This was 15 years, 10 months, 13 days ago

jpeg ny02, 2004
Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff at David Zwirner Gallery
Until Dec 22, 2007

Here is: a high quality jpg of an image of a c-print of a low-quality jpg of an image of the twin towers. I first saw his work at the Armory show last year, and got annoyed then: Would it be hubris to say that I thought of this before - lossy algorithmic compression as a postmodern impressionism? A substandard attempt at fidelity transformed into a presentation of impersonal interpretation? Harrumph.

Oh well. This is what the Met says:

"...the pictures seem to fragment and explode before our eyes, trailing off into a seemingly infinite progression of tonal shifts from pixel to pixel and in every direction. The disquieting result is that the iconic image of the attack on the World Trade Center seared in collective memory becomes ungraspable, fugitive, slippery, almost aqueous."

In other words: the images sound like badly compressed music; slippery, unstable, with a slight burbling underneath the surface. Which makes sense; compression, after all, is the technique of removing invisible accuracies: reducing the range of contrast in a picture, removing a detail in pixels that the eye can't detect, culling off silent peaks in a sound file. It's a method of averaging, approximating, gently simplifying -- of omission. Fitting, for media images of political and war events in which knowledge is on a reported-to-us basis. Here is information by omission, even in his titles: jpeg bb03, jpeg wl01: bombing Baghdad, war in Lebanon.