Magazine article Artforum International

Thomas Struth

Magazine article Artforum International

Thomas Struth

Article excerpt

CARRE D'ART, MUSEE D'ART CONTEMPORAIN

At the entrance to the Carre d'Art, site through mid-June of the first large-scale exhibition devoted to Thomas Struth's work in Europe, two oversize photographs face one another: an exterior shot of the Buddhist monastery of Todai-Ji in Nara, Japan, and an interior view of the Pantheon. These international tourist destinations were also originally places of worship, so it's not unexpected to see these images, among seventy-eight other works by Struth, displayed here, a few yards from the Maison Carree - a Roman temple from the beginning of the Christian era now transformed, naturally, into.a museum. Should we see an allegorical agenda in this subtle play of echoes? But if so, an agenda of what? Of the photographer's work? The spectator's vision, of contemplation? Perhaps both.

Consider the counterpoint instituted, so to speak, between these two images. The outside shot of Todai-Ji evokes the East, Buddhism (a religion without a god), the taste for emptiness, contingency, a sense of sprawling time, and the sovereignty of appearances. With the inside image of the Pantheon we get the West, the Roman gods and Christian god (as well as the attendant roster of saints), history, art history, and the subject magnified in the person of the great artist (the Pantheon is, after all, the burial site of Raphael). As Struth practices photography, the medium partakes equally of these two universes. Presented in contemporary-art museums and galleries, photography borrows formats as well as themes and compositional procedures from Western painting, which, it so happens, is often the subject matter in these images (rooms in museums, paintings in Italian churches, Gerhard Richter sitting in the middle of one of his exhibitions). Along with Jeff Wall and Cindy Sherman, Struth is the prototypical artist/photographer, of a recent stripe at any rate, with all the conflicts and contradictions that come with such a configuration (which is not to suggest, of course, on my part or Struth's, that the art of photography is located here and here only). But Struth's work doesn't traffic in narrative, theater, or artifice; nor do we find psychological investigation, an attempt to point out deeper meanings at play behind the image. Rather, as Barthes reminds us near the beginning of Camera Lucida, in the photograph "the event is never transcended for the sake of something else"; the individual photo is only an occurrence of "the absolute Particular," the tathata of the Buddhists ("the fact of being so"). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.