“Landscapes without Memory” by Joan Fontcuberta at Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

Joan Fontcuberta, Orogenesis: Pollock, 2002


AMSTERDAM.- For the project Landscapes without Memory Catalan artist Joan Fontcuberta (b. 1955, Barcelona) used software developed by the US Air Force. It translates two-dimensional cartographic data into a simulated three-dimensional image. Instead of feeding maps into the software, in Landscapes without Memory Fontcuberta inserts painted landscapes: from Gauguin to Van Gogh, from Cezanne to Turner and Constable. The software translates them into new, virtual landscapes that Fontcuberta calls ‘post-landscapes’. They form a no-man’s land between the virtual and the real, between truth and illusion.

Ever since the medium was first invented, photography’s relationship with the real world has been as perplexing as it is fascinating. Far more than a medium such as paint, photography was supposed to have a certain level of truth. In recent decades in particular the idea has taken root that truth and reality are ambiguous concepts in photography. The unprecedented digital revolution has brought the potential for manipulation into focus. How much more reliable is the photographic image of the real world? Who and what can we still believe? This juxtaposition of illusion and reality lies at the heart of Spanish artist Joan Fontcuberta’s oeuvre. At the same time, he also refers to the connection between science and truth. Like photography (itself a product of science), we see science as a way of expanding our knowledge of the real world using rational, objective, verifiable methods. Science has a certain authority: what science proves is true. Fontcuberta turns the myth of scientific authority around and manages to persuade the public in many of his projects of the veracity of a purely fictitious narrative – simply by expressing himself in the language of science.

In recent years, Fontcuberta has been especially fascinated by the influence of the digital revolution on the way we communicate and on our use of image. Landscapes without Memory is one such project. He begins here by subjectively interpreting and portraying a landscape, and then using software to interpret and translate the artificial object. The result is a new reality which Foncuberta calls ‘technologically-defined contemporary hallucinations’.


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