Working with Pictures
Models are tools for analysis and cognition. In the arts and sciences they serve as experimental grounds, where shape, color, theory, or incidence can be placed in relationship to each other. Their relationship to reality is exciting; they simplify complex interrelations, embody ideas and ideologies, and impact our thoughts and actions.
In Adrian Sauer’s series Modell, the relationship to reality is enigmatic, although the materials are identifiable and the pictures have a recognizable composition. The artist brings together two kinds of material in three different states. Picture one seems tidy – beige MDF panels have been stacked into cubes. Others have been placed diagonally at the center of the picture, or stand upright. In the background, a gleaming white piece of Styrofoam is partially visible. Picture two looks like a jumble. The structures have collapsed. The panels are scattered about higgledy-piggledy, some lying on top of each other. More Styrofoam is visible on the left. Picture three shows a new, avant-garde arrangement, resulting not in self-contained objects, but rather open formations. The white Styrofoam elements have moved to the center.
By titling the series Modell, Adrian Sauer raises not only the issue of the raison d’être of those arrangements, but also challenges the very scope of the word “model.” It opens up room for speculation, where familiar visual models help orient us. The images could be draft architectural models for a public square, or they might be materials assays for a manufacturer, an artist’s studies of shape, color, and luminosity, or the reproduction of the aftermath of an earthquake or explosion. The time frame is as ambiguous as the content. The numbering of the pictures suggests a progression. But there are no traces that might represent a past, or be construed as a potential future. The surfaces of the materials evidence no opposition – they are so smooth and unscathed that the viewer’s gaze almost slides off them, throwing us back on our own speculations.
A closer look at the form of the images challenges our perceptions once again. The pictures are based on photographs, in which Adrian Sauer used Photoshop to replace the optically recorded colors with the equivalent computer colors – color field by color field, sometimes pixel by pixel. Reducing the image processing to a single processing step creates a paradox. The original photographs have disappeared, yet they are still completely visible. We are confronted with two questions – the moment at which a photographically created image becomes disassociated from the medium of photography, and at what degree of abstraction a model’s functionality is no longer effective.