For over thirty years, Joan Fontcuberta has been consistently striving to point out the boundaries of art, science, photography and reality, weaving seducing narratives and optical illusions that serve as a counterweight to the often controversial truth claims of images and discourse.
Constellations (1993) is a series that depicts rather unusual stellar landscapes. It is a night take of the summertime libation of insects on his car’s windshield. The ungraded black appears to be speckled with irregular white traces or haphazard incidents that compose enigmatic stellar images. Their light does not emanate from the depths of the Big Bang, but from a camera’s common flash, while the inclusion of celestial coordinates in the caption of each image intensifies the crucial questions concerning the distance that often lurks between reality and its representation.
In Orogenesis (2002-2005), Fontcuberta uses topographical software that turns cartographical data into 3D representations of landscapes, used by geologists, military personnel, topographers and geographers. But instead of maps, the artist feeds the computer with landscape works created by great painters and photographers, including Eugène Atget, Ansel Adams, Hokusai and Wassily Kandinsky. The output is a completely imaginary landscape. Irrespective of period or style, they all converge to a content-free naturalism, which is based on an unknown algorithm, lacking the intervention of photographic materials or practices. These landscapes are devoid of experiences or memories, and no one has ever walked across them. This is also a unique appropriation that transforms the original works featured in the collections of great museums, thereby signifying one of art’s roles as a constant, open dialogue between ideas and artworks.
In his recent Trauma series (2016), he looks at photographs that have been altered by unidentified interventions or the fascinating chemistry of passing time. Which broken reality is interpreted by these surfaces? What amount of distortion must the information conveyed by a photograph sustain, before the viewer can be released from its plausibility? Or is it that even then, we mentally attempt to connect the fragments of forms, in order to grab on to a reality that is violated, a narrative that is ruptured? Seen as a whole, Fontcuberta’s work tries to demystify the implicit power of the image, the exclusivity of artistic authority, suggesting, instead, a stance of active questioning of a world that is rapidly supplanted by ephemeral and often inexplicable images of itself.
MOMus-Museum of Contemporary Art-Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art and State Museum of Contemporary Art Collections