A juncture has been reached in the contemporary moment of our society. The advent of fake news, information warfare, a web held hostage and the commodification of politics have left us in a maelstrom of images that conflict, saturate and construct partisan sides in debates that never were. Anti-vaxxers turn belief into fact, Trump perfects fake-news doublethink and sophisticated algorithms deliver our data to commercial enterprises. At the centre of this rotating nebula of material sits us. The viewers, consumers and members of society who live in world where belief, fact, fiction and opinion hold equal space depending on the weight we attribute to them. The future belongs to images and what will become of them when the context is immutably fluid through the contemporary into the historical.
It’s hard to think we are not all but players on a stage, being subtly manipulated into dramatically ironic crescendo by forces unseen. If the world is the stage for this production then Moritz Wegwerth’s photographs are the tableau for this phenomenon. Times square, disassembled after Trumps election victory, stands at the centre of a cavalcade of advertising imagery. So often it has felt as if we are at the centre of a bizarre Netflix special, and Wegwerth’s images translate this feeling of unbelievable reality with a focus on the gears that drive the social machine forwards. Workers remove the stage, each seemingly engaged with a dramatic narrative of their own yet preparing for the presidency of consumerism become politic. Wegwerth’s aesthetic immediately draws comparisons to the Barthesian tableau photographers who construct their sets meticulously. However, Wegwerth does not setup his works as carefully but rather refers us to the constructivism present in contemporary discourse, it’s fragility and it’s awesome power.
If Wegwerth’s photographs act as a comment on our contemporary obsession with how images act as both tools of influence and of the influencer, Kristian Touborg’s practice examine how fragmentary and impermanent our digital depictions are throughout the passage of time. If our imagery is so pervasive and personal now, where are the lines between belief and fact when the images are separated from context. In an age where data is becoming more than a collection of 1s and 0s, but a harvestable resource to be exploited, the artist creates archaeological reliefs of imagery and data from a near future society. In the same way that re-opening a jpeg file slowly corrupts the present visual information, Touborg meticulously creates a digital catalog of local ephemera using a camera and portable 3D scanner to create a visual library that he then constructs his panels into. If Mortiz Wegwerth is the artist examining imagery’s effect on society, Touborg is the archaeologist examining societies effect on imagery.
If Wegwerth as a practitioner is a visual critic then Touborg acts as a visual anthropologist. Both artists scour and reconstitute visual images from a shared cultural reservoir of content. Both artists ask the question of how we position ourselves between the ideas of belief, relic, knowledge, reality and fiction. Seeing ourselves as both author and construction within the works of Wegwerth and Touborg we are reminded of our relative size to visual culture. Rather it being a total product of ourselves we are a conduit into which singularities pass and reconstitute themselves anew infinitely.