Textual Speech and Cognitive Thinking

Andreas Gursky Bahrain I 2005

“A switch to digital photography in the early ’90s allowed Mr. Gursky to take large-format photographs and to manipulate the images in digital postproduction — by “pumping up the color sometimes or combining several different images in order to get this really even perspective, where you can see everything and details that aren’t available from just one perspective are suddenly made available to you,” Mr. Rugoff explained…
At the turn of the millennium, Mr. Gursky started digitally recomposing photographs to give them a look similar to abstract paintings. In his record-setting river view “Rhine II” (1999), for instance, the perfectly straight lines of green and gray recall abstract paintings by Barnett Newman or Kenneth Noland. Mr. Gursky edited out a power station that spoiled the composition.” [Farah Nayeri on Andreas Gursky]

Andreas Gursky 99 Cent 1999

“This globalised world of hyperbole, simultaneity and immediacy is omnipresent in Gursky’s work. In his images of frenetic stock exchange trading floors, factories, farms, shops and airports, he has documented the last 30 years of global capitalism. His photograph of a busy Italian port in Salerno I (1990) encapsulates a diagram of the global capitalist economic system almost in its entirety. Cranes continuously transfer candy-coloured containers of consumer goods to and from the colossal cargo ships ready to be distributed along their implied network of international trade routes. The foreground is carpeted with rows of vehicles awaiting transit while high-rise blocks of offices and housing glower in the background, fuelled by the economic activity visibly enacted in the foreground…
These images require a kind of ‘double vision’, a simultaneous engagement with the scale of the whole and the minutiae of individual detailsParis, Montparnasse (1993) presents the facade of a vast 18-storey slab block, stretching suggestively beyond the edge of the frame. From afar, the image speaks of mass housing, anonymity, dense urban inhabitation, a machine for living in. It is almost a monumental abstract Mondrian painting in itself. But within the building’s rigid Modernist structure, we are allowed an insight into hundreds of unique human lives: a snapshot into 750 frozen narratives.Walking along its 10-foot length, the eye picks out the bold interior design decisions, the hoarders, the shelves of books, bicycles and house plants.” [Eleanor Beaumont on Andreas Gursky]

“I see the essential commonality behind that which is depicted. The subject seems to be just a pretext for our interest in and concern with the way the world is constituted. The eye of the camera stands in for the position of the novice, who questions the world and who cannot construe things that are supposedly self-evident. I’m thinking here, for instance, of [your photograph of] the dismantled engine block carried by two men [2008]. Compared to the compositions of your masterworks, it looks almost unfinished, and yet it remains firmly fixed in my memory, in terms of what I was just talking about. In certain ways, it is perhaps paradoxical to want to say something about the way the world is constituted, while at the same time insisting on the visible in all its clarity and detail—an extension, so to speak, of textual speech and cognitive thinking. That probably sounds very theoretical and I’ve deviated rather from your questions, but ultimately it is also simply the pure joy of seeing and the fascination with it that constantly drives us to make new pictures…
I think that we have created an intrinsic visual system that believes in the possibility of depicting reality, and through it creating knowledge. We will probably never abandon this territory, and preserving this tradition doesn’t make any sense to the younger generation. Or they see very few possibilities in inheriting and developing it, because the field has already been ploughed and the whole subject has, as we so charmingly say in German, been gobbled up for breakfast. I completely agree that the younger generation have persuasively developed other approaches and have calmly disregarded concepts like authenticity. Concepts that, in certain ways, seem sacred to us. Wade Guyton comes to mind, who has broken new ground with his montage and destruction techniques and who bridges different disciplines convincingly. I think he is the big figure that the younger generation are identifying with at the moment. [Andreas Gursky in conversation with Jeff Wall

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