P is for Artwork of Photography in the Age of Internet and Digital Reproduction

| April 25, 2014

I’ve always been intrigued in photography, of how it reveals the framings of perception. However, thinking about photography, and photography as art particularly in this digital era have always raised many questions. I happened to come across the Spanish photographer Joan Fontcuberta,who particularly creates his work based on the concept of photography in this age of internet and digital reproduction.

Fontcuberta was rather a foreign name, whom I only got to know through my Spanish colleague Laia who suggested to see his works in relation to my project. There were hardly any english published articles on the internet about this artist, so I bugged her to translate some articles while she also shared some insight of hers as an acquaintance of the artist.

Fontcubera’s Reflectograms (Nathalie Pariente Gallery, Paris, 2009), are images of people – mostly the younger generation, posing in front of the mirror and taking pictures of oneself. These photographs of self-portraits are usually taken through mirrors that are placed in private and intimate spaces such as bathrooms, hotels, club toilets, fitting rooms of clothes shops, car rear-view mirrors, and so on. These images have been posted on social media sites by them, and then culled by the artist to be exhibited in a gallery, and also published into a catalogue book.

Fontcuberta states that there is nothing better than a mirror to evoke the photographic act, and he claims the internet is “the enormous mirror of the world,” he exposes and publicizes these web-based images of self-photographic acts into a form of an exhibition show to be looked at and participated by its audience again.  Mirrors and cameras refer to the panoptic and scopic character of our society where everything is given to an absolute vision and all of us are guided by the pleasure of viewing. The self-photography and dissemination of these images through social networks, depict the rituals of communication of today: the ludic and self-exploratory character of the images prevails over memory, reflecting our engagement with the camera that has become so fully integrated into our daily life as if it has become a physical part of our body.

The exhibition gallery rooms are like darkrooms saturated with clustered images creating a spectacle of overflowed subjects. The visitors who come to the gallery can add their portraits to the exhibition in front of a mirror installed in a corner where a camera and software are provided.  The artist’s process of producing such an exhibition, raises issues regarding private and public, authorship and copyright, the critical issues concerned with the culture and technology of today.

Another thought provoking and controversial body of Fontcuberta’s work is Orogenesis_ Landscapes Without Memory (2002), where the artist created plausible and spectacular landscapes using the computer program Terragen, a software originally created for military and scientific uses. This software enables to turn cartographical information into images of three-dimensional terrain. However, instead of inputting the software with scans of maps which is the general way the program is used for military purposes, Fontcuberta fed the program with misinformation of visual data contained in famous paintings or pictures, and different parts of his anatomy. The final outcome becomes a splendid and astonishing landscapes.

Orogenesis Pollock, 2002 Orogenesis Weston, 2002                    Orogenesis Derain                         Orogenesis Turner

But to be honest, I don’t exactly know of how and what sort of visual information he has given the software program or the manipulations he’s done to get these final images from the works of famous artists such as Jackson Pollock, Weston, Derain, and Turner (images from above). In his interview with eyecurious.com, He addresses that the software is constrained to output a landscape whatever the input is, and that the software must produce an image within a limited vocabulary such as mountains, volcanoes, valley, rivers, oceans, and etc. He states that the default setting of the software is endowed with an unconscious model oriented towards spectacular landscapes, and that he has exaggerated to obtain a sense of kitsch or a reminiscent of the ahistorical landscapes of computer games.

He states that usually a place in contemporary art is presented metonymically as a remnant of a tragic event from the past, that hold layers of memory. However, in these series of Orogenesis, landscapes are beyond the influence of time, frozen in an uncertain geological age without any trace of culture or civilization. He states that there is nothing to commemorate nor nothing to remember in these landscapes that is like a “degree zero” terrain, and therefore they are landscapes without memory except for the memory of art.

His exploration with technology in relation to his ideas of subversion, turns a landscape “recycled” into another landscape. He addresses that this is a similar manner of our making of computers that produce hallucinations, and that we push technology to let its own unconscious emerge.

-References-

http://www.acvic.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=272:through-the-looking-glass-joan-fontcuberta&catid=59:expopeprojectes-expositius-eng&Itemid=88

http://nathaliepariente.wordpress.com/2009/04/12/joan-fontcuberta-through-the-looking-glass/

http://www.fotofest-paris.org/fontcuberta.html#

http://www.ipernity.com/blog/brancolina/504087

http://vimeo.com/51598961,  http://vimeo.com/56050834