Both David Campany and Joerg Colberg both think Ruff’s ‘Jpegs’ are beautiful. But they disagree about the meaning attached to the images and the production of them. Colberg thinks the concept behind the images is ‘thin’, and complains that the beauty of the work is enough; he doesn’t need to be convinced of anything else. Campany, however, sees various levels of meaning in the work, which has an effect on his reading of it. It’s interesting that although they agree on the beauty of it, they disagree quite strongly about the presentation of the work: Campany says that the images only work when seen large, in a gallery. Colberg says ‘they work amazingly well in book form.’
Campany seems to be saying that Ruff is helping us to look at the familiar in a new way by using images from mass culture and reworking them. This idea of using work from a sort of cultural archive started with the Dadaists. The internet, where Ruff got his images from, are today’s archive, although as an archive it can be seen as an archive of archives. Ruff is taking a non-material archive and making it material, which is a way of addressing the current nature of the photographic medium and of the archive.
Talking about Ruff’s presentation of all of his works as part of a series, Campany says that it means that individual images take their context from the series of which they are a part; that emphasises elements that might not otherwise be recognised. “Meaning emerges as much from comparison and contrast as from any individual image.” Perhaps the contrast of the chaotic, unpredictable events contrasted with nature is important to really understanding this?
Campany also sees the work as addressing questions of authenticity that surround digital images. He says that ‘the pixel has replaced the grain of photographic film’, and goes on to explain the idea that grain in photographic film represented authenticity and the idea of photographer or equipment reaching limits. He makes the link with pixels representing a technological limit. Digital artefacts are introduced in Ruff’s work, and again this is another limit and I personally would have thought that those artefacts are more akin to film grain; they represent that limit more effectively to me than the pixel, being a sort of storage artefact, does.
My work inspired by Thomas Ruff.
Bibliography is as given in course materials