The exhibition will explore the subject of reality /idealistic reality through digitally assembled images of church façades, which become a hybrid of virtual and extremely true-to-life realities. Since 2005, Markus Brunetti and his partner Betty Schöner have been hard at work making photographic images of the façades of cathedrals, churches and cloisters all over Europe. They are on the road for much of the year, travelling by van with their equipment. They have no overall system, no fixed agenda. The project proceeds on a case-by-case basis. It has already encompassed architecture from many periods and styles: Moorish, early Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque. Some are typical examples, some are more singular, and some are hybrids of various influences. It is an unending project.
After much research and some preliminary photographic studies, a façade is selected. Over a few weeks, or even years, it is then documented part-by-part, photographing no more than a few square meters with each exposure. The separate elements are then assembled digitally into a coherent whole, a long process that requires an intimacy and understanding rivalled only by the long-forgotten craftsmen who constructed and decorated the buildings in the first place. Through quantity, he achieves an entirely new quality.
Scaffolding, lampposts, people and other distractions are removed to better attend to the features and textures of the façade itself. Although each final image is a subjective interpretation, it is also a hard-won document of unprecedented clarity. Never before have these buildings been rendered in such a way. The fine mosaics, intricate carving, filigree metal work and stained glass are there for us to see, along with the cracks, deformations and decay. These are not simply photographs of façades; they are reconstructions of them, attending to every last idiosyncrasy.
Like all innovations in photography, this project has required great persistence, vision and a lot of problem solving. It involves a method of picturing that actually departs in profound ways from the logic of optical perspective, if only to return to it anew. While photographic in origin, the final images feel as much like facsimiles or elaborate photocopies, as if the building had been mapped or scanned. Indeed, scanning might be the best term here, since it implies a mobile and yet systematic point of view that takes in the subject matter evenly and all-over. The results are not unlike 2D images of detailed replicas produced by a 3D printer. While these images fall within the ever-looser parameters of realism they can feel strange, uncanny even, striking us as much like apparitions as records.
Seldom has the miracle of reality been shown in such vivid form as it is in Markus Brunetti’s FACADES. We may find ourselves pondering what exactly these images are, and what they are for. Are they documentations? Is there potential scientific value? Are these images acts of deference to the buildings they represent? Are these images for aesthetic contemplation in themselves, or are they portals for the contemplation of the buildings? Are these images affectionate? Cold? Romantic? Enigmatic? Crazed? Sober? Euphoric? Melancholic? All of the above…
Content based on David Campany’s essay ‘Seeing Slowly’, Markus Brunetti’s most recent monograph FACADES 2016.