press release

Kunst­hal­le Düs­sel­dorf is pre­sen­ting an ex­hi­bi­ti­on of works by the Ger­man pho­to­gra­pher Tho­mas Ruff (b. 1958, Zell am Har­mers­bach), a lea­ding fi­gu­re of the Düs­sel­dorf School of Pho­to­gra­phy. ‘Lich­ten’ shows ex­am­ples of fi­ve of the ar­tist's se­ries, co­ver­ing the last 35 ye­ars, from the la­te 1970s to the pre­sent: from a se­mi-do­cu­men­ta­ry ap­proach to a post-di­gi­tal pho­to­gra­phic stra­te­gy, from na­tu­ral to vir­tu­al light.

The ex­hi­bi­ti­on is cent­red on two new se­ries by Ruff: ‘Phg’ (Pho­to­grams, star­ted in 2012), a vir­tu­al si­mu­la­ti­on of the clas­si­cal gen­re of the pho­to­gram, and ‘Ne­ga­ti­ve’ (star­ted in 2014), in which the ar­tist re­aches back to pho­to­gra­phy's roots in the 19th cen­tu­ry. In ad­di­ti­on, the ex­hi­bi­ti­on pres­ents ex­cer­pts from ‘Ster­ne’ (1989-1992), ‘Näch­te’ (1992-1996) and his first se­ries, ‘In­te­ri­eurs’ (1979-1983). Tech­ni­cal con­s­i­de­ra­ti­ons, ren­de­red in ima­ges of stars at night, in­fra­red shots of ci­ty sub­urbs and do­mestic still li­fes, pro­vi­de a po­li­ti­cal and so­ci­al per­spec­tive on the sta­tus of ima­ges. In its his­to­ri­cal span, the show ex­tends bey­ond the li­mi­ta­ti­ons of ana­lo­gue pho­to­gra­phy wi­th the see­mingly li­mit­less pos­si­bi­li­ties of con­tem­pora­ry image pro­duc­tion.

In­s­tead of pho­to­gra­phing our dai­ly rea­li­ty, Ruff fo­cu­ses on por­tray­ing the rea­li­ties of pho­to­gra­phy. His wor­king pro­cess is ba­sed on the me­tho­do­lo­gy of what was cal­led a "sci­en­ti­fic ar­tist". In each of his se­ries Ruff uses the me­di­um of pho­to­gra­phy to un­der­ta­ke a sys­te­ma­tic ana­ly­sis through which so­ci­al, po­li­ti­cal and aest­he­tic as­pects of image-ma­king are re­flec­ted, and thus al­so the his­to­ry of Mo­der­ni­ty. The ques­ti­on of the na­tu­re of light, still not ful­ly ex­plo­red, is fle­s­hed out as the show’s leit­mo­tif: in each of the se­ries light as­su­mes a dif­fe­rent func­tion, ran­ging from the gent­le do­cu­men­ta­ry il­lu­mi­na­ti­on of ho­me décor in post-war Ger­ma­ny in In­te­ri­eurs to the re­la­ti­on of space and ti­me in Ster­ne, via an ar­ti­fi­ci­al­ly ren­de­red ar­te­fact in the pho­to­grams.

Fur­ther­mo­re, one of Ruff's ‘phg’-se­ries is pro­du­ced in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on wi­th the Jü­lich Re­se­arch Cent­re in North-Rhi­ne West­pha­lia. By stret­ching the power of the sci­en­ti­fic in­sti­tu­ti­on's su­per­com­pu­ters to their li­mits, Ruff’s works may al­so be in­ter­pre­ted as in­di­rect por­traits of ma­chine­ry. At ano­ther le­vel this col­la­bo­ra­ti­on bet­ween an ar­tist, a mu­se­um and a sci­ence cent­re re­pres­ents a new mo­del of co­ope­ra­ti­on bet­ween the arts and the na­tu­ral sci­en­ces.

An ex­hi­bi­ti­on of S.M.A.K., Ghent, rea­li­sed in co­ope­ra­ti­on wi­th Kunst­hal­le Düs­sel­dorf 

The ex­hi­bi­ti­on is pro­du­ced wi­th the sup­port of the Kunst­stif­tung NRW.