Andreas Gursky interview

by Jiang Zhi

On the occasion of Andreas Gursky’s first solo show in Asia, Jiang Zhi, a leading artist and photographic practitioner from China, spoke with the revolutionary photographic artist.

Jiang Zhi: You “capture” images that interest you in the real world. One characteristic I noticed about these images is the strong attraction for the schema/forms that we see in the world. In their absolute concrete and full reality, they also manifest an abstraction — if you will permit me a comparison, and allow a dialog between us. For instance, in some of your works, you captured images akin to digitally reproduced images (factory workers, masses at a North Korean ceremony, artificial landscapes, tightly packed merchandise, among others). Then there are also the reflections of light on the ripples of polluted water in the Bangkok series, for they, too, are spontaneous images based on “glitches” of the monitor screen. I see them as a sign of “glitches.” What do you think of that?

Andreas Gursky: In the case of the Bangkok pictures, the play of light on water was a phenomenon that I observed first hand, not through a lens. It was this direct observation of the dynamics of natural phenomena over time that led me to decide to try to capture what I saw and to transform it, via a lengthy working process, into a series of artistic impressions that also evoke references to other (abstract) art. Chance often plays an important role in initiating my work, but then the detailed work of making pictures takes over.

JZ: There is an idea out there that the images in the world are in fact the images in our minds, and the images can only be formed within a limited system of decoding, so the images in this world of ours are decoded and deciphered by our human systems of decoding/decipherment.

I would really like to know how you think of images? Artists provide their ways or modes of viewing the images in the world; by quoting or citing them, they make the images appear to people. Do you trust these images?

AG: The human imagination is a complex mechanism. I am not really sure what you are asking here but all art, however contrived its representation may be, is a fact as much as reality is. Objectivity have never been a goal for me in my work, although it is often a starting point.

JZ: How do you see an artist’s political stance influencing art production? Do artists need to express their political attitude in their works?

AG: Making art reflects a world view, whether vast or intimate, therefore it’s impossible not to be influenced by your political convictions. The question is more what emphasis to give it, and this can vary greatly from one artist to the next.

Andreas Gursky, “Bangkok IV,” 2012 (courtesy: VG BILD‐KUNST, Bonn).
Andreas Gursky, “Bangkok III,” 2012 (courtesy: VG BILD‐KUNST, Bonn).
Andreas Gursky, “Bangkok II,” 2012 (courtesy: VG BILD‐KUNST, Bonn).
Andreas Gursky, “Bangkok I,” 2012 (courtesy: VG BILD‐KUNST, Bonn).
Jiang Zhi, “Selective Area, Secret No. 2,” oil on canvas, 100 x 140 cm, 2012 (courtesy the artist).
Gallery view, Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong (courtesy of Gagosian).

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