LESS IS A BORE
Robert Venturi is an American architect, one of the leading exponents of the postmodern trend. The author is the proponent of a complex and contradictory architecture: his most famous statement is “Less is a bore!”, which rebuts to the even more famous Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s quote.
In 1966 Venturi published his manifesto, Complexity and contradictions in Architecture. More generally, starting from those years the culture has introduced contradiction as an existential condition. The impossibility of reaching a comprehensive and perfect synthesis of reality has manifested in each sector: even mathematics seems to have lost its rational foundations, as already emerged from Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, according to which each sufficiently complete system is internally inconsistent.
With reference to pictures, this historical period coincided with the evolution from photography to the photographic art, which has given birth to a series of studies that were grouped under the term “photo-conceptualism”: these are years of experimentation, of photojournalism’s parody (Robert Smithson), of the first artist’s photo books (Ed Ruscha) and of the introduction of automatism as a form of expression.
The production of the artistic duo formed by Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs roots in this movement, but it comes to results that go beyond the art’s denial and the image’s deconstruction as a preferred method to interpret complexity, in favor of an expansion of the photographic medium. Supported by the attempts made by their predecessors, Onorato & Krebs respond to the same “crisis of representation” of that time with greater accuracy and less intransigence, aware that photography cannot get totally rid of it.
Starting from the axiom that photography as a finished product acquires importance only through the mental and physical process that created it, the Swiss duo puts the misleading arbitrariness of perception in the middle of the game and they let this latter driving the mechanism they cleverly designed; at the same time, the attention devoted to the technical instruments and to the procedures adopted for the realization of their images brings the instantaneous and truthful nature of photography into question. The medium’s limits are overcome through their acceptance and demonstration, and in doing so the camera turns into a “super-instrument” with amplified and almost miraculous potentials.
The project Constructions is emblematic in this sense. The series, which begun in 2009 in Berlin – the city elected as the artists’ headquarters – is based on an optical trick which combines, on the same photographic plane, two conceptually distinct and spatially distant levels: on the background, never completed buildings under construction, on the foreground, wooden structures created by the artists themselves that seem to complete the buildings’ missing parts, thanks to a precise calibration between the human and the mechanical eye. The series was expanded in 2011, when the duo applied the same process to unfinished architectures abandoned in Lucania, Italy.
In this context, photography – by its nature a two-dimensional art, subject to the existence – does not stop in front of the need for documentation, goes beyond the possibility of denunciation and acquires a proactive value, to the point of covering a job which is not its own – like, indeed, to solve the unfinished architecture. This is because, along with the order of space, the cognitive structure which regulates the comprehension of the represented context is also undermined: the notions of motionless and ephemeral, heavy and precarious are confused and reversed, and we are forced to rethink the categories of meaning through which we interpret not only the images but also the reality.
The classic and rationalist cut of the photographs and the strict black and white, which immediately recall the industrial archeology images of the Bechers, are the elements that close the circle. Onorato & Krebs create a value out of the limit, a door to a new multi-faceted vision towards which they direct us with grace, precision and irony.
This article was published on YET magazine #7, December 2014