c-print on aluminium, Hubert Blanz, 2007
Urban Slot Machine
The work of Hubert Blanz is the result of his preoccupation with network-like urban infrastructure and spatial grids. Generating new codes for such ‘protocols’ provides the basis for his visual language. At first, this language appears somewhat familiar, something we already know. Without losing its claim to universality, one may call it naturalistic or the expression of experienced reality derived from a process of selective appropriation.
The code, the permutations of the constituent pictorial elements is subject to the manipulative interventions of its creator. Driven by his interest in forms of spatial organisation, the material obtained is as much a reflection of the artist’s genuine obsession as it is the result of minute cartography, wherefore the claim for lexical integrity seems fully justified. The choice of the observational framework is up to the cartographer; the subsequent documentation of the items observed is subject to stringently applied formal criteria, leaving no room for omission.
In the given case, the work is about the photographic documentation of the façades of all buildings in Manhattan as well as the bridges of all traffic junctions of the Viennese motorway ring, in both cases captured from the pedestrian’s point of view. Blanz retains this perspective in the subsequent process of pictorial montage. He involves the observer dexterously in the ambiguity of ‘pre-conscious’ perception with its alternating shifts from moments of orientation to the temporal disturbance of ‘automated’ spatial coordination. Consequently, the pictorial reality appears both real and constructed at the same time. The observer is given the role of an integrated actor. Enhancing the impression of being fully immersed in pictorial space, Blanz entirely closes off the volumes occupied by buildings (the footprint and roof of the buildings are treated like façades). Perhaps the immersion in the processual circularity of urban infrastructure allows for a comparison with the interaction between the mesmerised player and a slot machine: Initiated by the insertion of a coin, the aura of this process loses every determination in time due to the perpetually renewed expectations of the actor.
Wolfgang Fiel (english original version)