 10am - midnight
• from May 22 to July 26 the exhibits are open from friday to sunday
Friday › 4pm-11pm
Saturday › 10am-11pm
Sunday and holidays › 10am-8pm