CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo

Thursday, 20 January 2011 18:06

Jpeg NY 15

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CE01466 / Thomas Ruff (Zell am Harmersbach, Germany, 1958)


2007. Digital photograph. 263 x 188 cm


This colour photograph dates from 2007, the year when Thomas Ruff decided to bring to an end his series of Jpegs which he had started in 2001, when the artist happened to be in New York during the 9-11 attacks and took a large number of photographs which turned out to be exposed. This led him to start looking for low-resolution Internet images and to play with them by enlarging the pictures to extreme sizes. The result was a disruption of their meaning and a re-stylisation, by means of distance, of an image of horror.

The German artist made regular use of this method afterwards, replacing his prior concern for issues such as the perception of the architectural, the portraiture of anonymous characters and the notion of urban landscape, undertaken with a treatment similar to the night vision broadcasting used in the Gulf War. He also began to use Internet images in a series about the nude. Ruff has always been very interested in the value of technique, the qualities of the photographic image and scale.

It is precisely the scale that initially overawes us about Jpeg NY 15. Measuring nearly three metres high by two long it draws our attention and immediately enthrals us. It is one of those terrible images taken from the air of the buildings falling down, seen precisely at the moment of collapsing: a large column of ashes and dust ascending and a cloud expanding horizontally, dwindling the adjacent skyscrapers.

Notwithstanding the terrible consequences behind the image, its effect is impressive. The grey of the city and of the collapse contrasts with the Hudson river in purplish tones, composing a moving and beautiful, lyrical and unforgettable view. The photographic distance resulting from the aerial view is somewhat reminiscent of the burning petrol station we saw in Hitchcock’s The Birds, but here with the addition of the technical aberration. The enlargement of the low-resolution image brings the pixel structure of its atomic reality to the fore, allowing us to look at a fiction of reality and at a plane of abstraction that is a by-product of the use of technology.

In this regard, Thomas Ruff’s reflection tries to trace the ambiguity of the photographic capturing of reality. An image that may be either beautiful or horrific, objective or loaded with subjectivity, real or responding to a fictional tableau. Jpeg NY 15 is all rolled into one: a crime and a beautiful landscape seen from the air, a visual sign where the unforgiving enlargement of an image seen a thousand times before brings its contradictions to the surface, as if in a window looking onto reality.


Abel H. Pozuelo






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