International exhibitions

International Archives 1st half of 2016

Thomas Struth, Nature & Politics

Museum Folkwang, Essen (Germany)

04.03 - 29.05.2016

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E-Flux Press Release

"Thomas Struth's works respond to the question of whether it is possible to photograph complexity," writes Dirk Baecker in his essay for the catalogue to this exhibition. Industrial production plants, research laboratories and operating rooms; non-descript buildings and theme parks: in his pictures from the last few years, Thomas Struth has explored how human ambition and imaginative worlds can take shape as spatial, objectual realities.


Thomas Struth, Nature & Politics, Museum Folkwang, Essen

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2016. All Rights Reserved

Exhibition from March 4 to May 29, 2016. Museum Folkwang, Museumsplatz 1 - 45128 Essen (Germany).  Tel. : +49 201 8845000. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday  10:00 - 18:00, Friday 10:00-22:00.





The exhibition features 34 photographs, many of them large format, dating from the recent years. They show highly complex apparatuses, structures, and constructions that shape the world we live in today, but which are usually kept outside public view. In the process, the images speak of people's attempts—often heroic and desperate in equal measure—to expand the limits of the technically feasible and surpass the natural reality through the creation of artificial worlds. What fascinates Struth here are not only the complex structures in themselves, but rather the force of intellect they represent. "I wanted to investigate the processes through which imagination and fantasy operate...For me it's a matter of asking how something that previously existed merely as an idea, materializes and becomes part of our reality. When we use the phrase 'picture something to yourself,' we are already effectively acknowledging the brain's ability to think in images."

The photographs bear witness to highly specialized imaginations: whether it is the technological developments that made space travel possible, experiments in plasma physics, or industrial facilities such as offshore oil rigs or blast furnaces—all owe their existence to the ideas and designs of experts. Moreover, the high level of detail in Struth's photographs reveals how these phenomenally complex constructions are also the products of political machinations. As the products of human ingenuity, they inevitably raise the issue of how power and the desire for power can be articulated through objects and thereby gain political currency. The pictures explore themes surrounding the creation, interpretation, and re-interpretation of reality, memory, and human experience.

The artist has been closely inolved in the development of the exhibition, which was curated by Tobia Bezzola and Brett Abbott. After its run at the Museum Folkwang the exhibition will be shown in the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Thereafter it will travel to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, and to the St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri.

The show will be accompanied by the catalogue Thomas Struth. Nature & Politics published by
MACK, London in German (ISBN 9781910164532) and English (ISBN 9781910164471).

Thomas Struth, Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh, 2010. © Thomas Struth.

Thomas Struth, Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh, 2010. © Thomas Struth.