Sunday, September 20, 2015

Questioning the Landscape Zeitgeist

“Every Landscape is affected by the hand of man.”
Mark Dorf

Now that the scientific method has transplaced religion as the dominant interpreter of the world the conceptual artist Mark Dorf is using photography and digital imaging to explore its relevance and ultimately question its accuracy.

As he told the New Yorker Magazine “The human race is constantly recording data and transforming elements of our physical surroundings into abstracted and non-physical calculations in order to gain an understanding of the world,”  

The Brooklyn based artist grew up immersed in both the visual and the academic worlds and although becoming a photographer the rigor of math and physics has colored that pursuit.
“Growing up, I had a mixture of influences. My grandfather was a photographer here in New York City, and my grandmother was a painter. But then my father and his sister both studied math and science through university, so when I was young, I was pushed to study hard in my science and math classes. Somehow, I ended up getting my BFA in photography, but, as is true of every artist, I am highly influenced by my surroundings, and for a long time my surroundings were of the academic variety. If I hadn’t studied photography, I surely would have gotten a degree in physics or math. I have always loved those fields,” Dorf explained to the Orion Magazine.”

From the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Fjords of Iceland, Dorf has traveled far and wide to obtain his primary source information from the natural world upon which he then juxtaposes digitally created geometric forms.

Which he explains as “By placing these forms in the landscape, I am also creating an interruption of the landscape—one that could mirror, in metaphor, the ways that our built landscapes grow via highly calculated decision-making. I am also interested in the ways that we define primary experience. How do we today examine and experience the natural world when our day-to-day lives are so saturated with digital stimulation? At any moment we can search the web for a photograph of the Grand Canyon and find sweeping, digitally enhanced photographs that create some sort of representation of the place. But how do those digital experiences affect the ways we see and observe our surroundings?”

And to complicate matters Dorf is very aware of his chosen medium’s limitations.

As he told the In the In-Between website’s Gregory Jones “The photograph has definitely been used as form of evidence, fact, and truth – but in practice, the photograph has never been an accurate source of non-fiction. There are always choices being made on the image-makers side that reflects his or her own bias – what is included? More importantly what does the photographer exclude to create his or her own altered reflection of truth? In the context of the internet and social media this becomes a very interesting subject. In the most obvious sense, these portals allow for us to use digital photographs and video as a means of curating our own appearance to a larger community. With things like Facebook you have the ability to show or remove every photograph that is uploaded. If this person looks bad in a specific photograph, they will of course remove it and leave only the ones that best reflect what they see as an accurate representation of themselves. Whether or not this is truly accurate is another story – it’s more about what that specific person wants to be or become. In a sense the digital image then gives you the ultimate ability to create your own fiction.

It is through Dorf’s embrace of these limitations and his through his own endeavors that he attempts to question the prevailing zeitgeist.

As he has said “In the end, I suppose, I am interested in the ways math and science fail to represent reality.

Dorf’s current exhibition Emergence is in show at New York’s Postmasters Gallery until the 17th of October.

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