Műcsarnok, until 15th February 2009

Thomas Ruff doesn't so much take photographs as 'take' them. However, Ruff is no petty thief nor is he a rip-off merchant. A great deal of his photographic output has to do with the appropriation and manipulation of images into a broader conceptual idea.

One of his greatest concerns is commentary on the image as well as photography as a medium, to illustrate first-hand that a photograph is not in fact what Roland Barthes would call the “spectrum” - the actual things being photographed. Rather, Ruff’s work concentrates on Barthes’ “stadium” - the interpretation and contextualization - or in Ruff’s case, re-contextualization and de-contextualization. He is not so much a Photographer as he is an Artist, or Mediator.

His most noted work to date is his jpeg series where he pulls somewhat iconic images from the Internet - such as the freshly attacked, yet still standing, Twin Towers in New York - blows them up to enormous proportions (the long side usually measuring around 3 meters), and pixelates them, removing information which renders them unrecognizable at close range. However, the image of the 9/11 attack (ny02, 2004) is missing from the show, bringing into doubt how representative this “retrospective” actually is.

His other noteworthy series that features photos pulled and manipulated from the Web are his Nudes, a series of pornographic photos. The artist doesn’t pixelate these images in the same manner but instead blurs them, bringing countless genitals, plastic-looking breasts and vinyl lingerie into the realm of what might just border on tastefulness.

Some of the work in the exhibition will have you wondering what exactly Ruff considers photography in the first place. His Substratum series, for example, just looks like old iTunes visualizer screen shots. Similarly, in the Zycles series, which takes centre stage in the exhibition space, Ruff uses computer formulas to create huge psychedelic canvases, which he likens to children’s meaningless scribbles. And meaningless they are, especially with the sub-par explanations he gives with each series. Perhaps he reveals too much; that there really isn't as much going on behind each photo as one might give him credit for.


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