Monday, February 2, 2009

Andreas Gursky Interview

Veit Görner : You recently mentioned that you have to defend yourself against being described as a landscape or architectural photographer. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that many of your early photos really do show the countryside of your homeland and, later, alpine landscapes. And even in more recent pictures such as “Yogyakarta”, “Grand Hyatt Park” or “Rhein”. nature and the landscape don't seem to have lost their appeal for you. However, the sometimes overwhelming fascination that these pictures of natural beauty exercise on the viewer can make us forget all too easily that human beings or other traces of civilization are also in the picture. But there are two aspects of your pictures that I find even more interesting than this little contrast. Firstly, that you've added a global view of things to your local perspective, which I believe quite pragmatically is a result of the trips you take in connection with your artistic activities. What I find more interesting, however, is that your more recent works have become more strictly formal. What could be thought of as an arbitrary situation is dominated by a structure, such as in “Rhein”, the pictures of Portman architecture, or the almost stage-managed pictures of shoes, “Prada I” and “II” or “o.T.V.”. How did this shift in emphasis come about? Is it just a way of avoiding being confused with other artists, or is it the result of a new fascination with the idea of order or the serially ornamental?

Andreas Gursky : Yes, my pictures really are becoming increasingly formal and abstract. A visual structure appears to dominate the real events shown in my pictures. I subjugate the real situation to my artistic concept of the picture. Apart from the constantly recurring elements I have already mentioned, another aspect occurs to me which explains the way my pictures function. You never notice arbitrary details in my work. On a formal level, countless interrelated micro and macrostructures are woven together, determined by an overall organizational principle. A closed microcosm which, thanks to my distanced attitude towards my subject, allows the viewer to recognize the hinges that hold the system together. Of course, there are adequate reasons to justify such a formal, schematic representation of reality.
If you talk about my interest in nature, I have to explain my extended notion of nature. I am perhaps more interested in the nature of things in general - again and again, the term "aggregate state" comes to mind when I describe the existential state of things.

Being confused with other photographers has ceased to be an issue for me since l stopped working thematically. After my degree our work did occasionally overlap within the Becher circle, which sometimes caused headaches. The more success we had, however, the more we learnt to deal with such things more calmly - thank God. But it would be a sorry state of affairs if my artistic development were to depend on the results of my colleagues' work. The shift in emphasis you mention could also be seen as a logical progression from the seemingly naive landscapes of the Eighties to today's drier and more abstract pictures. I believe that there's also a certain form of abstraction in my early landscapes: for example, I often show human figures from behind and thus the landscape is observed «through» a second lens. I don't name the activities of the human figures specifically and hence do not question what they do in general. The camera's enormous distance from these figures means that they become de-individualized. So I am never interested in the individual, but in the human species and its environment. This is also true of Rhein. I wasn't interested in an unusual, possibly picturesque view of the Rhine, but in the most contemporary possible view of it. Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ, a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river. The same thing happened when I visited over 70 world-famous industrial companies. Most of them had a socio-romantic air I hadn't expected. I was looking for visual proof of what I thought would be antiseptic industrial zones. If these companies had been systematically documented one would have had the feeling one was back in the days of the Industrial Revolution. After this experience I realized that photography is no longer credible, and therefore found it that much easier to legitimize digital picture processing.

No comments: