Art review

Deceptiveness of registered reality

The exhibition "real space conceptual space", brought by The Goethe Institute/Max Mueller Bhavan (CKP, March 11 to 27), offers an exceptionally aware and sensitive insight into quintessentially contemporary issues concerning the uncertain reliability of the photographic image of reality and its simultaneous creative potential that, on the one hand, probes and questions the limits of our perception and, on the other, involves the same along with the inherent aesthetic and technical properties of the camera to reveal complexities of urban surroundings, society and culture.

Conceptualised and selected by Ute Eskildsen, it contains photographic works by three mid-career artists from Germany. All of them being concerned with architectural spaces but each working in a different way and each represented by several, tightly related pieces, their contributions together suggest both a layered diversity within the phenomenon and its deeper connectedness. The show's topicality responds to the current pervasiveness of photographic representations of the world where trust in the veracity of their documentation still continues on the popular level, whereas the media, advertising, institutions of power and economy, aided by the facility of digital manipulation, bend them to shape human sensibilities, understanding of social or ideological paradigms and desires.

While photography proper has long established its value as art, visual artists increasingly avail of and individually transform the technique using it as any other tool of art making that can embody their experiences, reflections and intuitions. Thomas Demand's views of fragmentary interiors with daily objects instead of people may look like aesthetic studies of quiet disarray at the same time indicating and making anonymous stories or situations. Soon enough one realises that they are shots of other photographs dismantled and reconstructed in three dimensions of smooth cardboard sheets.

Thus, they are images of virtual places oscillating between plasticity and flatness, between residues of the intimately actual and the depersonalised or the imaginative, so alluding to the nature of our reality. The "Gustav" series of Susanne Brugger has aerial views of Paris taken from the Eiffel Tower, the nostalgic humour of the old-fashioned, black and white vistas turning the engineering-like precision of the images into serious sarcasm when, accompanied by official descriptions and superimposed by sharp, linear grids, they point to cartography as scientific and bureaucratic structures of measurement and authority but deny their certainties when they drive the mapping to obfuscating inanity.

The artist admits the necessity of systems, yet also their paralysing impact on the individual and the importance of subjective experience. That subjectivity with very conscious, analytical and simultaneously intuitive strata of it is achieved by Heidi Specker whose method starts from regular photographs of urban architecture only to transpose those into an autonomous image through digital interventions on the computer.

Retaining a link with the original representations of late modern buildings, she delves into their essential structures and patterns, from within their flattened surfaces and blurring vibrancy, conjuring subtly diverse, exquisitely poetic moods that capture current day sensations immersed in the past. The images become veritable contemporary equivalents of and counterparts of more traditional painting that related to a different reality.

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