Frieze Magazine 2015
Construction Sight (extracts)
Article by Aaron Schuman, April 2015
Frieze Magazine 2015
Given the shape-shifting flexibility images have acquired in the digital age, photographic content should have gained prominence over photographic form. Indeed, as photographs migrate with ever-greater ease from the camera to the screen, to the internet, to print, mass-media outlets, their physical properties fluctuate. So much so that many artists on how a photograph is made than why.
For these artists, photography is defined more as a medium in the most fundamental and intangible sense of the word – as a means by which something is communicated or expressed – rather than as a singular object or substance in its own right.
But a number of young artists in recent years have been countering this definition. As the artist and writer Chris Wiley noted in his essay ‘Depth of Focus’ (published in frieze in late 2011), they are choosing to foreground the formerly ‘repressed’ aspects of the medium – ‘the physical support upon which the image is registered, myriad chemical and technical processes, as well as the numerous choices that were made by the photographer in capturing the image. These artists were born in the late 1970s and early-’80s and were the last to be educated primarily in darkrooms and photographic studios, spellbound early on by the alchemical magic and intimate physical connection to the photographs that these environments provided. They were also the first to mature alongside a rapidly evolving and increasingly ethereal digital medium, which has rendered – along with nearly all the analogue machines, methods, and material associated with it – practically obsolete.
A remarkable shift has occurred in the years since the publication of Wiley’s text. Many of the artists he cited – including Michele Abeles, Walead Beshty, Lucas Blalock and Mariah Roberston – have become increasingly visible and fluent in this new-found language. […] A growing number of artists working with photography are successfully countering both the deconstructionist tendencies of 20th-century postmodernism and the increasing ubiquity of digital imagery. Loosely gathered under the banner of ‘constructed photography’, their work makes the scaffolding of the photographic medium explicit and intricate. In so doing, it is re-establishing and, as the term implies, rebuilding photography as both a technical endeavour and a physical medium.
Rather than addressing particular histories, Asger Carlen’s ‘Hestrer’ (2011-12) and Noémie Goudal’s ‘Observatoires’ (Observatories, 2013-14) take on the familiar photographic tropes of the female nude and architectural typology, respectively. Both artists apply contemporary techniques to well-worn territories in a bid to reinvigorate them.
Goudal also invents realistic yet fictional photographic constructions through the amalgamation of existing ones – in the case, by digitally aggregating fragments of existing ones – in her case, by digitally aggregating fragments from images of concrete architecture found throughout Europe. She then reworks them into large-scale photographic backdrops that she rephotographs within barren landscapes or seascapes. The series reflects the influence of Bernd and Hilla Becher, yet catalogues a group of imagined rather than real post-industrial architectural monuments, which nevertheless convey a sense of rigour, purposefulness and stature. […]