“Thomas Struth: Nature & Politics” at MAST, Bologna
The MAST Foundation presents a selection of large colour images by the German photographer Thomas Struth. The images represent the cutting edge, experimentation and innovation in human activity. Shot in industrial and scientific research sites throughout the world, the photographs on exhibit “call into question the development of technology as the unique promise of human progress”.
“In 2007, I began research on a new corpus of works entitled Nature & Politics, which calls into question the relationship between these two categories and technological development as a unique promise of human progress. More recently, I added three works shot at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin to this category, which deal with the direct relationship between the human body and technology and the theme of mortality. Within this sphere, I’d like to explore the processes at work behind imagination and fantasy“, says Thomas Struth, one of the most renowned and established artists on the international scene, and the author of the 25 large-format photographs on exhibit in the MAST PhotoGallery.
The exhibition Nature & Politics is a journey of discovery into places to which the general public generally has no access, and it provides a glimpse of the unknown world behind technological innovation. The artist has photographed space research laboratories, nuclear power plants, operating rooms, and drilling platforms with painstaking care, detached curiosity and an ability to observe the characteristics of spaces, workstations and infrastructures to which researchers no longer see after having spent hours, days and years there. Thomas Struth focuses on the machines as tools to transform contemporary society, and explores the aesthetics of innovation and experimentation: he records the concealed power and influence that advanced technologies have on our existence.
“With these images”, explains Urs Stahel, the exhibition’s curator “Struth moves about in forbidden zones, in worlds whose access is usually denied to us. He shows us a series of scientific and hypertechnological experiments, new developments, research, measurement processes and interventions that at some unspecified time, in the present or future, in a direct or mediated way, will penetrate our lives and change their course”.
“For me, it’s a question of wondering how something that did not exist previously in the mind can materialize into a concept and become part of reality. When we use the expression ‘imagine something’, we are already recognizing the brain’s ability to think in images”, explains the photographer.
This is another reason why Struth does not believe in the explanatory role of captions. For the photographer – whose intention is to stimulate the observer’s ability to interpret images – one does not grasp the meaning of a shot simply by knowing what it is showing, as with a documentary photo, but by looking beyond the image.
“Even though the technological photographs are so clear, precise and balanced, they can never convey precise information. These universes are and remain unfathomable, devoid of a key, explanations or contextualisation”, the curator adds.
At level 0 of the Gallery, in the video projection Read This Like Seeing It for the First Time from 2003, the artist portrays human labour and our ability to work with the greatest manual and artistic precision. The video, which documents five classical guitar lessons held by Frank Bungarten at the Lucerne School of Music, illustrates the close interaction between teacher and students, the necessary exchange between teaching and learning, between giving and receiving. “In this era of ours, where we’re witnessing a prodigious leap forward towards a gradual robotization of the labour market, it’s crucial that we carefully observe and emphasize all that we humans are capable of doing”, says Urs Stahel.
at MAST, Bologna
until 22 April 2019