c-print, diasec on dibond, Hubert Blanz, 2008
Today Distance is no More than a Number
Aeroplane, picture plane, plantation, tissue cultures, or a flight simulator (X-Plane) known for its realistic flights. Reading Hubert Blanz’s titles attentively has always helped in the identification of his work. But immersing oneself in the detailed information in X-Plantation can also reveal a lot about his interests and method of work, namely, “cultivating tissues living outside the body in artificial tissue cultures to study their growth and reproduction patterns and to compare these with organic process in living organisms.” The interlacing of content in the terms listed at the beginning of this text finds its correspondence with that of form, in the layering and staggering of the aerial images of airstrips.
Blanz gets his entire material from the Net, from our second world that we can effortlessly click our way through with the meanwhile unbelievably perfect satellite images. Cameras orbiting in space have a complete overview of the earth and capture everything. For the user, geographic distances shrink down to a few inches and numbers, depending on the size of the monitor. The virtual world of photos and geodata thus spread out before us allows us to not only cross the globe within seconds, but also time. After all, what we have before us is a puzzle made up of images of varying ages, often dating back several years.
Hubert Blanz took the screenshots as if with a camera: first selecting frame, distance and angle and then clicking. Once they are cropped, the airports can no longer be located geographically; they turn into graphic routes in varying colour tones with linear patterns and typographies – except in his computer files where the images are saved for the montage, for instance, as “Amsterdam”, or “Denver”.
Finally, we have before us airstrips layered like the stories of a building, as if the intention is to make aviation still more efficient. Is this exaggerated futuristic premonition too absurd?
Translations: Nita Tandon, Vienna
The world is at our feet in the digital world
"The new view is the view from above" 1) – this not only applies to the media's-eye view of the world (since the night shots of the Gulf War, the monitor images from CCTV and the satellite images in the web, the view from above has become more familiar to us), but also almost consistently to Hubert Blanz's photographic and film work.
The modern view from above was still clearly connected with the human body – for a view from a skyscraper the body had to be manoeuvred into extreme situations, which is how photographers such as Alexander Rodchenko achieved equally extreme angles. In contrast, our current view from above is steered by the technicisation of the world: a view, aided by image-recording systems and detached from the human body, gives rise to a particular perspective through computer navigation tools and zoom functions.
From this, our vicarious world, through which we can navigate with the help of satellite images and geodata software, Hubert Blanz takes his material which he compresses layer by layer into utopia-like image textures – into conglomerations of runways and motorways, in a density which used to be suggested at best in science fiction films. The almost unlimited visual access to this world entail an enormous spatial expansion, as was perhaps perceived at the time of the invention of photography, when in the 19th century it was suddenly possible to see precisely detailed realistic images of the most remote places in the world.
The fascination with imposing man-made structures – earlier the pyramids, today the gigantic constructions of airports and motorway junctions – persists. More fascinating still is that they exist not only vicariously, but also in individual reality – as evident from the cars on the roads, and especially from the traces left by wind, weather and the general marks of time, which make the runways, for instance, imagic elements at the same time subject to the influences of the real world.
1) Florian Rötzer: The Photographer as Architect in Hubert Blanz Slideshow, p. 58-67, SpringerWienNewYork, 2009.
Translation: Gail Schamberger, Fiona Schamberger