Lichtungen, solo show, Contretype, centre de la photographie contemporaine, Brussels, Belgium. Photographies, installation, video.
Michael Goldgruber’s photographic and video work reflects the specific and complex representation of landscapes and the perception of nature in the media, marked mainly by romantic motifs and clichés. The formulaic presentation of landscapes reveals cultural viewing regimes and projections. Just as the perception of natural spaces is informed by cultural aspects, the landscape as such is subject to human control and construction.
With this idea in mind, Michael Goldgruber recorded variations of panorama compositions on his forays through the Fôret de Soignes during an extended stay in Brussels in the winter and spring of 2015 on the invitation of Contretype, a centre of photographic art based in Brussels. He captured forest scenes which speak to the human yearning for pristine nature but also reveal the artificiality of this man-made monoculture of beech trees designed to look like a wilderness.
His black-and-white photo portraits, on the other hand, reflect the romantic leitmotif of ‘the sublime’ in the facial expressions of the people portrayed. When the artist asks them to look into the distance, their eyes take on a dreamy look, reflecting the horizon and the spaciousness of the landscape.
Panoramic variations, both classical constructions and fragmented views, and ‘portraits’ of uprooted trees which remind us of the dystopian mechanisms in ‘sublime’ nature, are presented in juxtaposition, suggesting a confrontation between the yearning for the authentic and the certainty that it cannot be achieved.
In one of the videos the artist himself appears, reflected in a puddle of water. He enters the ‘stage’ of a forest scene in order to lose himself in the contemplation of nature for five minutes and then exits the ‘stage’ again. The aesthetics of the videos are sober and photographical, devoid of panning shots or zooms, the frame carefully selected, the action reduced to minimalistic movements and subtle changes. As in the black-and-white portraits, a horizon is reflected in his eyes in this video of himself, but the action is reduced to the artist observing with great focus a park scene in Brussels. This video self-portrait of the artist on the look-out is juxtaposed with another video recorded and projected in portrait-format, showing treetops swaying slightly in the wind. The romanticising view of the forest landscape is broken by the fragility of the beech tree monoculture, the slightly ominous sound of the wind and nearby traffic noises.
Contretype, Brussels, 2016.