© Thomas Ruff

ma.r.s. 19

ArtistThomas RUFF
Year2011
Material/ Techniquechromogenic print
Size/ DurationH255×W185cm
Copyright Notice© Thomas Ruff
Year of acquisition/ donation2018
DescriptionBorn in Zell am Harmersbach, Germany in 1958. Lives and works in Düsseldorf.

Thomas Ruff has been a leading figure in contemporary photography since the 1990s when he emerged as part of the Becher School. Along with Andreas GURSKY and Thomas STRUTH, Ruff studied photography with Bernd BECHER at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. First garnering attention for his towering, two-meter portraits, since then he has produced work on various themes from architecture and urban landscapes to nudes and celestial bodies, through his output engaging in an ongoing exploration of the possibilities of photography as a medium intimately integrated into our vision, and perception.

Following a series of “nudes” (1999-), for which he appropriated images from the flood of anonymous pornography on the internet and digitally modified them, in the “Substrate” series (2001-) Ruff embarked on the deconstruction of images themselves. Completely dismantling images taken from Japanese adult comics, in other words fictional expressions of the human form depicted in a two-dimensional picture plane, he reduced them to a state of “nothing” in terms of visual information, without even a border between real and virtual, and offered them up instead as abstract images formed by disquieting, squirming blocks of color. Meanwhile, in "ma.r.s. 19", produced using images of the Mars surface captured by NASA’s Mars explorer, Ruff digitized images shot in three wavelengths corresponding to green, infrared, and near-infrared, also altering the angle from its original directly overhead perspective, to turn the images into the kind of scenes that might greet future humans when they land on Mars. In this work Ruff layers the false and the imaginary to create an hitherto unseen landscape, turning photography ̶ which usually conveys information about a past point in time ̶ into a device for capturing time in the future, thus taking the pursuit of documentarity and verisimilitude under which photography has previously labored and flipping it to expose the fabricated nature of imagery.

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