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’s Permanent Daylight
(2004) series stays within the theme of environmental control with his large, fuzzy images of greenhouses. So fascinated by the way natural elements such as light, humidity, and temperature can be constantly regulated in a greenhouse, Osz converted a trailer into a modern day camera obscura and allowed the greenhouse to photograph itself. Osz parked a trailer outside of the electrically lit greenhouse in the dark of night and allowed the light to enter the trailer through a small opening. The light hit a piece of light sensitive paper hung in the trailer, thus creating a photographic image of the greenhouse. The implications of the method are evident: it evokes the idea of artificial intelligence, a machine replicating itself of its own will. Even more eerie, the photographs are totally unique in that they don’t have any negatives or digital origins. It is as though technology has conjured something tangible out of nothing but light.
’s series of photographs entitled Poisoned Landscape
(1988), while not the perfect antithesis to this fascination with environmental manipulation, at least recognizes the consequences behind the artificiality. In 1983, the Interim Act on Soil Decontamination mandated that the areas with the highest levels of soil pollution be documented and named so that the public health risks could be assessed. Berger photographed these sites in objective, wide-angle shots. The most unsettling of these is a flat, treeless expanse of land carpeted in brown and orange brush, punctuated intermittently with bristly clusters of blue flowers. Berger’s landscapes have a stark, almost spooky beauty; they either appear alien and unexplored, or deserted after a quick and harsh exploitation. Even so, the viewer may wonder: “Why am I looking? Is Poisoned Landscape
more art or social criticism?” Without a definitive answer, the photographs seem almost inconsequential.
Conversely, Berger’s "Roadside Flowers" (1988), a close-up photograph of wild blooms growing thick in sandy soil, is a joy to take in. A riot of color and texture that appeals to the most basic tastes, it is evocative of Holland’s bucolic past. However, the image’s meaning changes immediately once the viewer learns that it is not an accident of nature at all, but an (albeit successful) attempt by a Dutch governmental agency to replicate the once wild beauty of the roadside by re-planting the wildflowers that had previously disappeared due to soil pollution.
What Nature as Artifice
lacks in provocation, it makes up for in artistic innovation. The new and interesting ways that artists like Osz and Ruijter take their photographs make for, at the very least, a pleasant viewing experience. While the images please on an elemental aesthetic level, the exhibition lacks a voice and any real connection to the Dutch past. Lacking context and direction, Nature as Artifice
falls as flat as Holland’s new panorama.