Thomas Ruff: Jpegs
03 June – 29 July 2006
With his newest, once again large-format photographic pieces from the “jpeg”-series, Thomas Ruff has continued to pursue his noted interest in the mechanical production and processing of images. In so doing, Ruff experiments with the image-data-compression format known as jpeg, itself named after the “Joint Photographic Experts Group”, who developed this compression process in 1992. The jpeg-format is especially useful for the preparation and optimization of digital pictures for display on computer screens and transmission via the internet. To minimize the volume of data, all information is disposed of that computer monitors (working with comparatively lower resolutions) do not require for a faithful rendition of reality. Remaining image data are summarized into groups and then saved.
Just as the computer, the human eye requires only a relatively small quantity of data points per image unit. What is necessary for recognition is added during interpretation by the visual center of the brain. In the jpegs-series, Ruff concentrates on this imprecision. When the images are enlarged by Ruff, the compression process (using raster graphics) results in visible pixel lines and the emergence of a chessboard pattern. In other words, the effects of compressing digital pictures and the resulting irretrievable information loss become apparent.
As was the case in earlier series, for example, “nudes” or “Substrate”, Ruff finds the motifs for his jpegs mostly on the internet. His selection from the image-world of our daily lives establishes an encyclopedic archive, a sort of picture dictionary of contemporary history. The use of found materials confers upon the group of images an objective, almost documentary character. Hence, the apparently objective illustration of what is real contrasts even more sharply with the manner in which it is represented. Appearance and content come undone, overlapping one another as incongruous levels. Decomposing images until they are unrecognizable, Ruff whittles away at their connection to reality. With skepticism as to their truth content, Ruff manipulates the pictures along with our perception. He discloses the degeneration of images surrounding us and, on a more general level, reveals how today´s image-processing media have culminated in our conditioned readiness to look upon barely decipherable and fuzzy images as especially indisputable and authentic.